November 30, 2015
Six members of a Westcountry hunt have gone on trial accused of illegal hunting.
The private prosecution, brought by the League Against Cruel Sports, alleged the Lamerton Hunt, whose kennels are based at Lewdown near Okehampton, were hunting a fox with hounds, in breach of the 2004 Hunting Act on March 26 last year.
All six deny the charges, which are being heard before District judge Kevin Gray at South and West Devon Magistrates’ Court, Newton Abbot.
The defendants are huntsman David Lewis of Stowford, Lewdown, whipper-in Steve Craddock of Merton, Okehampton, joint master George Moyse of Bratton Clovelly, near Okehampton and terrier men Gilmore Lewis of Meadwell near Lifton, Stephen Mitchell of Holsworthy and Wayne Bartlett of Lifton.
The alleged incident took place at Battishill Down near Lydford on March 26, 2014, when the hunt met at Holdstrong Bungalow.
The court was shown a series of recordings filmed by Graham Floyd and Andrew Kendal, investigations officers from the League Against Cruel Sports, which showed the hunt working an area of thick gorse and undergrowth with a pack of hounds.
Graham Floyd told the court that he and three colleagues, Andy Kendal, Paul Tillsley and Ed Shepard, met on the morning of March 26, 2014 at a nearby services, before being dropped off in Lydford by a volunteer driver and making their way to their observation point.
“It was only after I went home and reviewed the footage later that I saw a fox running up the valley,” explained Mr Floyd. “The audio picked up a man’s voice saying ‘did you see him’ and the answer from another male, which was not very clear, said ‘looks like he’s gone down the valley’.”
Mr Floyd added that he saw David Lewis calling the hounds to ground and dismounting from his horse before going into the gorse. Minutes later the footage showed the arrival of four terrier men, who Mr Floyd identified as Wayne Bartlett, Gilmore Lewis and Stephen Mitchell. He was unable to identify the fourth man.
“There was a lot of digging noises coming from the dig site. I could hear a lot of chopping and hacking noises and several gone to ground calls,” he said.
Mr Floyd said once the hunt had moved off he and Mr Kendal went down to the dig site. “What we came across was an extensive amount of digging,” he said. “Whilst checking the holes I came across a dead new-born fox cub in one of the entrances to the holes and I sealed it for evidence. It was freshly killed, like in the last hour or two that we had been there filming. The blood was fresh and dripping.”
Mr Floyd added that he found a freshly smoked rolled cigarette and cigarette paper at the dig-out site, which he said he also sealed for evidence.
David Cooper, veterinary surgeon, told the court he carried out a post-mortem examination on the female fox cub on March 29, 2014 and estimated the cub to be between seven and ten days old and weighed 278kg. “It was in good bodily condition for a fox cub of that age. It had not decomposed to any extent,” he explained.
“On external examination, there was blood around the mouth and nose and a puncture wound on the right side of the chest. Internally there were multiple fractures on either side of the chest and haemorrhaging of the lungs and liver.”
Mr Cooper added: “The cause of death appeared to be trauma and there had been trauma to the head. In my opinion it was likely to be as a result of being bitten by a small dog. Dogs’ teeth are not very sharp so most of the damage done is by crushing.
“However, I could not measure the width of the puncture wound as there was only one bite mark. Had there been other puncture wounds you could measure the distance between the canines.
“But my feeling is that the small dog was more likely. If it was bitten by a fox it would be more likely to have eaten the fox cub rather than left it.”
The trial continues and is expected to last for two weeks.
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