10th April 2018
A father and son attacked two members of an animal welfare charity as they filmed the Belvoir Hunt.
Ex-police officer, Darryl Cunnington, a monitoring investigator with the League Against Cruel Sports, suffered a broken neck after falling from a 14 foot ledge.
His colleague, Roger Swain, was also injured and had his video recorder stolen, on the afternoon of March 12, 2016.
They were attacked by George Grant, 57, and his son, Thomas Grant, 25, who are associated with the Belvoir Hunt in Leicestershire.
The incident happened off Tofts Lane, Stathern, near Melton Mowbray, as the victims were surveying the hunt’s activities – although there was no report that the hunt was acting unlawfully on that day.
At Leicester Crown Court the defendants, both of Briary Cottage, Belvoir, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm upon Mr Cunnington, who formerly served 29 years with Leicestershire Police.
They also admitted causing actual bodily harm to Mr Swain, the theft of Mr Swain’s video camera and damaging a digital memory card.
The court case was adjourned until June, when the prosecution is due to open the facts of the case on behalf of The Crown.
Defence counsel asked for an adjournment so their clients could call character witnesses to give references.
Judge Jinder Singh Boora released the Grants on unconditional bail, saying: “You’ve pleaded guilty to very serious offences.”
He said: “I’m adjourning because there are character witnesses who can give evidence on behalf of you both and that’s something a judge can take into account in deciding what the sentence will be.
“I make it clear that all sentencing options will be available to the court.”
Earlier reports of the incident in 2016 stated the victims were filming the hunt’s activities on a ridge when the defendants arrived on a quad bike, before several unknown men turned up and assaulted them.
After the hearing, Mr Swain said outside court: “It would be nice to see a custodial sentence given the seriousness of the offences and it was an unprovoked attack.”
Mr Cunnington said: “I had a broken neck.
“I was monitoring the Belvoir Hunt.
“It was the last day of the hunting season.
“We’d been there for a good few hours on a public bridleway when the two drove past on a quad bike.”
When the Leicester Mercury reported the incident back in 2016, Mr Cunnington said “We’d set up in woods next to the Jubilee Way path near Stathern about half or three-quarters of a mile from where the hunt was.
“It’s a good vantage point and you can see for about 15 miles, and the cameras we have can film from up to a mile away.
“We operate covertly, the hunts often don’t know we’re there.
“We see what they’re up to, whether they’re hunting illegally and, if they are, gather video evidence and write statements to pass on to the police.”
The attack happened at about 2.30pm but, although the emergency services attended promptly, the challenging terrain meant it took more than three hours to get Mr Cunnington on to a spinal board in a specialist vehicle.
He had sustained a broken vertebrae in his neck and had to wear a neck collar for about seven weeks.
Mr Cunnington told the Mercury at the time: “We travel all over the country monitoring the activities of hunts, on about 150 occasions, and I’ve never been attacked before.
“We sometimes get a bit of verbal grief, but the hunts generally treat us differently to the hunt saboteurs because we’re professionals doing a job.”
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association
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