A Norwich man who set up a cockfighting training farm at his parents’ home and ran illegal fights for nearly three years has been banned from keeping animals for five years.
A court was yesterday shown a 6-minute video filmed by Trevor Hall showing cockfighting at his parents’ farm in Horsham St Faith, near Norwich.
Hall, 45, had previously admitted five charges of holding cockfights, keeping and training cocks to fight, keeping premises for cockfights, taking part in cockfights, and being present at a cockfight.
But he claimed that he was forced into holding the cockfights by Travellers who had threatened the safety of his girlfriend and parents.
Yesterday’s trial at Norwich Magistrates’ Court heard that Hall had a collection of cockfighting books including ‘The art of training fighting cocks’, DVDs and videos including ‘Chicken Fights 3’, and had filmed his cockerels fighting.
He was finally caught when the RSPCA and police jointly carried out raids at his parents’ home, and at his girlfriend‘s home in Vale Green, Mile Cross, where he lived, on August 18 last year.
RSPCA Inspector Ben Kirby, who gave evidence at the trial, said after the verdict: “That is a superb sentence and I think it’s appropriate and proportionate to the offence.
“Cockfighting is a notoriously difficult offence to investigate because of its underground nature.
“The RSPCA is becoming more pro-active in fighting this offence, and we will prosecute whenever we get the opportunity.”
Hall, though his solicitor Simon Nicholls, had put forward the defence that he was been forced to hold the cockfighting events by Travellers.
But chairman of the bench, Bob Price said he did not believe Hall could use the defence of acting under duress, because he said he always had the option of reporting it to the police or RSPCA, or he could just have got rid of his birds.
Jonathan Eales, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said 10 cocks suspected of being involved in cockfighting were seized from the parents’ farm on August 18, and a number of video tapes and books relating to cockfighting were seized from the address in Vale Green.
He added: “This included two VHS tapes containing 300 minutes of multiple cockfighting images, some with metal spurs on their legs to cause more injury. At least one fight was to the death.
“Two Camcorders and a laptop were also seized, also containing footage of cockfighting, and some cockfighting magazines and five cockfighting books.”
Hall was arrested and said in police interview that he obtained a bird and started breeding in 2004/5, when one of his birds was bought by a Traveller. He maintained that Travellers thereafter regularly visited and he was left intimidated, Mr Eales said.
Hall said they forced him to allow the birds to fight, and admitted to filming two birds sparring at the farm on two occasions, while no one else was present.
Giving evidence, Hall said he did not want to get rid of his birds because he loved them.
He said the Travellers would turn up for cockfights in groups of about four, but they were never seen in the videos. He said he was never paid for holding the fights.
Mr Nicholls said all the factual evidence presented in court was unchallenged, but said that Hall had been acting under duress.
He said: “The level of threats was serious. They are talking about burning houses down and causing serious injury to Mr Hall, his girlfriend and his parents. These are serious threats. They are – Either do this or else.”
Hall was given an 18-week suspended sentence and a curfew for five months to live at the address in Vale Green between 8pm and 7am daily. He must also pay £250 towards costs.
The court also heard that in March Hall was given a suspended jail sentence at Norwich Crown Court for supplying drugs, and was already on a 6-month curfew.