The truth about the Heythrop Hunt prosecution 17-12-12

December 25, 2012

This was written by Alan Kirby of POWA in response to a scurrilous article about the Heythrop trial in the Western Morning News on 19-12-12, by Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance:-

Tim Bonner’s attack on the RSPCA for having the temerity to prosecute the high-and-mighty Heythrop Hunt for numerous, flagrant breaches of the Hunting Act gives, as one might expect from this fervently pro-hunt apologist, a highly distorted impression of the facts and the reasons why this prosecution was brought by the Society.
ImageThe Heythrop are just one of several Hunts in the area covered by the group of volunteer monitors who captured the numerous pieces of film that forced the Hunt to plead guilty to as few charges as they thought they could get away with. But, though the monitors will say that all of them appear to engage in illegal hunting of foxes, the Heythrop is by some way the most blatant. Since they were providing the strongest evidence, it was natural for the monitors to concentrate on them.
Over the past few years monitors have passed similar evidence to the police no fewer than thirty times against the Heythrop and other Hunts to that which this time led the Heythrop to plead guilty. Every time but one they were fobbed off. On that occasion, the CPS accepted that there was adequate evidence to charge Julian Barnfield, the Heythrop huntsman, withImage
Heythrop hounds carry away fox corpse at Peasewell Wood
four separate counts of illegal hunting. Other Hunt members could also have been charged – anyone who ‘engages or participates’ in illegal hunting is guilty – but in those days it was usual just to charge the one or two persons most obviously in charge of the hounds.
As seems to be commonplace when hunters are charged with anything, the trial was delayed. Then the Exmoor FH Huntsman, Tony Wright, appealed against his earlier conviction and the CPS postponed Barnfield’s cases pending its outcome. When the Judge, early in 2009, allowed Wright’s appeal, he also made a number of rulings on the interpretation of the Act that were favourable to the Hunt side, making it even easier than ever for Hunts to exploit the lax wording and numerous loopholes of the Act. Not only did the CPS feebly decide not to appeal against these rulings – many of which clearly contradicted what the framers of the Act intended – but they also used it as an excuse to drop all their pending cases against organised Hunts, including Barnfield’s charges. Rather than ‘failing’, as Bonner would have it, monitors would assert that these charges were speciously dropped, probably for political reasons. It might also be noted that we have evidence to show that David Cameron intervened in the case on Barnfield’s behalf – though this would surely not have influenced the CPS decision.
The monitors obtained more footage of what they were convinced was illegal hunting by the Heythrop, evidence that should be good enough to convict, in the 2010/11 hunting season. Having by now lost all faith in the police/CPS ability or willingness to prosecute, they turned to the RSPCA. The Society’s lawyers examined all the evidence and agreed that it was strong enough to sustain two charges against the Huntsman. It is part of the role of the Society to prosecute all and any cases of cruelty to animals where the evidence warrants – and they save the State a huge amount by taking on this role.
Again, the case was long delayed and by that time the RSPCA had been presented with a much larger file of even stronger evidence against the Heythrop, based on monitoring in the 2011/12 season, which their lawyers advised should be taken on. So, the two 2010/11 charges against Barnfield did not ‘fail’, it was simply that the RSPCA made a pragmatic decision not to pursue them because of the much larger case now pending against him and the Heythrop. I understand they remain ‘on file’.
Coming to the recent case, there were 45 charges taken into court against the Heythrop Hunt itself and four of its senior members, based on no fewer than 10 separate instances across the 2011/12 season.  The Heythrop vehemently denied all the charges until, late in the day, they announced they would plead guilty to 12 of them. This was clearly a pre-meditated strategy, since it would have been obvious to them when they saw the filmed evidence, in the Spring, that their goose was cooked. By maintaining their ‘not guilty’ pleas for so long, however, they were able to avoid themselves having to rack up mountainous legal fees for the preparation of cases they actually had no intention of defending, while forcing the RSPCA into doing just that, adding to costs already quite high because of the meticulous examination of hundreds of hours of monitor footage and numerous statements necessary, not to mention the expense of disclosing all this evidence to the defence. And by agreeing to plead guilty to 12 charges, the Heythrop effectively forced the RSPCA into not proceeding with the rest.
Fox fleeing from Heythrop hounds
One effect, highly desirable and ‘political’ to the Hunt, was that Vanessa Lambert, a Joint Master, and daughter of the Chairman of the Master of Fox Hunts Association, escaped without having to plead to or defend the several charges against her. Monitors will assert that the evidence in all the dropped cases was so powerful that convictions would probably have resulted.
I concede that all this was a very clever stratagem on the Hunt’s part, but most people would surely not think it very ethical, and even less so to then castigate the RSPCA for engaging in expenditure, much of which they themselves had essentially tricked or forced them into. No surprise there, though.
As to the RSPCA employing high-charging external lawyers, anyone seeking to prosecute Hunts is effectively forced into doing this, because they know that the Hunt side will use the best money can by, backed as they usually are by the bottomless pockets of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation which, it seems, carelessly squandered millions in various always-doomed attempts to have the Hunting Act declared invalid. In this case, the Hunt itself could doubtless have called upon the largesse of their many multi-millionaire members and donors – had they thought they stood any real prospect of successfully defending the charges.
There is no doubt at all that Hunts up and down the country employ various ruses and exploit various loopholes to continue hunting live quarry much as they did before the ban, and bamboozle police forces into not acting against them, though the latter are usually reluctant to get involved anyway. The Heythrop case is by far from the first where the Hunts’ contention that they were ‘trail hunting’, and just suffered occasional ‘accidents’, has been exposed as a sham.
The difference in the previous cases – the Fernie in 2011 and the Crawley & Horsham and the Meynell this year – was that the presiding judges saw through their flimsy pretences and condemned the evidence they gave in that respect as the ‘cynical subterfuge’ that it was.  Here, however, Judge Pattinson barely criticised the self-confessed offenders at all, and made his pro-hunt sympathies evident to everyone by criticising the Society and questioning the Act itself, neither of which were really within his remit. Numerous complaints about his remarks have already been submitted to the appropriate authority.
Nor did he seek, as one would expect a judge to do in such circumstances, to praise the immense dedication and courage necessary on the part of the volunteer monitors in collecting the huge volume of powerful evidence that showed conclusively that one of the most prestigious Hunts in the country had not just been repeatedly and blatantly engaging in the illegal hunting of foxes, but also lying
about it
Monitor being assaulted by Heythrop whipper-in at fox kill scene
Monitors not only have to devote a huge amount of time and expense into doing the police’s work for them, but, always hugely outnumbered, they have to bear repeated assaults, threats, harassment, obstruction, vile abuse and property damage from thuggish hunt followers and riders alike. No fewer than 14 Heythrop supporters have been convicted or cautioned for such offences in the last 6 years. A small mountain of evidence of all this, and of the Heythrop’s recent criminal and past, suspicious, hunting activity, can be accessed on the website of Protect Our Wild Animals . One would have expected the Judge and the media to laud and heroise them, but no, the Hunts can do apparently do no wrong in their eyes.
The long overdue Hunting Act was passed with overwhelming public support, and repeated polls over decades had showed large majorities for a ban obtained in all areas, classes and categories of the population, including rural dwellers. They expect the law prohibiting the chasing and killing of wild mammals for ‘sport’ to be upheld. The bulk of the tiny, but highly vocal, rich and powerful hunting minority, however, made no secret of their intent to disregard the law and continue their vile and vicious pastimes, much as they now seek to pretend they are ‘hunting within the law’.
In the reporting of the Boxing Day Hunts we shall doubtless once again be treated to the usual nauseating coverage of the meets, the ‘chocolate box’ portrayal of gangs whose one real intent and desire is to go out into the countryside to terrorise and slaughter wildlife for fun. Their accounts of numbers ‘supporting’ them will be reprinted without question, their assertions that they do nothing but innocently ‘trail hunt’ taken at face value, despite the ever growing evidence that it is all a massive fraud.
Somebody has to stand up for truth, justice and the rule of law in the hunting field, somebody has to defend the defenceless. The police will rarely do it, the CPS will rarely do it – and as for the media – don’t make me laugh. Thank goodness, then for the monitors, and the RSPCA. I close with a quote from Gavin Grant, their forthright CEO, who has refused to be browbeaten by the vitriol poured upon himself and his organisation by a panicked and affronted hunting lobby – ‘This was deliberate, repeated, intentional abuse of animals in breach of the law. That’s what it was and that’s what they were convicted of. These people are wildlife criminals.’
A mine of further information on the proven illegal, and past ‘suspicious’ hunting of the Heythrop, and their appalling behaviour towards hunt monitors can be found at 

Don’t vote for Cameron’s cruel Conservatives

April 6, 2010
David Cameron kindly holding the reins of Guy Avis’ horse. Mr. Avis is Secretary of the Heythrop hunt, based in the Tory leader’s constituency. Cameron is extremely close to this extraordinarily well-heeled hunt [see below, and watch ‘ 10 Reasons not to vote for Cameron’  ]
Would you really want to vote for people who enjoy atrocities like these? A hare screaming pitifully when it is eventually caught after a lung-bursting chase of up to 90 minutes by a hound pack and savaged to death; another literally torn apart by competing greyhounds in coursing;  a deer calf being whipped away from its mother so they can chase the adult for many hours, then brutally slaughter the hind when it is totally spent;  young foxes corralled in a wood while the hounds are set upon them in ‘cubbing’; pregnant or nursing vixens being pursued for up to an hour and a half in late winter, and either torn apart by dogs or dug out and shot by thuggish terrierman, perhaps leaving the infant cubs to starve to death? 
If you care about cruelty, if you care about the vulnerable being viciously attacked for fun, then read on to discover the Tories position on bloodsports.
They love them. Specifically hunting with hounds, where they’ve promised to repeal the long overdue, highly popular and hard-fought for Hunting Act 2004.   
Cameron is a former fox hunter [and loves shooting deer].  His wife, Sam, has a father and a stepfather, both very wealthy, titled landowners, who are heavily into hunting. Cameron talked about hunting in his maiden speech. His first firm policy pledge when he became Tory leader was to repeal the Hunting Act. He’s said he ‘loses it’ when a hunting ban is proposed.  He’s huge friends with the Heythrop hunt in his constituency, several of whom not only gave large amounts to his leadership campaign but have made huge donations to the Tory Party. He’s said the Hunting Act is ‘being widely flouted’, yet, instead of condemning these law-breakers, he promises them he’ll repeal the Act that inconveniences and affronts them.
His friend and shadow Environment Secretary, Nick Herbert, is a former avid hare hunter and high up in the Countryside [i.e. bloodsports] Alliance. 
The vast majority of Tory sitting MPs and candidates in winnable seats are pro-hunting. Thousands of hunters are bussing in to campaign in marginals occupied by anti-hunt MPs or candidates, but they’ve been told not to bring up hunting on the doorstep  because it’s so unpopular.  This operation is organised by a front group Vote OK, who have intimate links with both the Countryside Alliance and the Conservative heirarchy. A few months ago the hunters got upset when Cameron hinted repeal might be via a private members Bill – so the Tories rapidly caved in and Nick Herbert announced it would be a government Bill after all. 

They want to return to the legalised barbarity of allowing gangs of their friends with large packs of trained killer dogs to roam round the countryside chasing terrified animals for as long as possible [this gives good ‘sport] – hares & foxes up to 90 minutes, deer up to 7 hours. For fun. 

A few weeks ago the Newry Harriers in Northern Ireland, where quarry hunting is still legal, gave a perfect illustration of the callous barbarity typical of hunters. A trio of young children were out walking a pet dog. The Newry’s hounds appeared, attacked the terrier and savaged it. A rider dismounted, picked up its mangled remains and chucked them into a hedge. One child asked him ‘Is my dog dead?’ He gruffly replied ‘Yes’, remounted and rode off.

Incidents of pet-killing, trespass and livestock worrying, hounds being killed on road and rail, are still common in England and Wales, though they would rarely, if ever, happen, if the Hunts really were just hunting a pre-laid trail, as they claim. Nearly all those affected by and reporting such incidents mention abuse, arrogance or outright denial from the hunters responsible. Monitors are regualarly assaulted, intimidated, abused, obstructed and have their property damaged or stolen by hunters.

Hunting with dogs has nothing to do with ‘pest control’, however much they like to pretend it does.  They’ve spent decades demonising foxes and grossly exaggerating the problems they cause farmers to provide an excuse for their sick ‘sport’.  This was perfectly illustrated when a letter from the then Chairman of the Master of Foxhounds Association, Lord Daresbury, sent by him to allChairman of fox hunts, came to light in 2004. He was asking them to get local farmers to encourage fox breeding so they’d have enough to hunt. Some pest, those foxes! 

What does a passion for these barbarities, this violence and lawlessness tell you about the people who favour it? Do you really want these sorts of people running the country and having power over poor and vulnerable people as well as animals? If not,  DON’T VOTE FOR CAMERON AND HIS CRUEL TORY FRIENDS    

‘Compassionate’ Conservatism?? Pull the other one, Mr. Cameron, it’s got hunting horns on.