Farming family guilty of 'grotesque' cruelty
RSPCA discovered starving, emaciated horses crammed into overcrowded pens
Saturday 09 May 2009
Five members of one family were found guilty of "grotesque" cruelty yesterday after one of Britain's largest horse-rescue operations. RSPCA inspectors who raided Spindle Farm in Buckinghamshire last year found a "horror scene" of starving, emaciated and diseased animals, surrounded by the rotting corpses of others.
In total, 115 horses, ponies and donkeys were rescued and 32 others were found dead in varying states of decay.
Yesterday, trader James Gray, 45, and his son James Junior, 16, were found guilty of 11 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. His wife Julie, 41, and daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 20, were each convicted of two charges under the same Act.
Nicolas De Brauwere, the head of welfare at Redwings, one of the horse sanctuaries called in to help, said: "I feel the evidence of cruelty and the extent of equine suffering in this case was so overwhelming that a guilty verdict was the only possible outcome so I am delighted with today's result. "I have no doubt that what myself and my colleagues saw that day will remain with us for the rest of our lives."
During a 51-day trial, Bicester magistrates' court in Oxfordshire heard that the RSPCA inspectors called at the farm in Amersham in January last year to find what some of them described as the worst case of animal cruelty they had ever seen.
Horses were crammed into overcrowded pens, ankle-deep in their own manure. Some of the 140 animals were so emaciated and disease-ridden that they had to be put down.
Hooves and body parts were discovered scattered across the farm, along with a mound made up of bones and skulls. As many as 32 carcasses were found. Some had been burnt on a bonfire and others were covered with rubbish. The court was told that Gray, shouted abuse at officers during the the inspection. He told the trial it was common for horses to "drop down dead" without warning, and the corpses were "family pets" waiting to be buried.
RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton said: "This case was distressing beyond measure. What we were confronted with on arrival at the farm was grotesque. To see animals in such awful condition was overwhelming and those that had survived were shown little care or consideration. Many horses and ponies had just been left to starve, and the smell of rotting flesh was overpowering."
As he delivered the guilty verdicts, District Judge Andrew Vickers reminded the defendants that all family members – who denied the charges – shared responsibility for the neglect. The father and son were found guilty on all 11 counts of causing unnecessary suffering. The three women were convicted of two charges of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease but acquitted of the nine cruelty charges.
Gray, who has a previous conviction for causing unnecessary suffering to a horse in October 2006, will be sentenced along with the other members of his family on 12 June.
After the verdicts, a spokesman for the RSPCA said: "Our inspectors will never forget the scene that greeted them at Spindle Farm last year and we are glad that justice has been done. This verdict sends a clear message out about animal welfare."
Paul Jepson, chief executive and resident veterinary surgeon of the Horse Trust, which was among the charities to take in some of the sick animals, said: "Many of the animals have made a spectacular recovery and it has been a joy to watch them bucking and playing in the fields."
Scottish independence: Despite defeat history may still point to Alex Salmond as the victor
Scottish independence referendum: Frankie Boyle reacts to nation's 'No' vote - 'To be fair, I've always hated Scotland'
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Scottish referendum: Police struggle to control Unionist rally in Glasgow's George Square
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster