During the investigation I was informed by HIT that The League Against Cruel Sports wanted to put out a press release. I told them that I had concerns about this possibly prejudicing the court case.
I was assured that advice had been sought from a Barrister and that they intended putting out the press release. I made it clear that although I couldn’t stop them from doing this, the press release would be without the backing of West Mercia Police.
If I’m honest I didn’t know what, if any, ramifications this would bring. I informed my supervisors who weren’t able to offer any further help or advice.
On 23rd June 2016 the press release took place, including some video footage. The story appeared in the National Press.
The following day a senior West Midlands Crown Prosecutor, Stephen Davis contacted the police wildlife crime spoc, Acting Inspector Emma Whitworth. He was apparently raising concerns over the National and Regional reputational issues that the case could bring forward! Mr Davis was the Crown Prosecution Service, (CPS), wildlife crime lead. Mr Davis wanted to have an early oversight given the issues surrounding the case!
Acting Inspector Whitworth contacted my Inspector asking if he would be adverse to having some CID input and oversight or maybe even CID taking the investigation on. (especially as the covert disclosure issues could cause any case to collapse as per the Wainwright case which was a West Mercia case and highlighted by CPS Nationally).
My sergeant was keen for me to remain on the case and continue playing a part in the investigation. (Which was, I thought, all but complete). He wrote a strong case for this to my Inspector. My Inspector replied to him saying that he completely understood. He said, ‘The relationships and work Richard has done has clearly been invaluable. The leg up is in relation to assisting with CPS liaison and disclosure support. It has been agreed that due to the reputational / risk issues that is attracting this investigation, it is therefore appropriate to be supported by CID’.
CID were going to liaise with Stephen Davis and myself with a view to organising an early CPS consultation meeting to assess current evidence and determine an action plan moving forward. I was on holiday at the time……..
The DC who had been asked to give a CID input sent me an email, He said, ‘I am aware that you have put a lot of work into this already and can reassure you that the investigation will not be taken away from you, I am merely here to help and support you’. He said that he would arrange the meeting with Stephen Davis and asked me to prepare a copy of the case summary, which I did.
The press release had attracted a lot of attention, including from The Home Office! I had a visit from My Superintendent who showed me an email from them. She said they were asking for an update on the case!
Why would the home office be interested in the case? It was a summary only offence. Or might it have been because the Conservatives had promised to repeal the hunting act!! Or is that me being incredibly cynical? How many other summary only offences do they try to get involved with? What business do they have sticking their noses in? The Government make the laws and the police uphold them. Mmmmm.
Other hunts were trying to desperately to distance themselves from The South Hereford. Ledbury Hunt contacted their members ……………..
LEDBURY HUNT LIMITED
1st July 2016
Following the recent League Against Cruel Sports ‘revelations’ of alleged cruelty and malpractice at the South Hereford Hunt kennels, as Masters of a neighbouring pack we have decided to write to you to clarify our position. We, along with the rest of the hunting world, absolutely abhor and condemn the alleged actions brought to light by the LACS, currently subject to both a criminal and MFHA, (Master Foxhounds Association), investigation.
The MFHA have set up an independent enquiry and the panel chaired by Appeal Court Judge, Sir John Chadwick has just released its First Interim Report. The panel have recommended to the MFHA that until a full enquiry or prosecution has taken place “the committee of association exercise it’s power to suspend all hunting activities of the SHH until further notice”.
The chairman of there MFHA has also stated, “The allegations made about the activities of individuals of the SHH are horrific. No one is more shocked then the hunting community and there is absolutely no doubt that such behaviour is totally unacceptable and has no place in hunting nor in the countryside”. For the avoidance of doubt, the allegations are of actions that can only be described as utterly cruel and defenceless whereby live fox cubs were thrown to hounds in kennels. Should the criminal investigation result in a successful prosecution we have been advised that the perpetrators can expect a custodial sentence and a lifetime ban, and it is our view that both would be justified.
It goes without saying that we have total confidence and trust in our team at the kennels who oversee the welfare of horse and hound to the highest level and care passionately about animals. We would like to thank you for your continued support at this challenging time for hunting.
Yours sincerely Louise Daly MFH Edward Phillipson-Stow MFH David Redvers MFH
I will leave that with you!!