Fox hunt supporters convicted of brutal attack on charity workers

Two men were convicted today at Leicester Crown Court of seriously assaulting two League Against Cruel Sports professional investigators who were attacked whilst monitoring a fox hunt on behalf of the animal welfare charity.

One of the investigators, Darryl Cunnington, a former policeman, was treated for broken neck vertebrae after the incident, which took place as they monitored the activities of the Belvoir Hunt.

George Grant, the Belvoir Hunt terrier man, and his son Thomas Grant, pleaded guilty to charges of grievous bodily harm on investigator Darryl Cunnington, actual bodily harm on investigator Roger Swaine, theft of a video camera and criminal damage of a memory card. Sentencing has been adjourned until June 14.

The attack took place on March 12 2016 close to the village of Stathern in Leicestershire and involved the two convicted men and four unidentified masked men who punched and then pushed the investigators off a 14 foot escarpment before escaping with one of the investigator’s cameras.

Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports Director of Campaigns, said:

“This case highlights the sheer thuggery and lawlessness of fox hunts and their blatant disregard for the laws of this country.

“A hunt broke the neck of a charity worker working for an animal welfare organisation operating within the law to monitor potential illegal hunting activity.

“Despite being banned in 2004, hunting is still widespread and endemic across the British countryside hence why we employ professional investigators to monitor their activities and bring them to justice.

“This completely unprovoked attack on the investigators highlights how the hunts are prepared to break the law and resort to violence so they can continue to chase and kill animals in the name of ‘sport’ and literally tear them apart.”

Darryl Cunnington, League Against Cruel Sports Head of Field Operations, said:

“Hopefully this will send out a message to all hunts that they cannot carry out assaults on people who wish to monitor their activities.

“If they are operating within the law as they claim, then they have nothing to hide.

“By attacking monitors and stealing camera equipment they have shown they fear their hunting activities being recorded, and the possibility of prosecution.

“l am very lucky that the assault has left me with no long-term serious injuries. After falling fourteen feet, finding myself unable to move, I feared I was paralysed. The offenders showed no remorse and left us injured. The fact they refused to cooperate with the police shows no remorse or concern.”

Roger Swain, League Against Cruel Investigators Field Operator who was also assaulted, said:

I’m delighted by the result today. The Investigations team have a policy of non-interference and we are there purely to record any hunting or other cruelty offences. We were filming the Belvoir Hunt from a public bridleway from a distance of 1km. This violent response by an employee of the Hunt and five others was unprovoked and a complete overreaction.

“My colleague Darryl Cunnington was lucky not to have been killed. This conviction sends a powerful message to hunts up and down the country that you cannot simply attack anyone in the vicinity who happens to have a camera or who may disagree with your activities.”

The East Midland BBC Inside Out programme filmed with the investigators during the 2016 fox hunting season and took footage of the aftermath of the assault

The League Against Cruel sports has also made a film on the incident:

The case comes 13 years after fox hunting was banned in England and Wales with the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 which came into force in 2005. Professional investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports monitor hunts across the UK to obtain evidence that they are still illegally chasing and killing foxes, hares and deer.

In traditional fox hunting a hunt would employ one or more terrier men. Their role was to stop up fox earths and badger setts before a hunt to prevent foxes from taking refuge below ground and to ‘deal’ with foxes that had managed to go to ground during the day’s hunting.

Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports Director of Campaigns, said:

“The people who are employed by or support hunts often act like gangsters and this case illustrates what a dark and menacing blight they are on the countryside. The hunts are a barbaric throwback to crueller times and should have no place in a modern, compassionate society.

“The hunts have been conning the British public about their bloodthirsty hunting with hounds ever since the ban was introduced and they are clearly prepared to resort to desperate measures to maintain that deception.

“The presence of terrier men exposes the lies of the hunts that they are ‘trail’ hunting rather than targeting animals.

“Our professional investigators are incredibly brave men and women performing a vital role in highlighting the savagery and scale of illegal hunting still taking place in this country.

“85 per cent of the British public support the ban on fox hunting. They would be horrified if they knew about the scale of illegal hunting still taking place – we have had 550 reports of illegal hunting or hunts causing havoc in the British Countryside since the hunting season began in autumn. Sadly, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg and thousands of animals are still being killed every year.”

The Belvoir Hunt

The Belvoir Hunt was recently caught up in another scandal when a gamekeeper was convicted for keeping a fox in cruel conditions in a disused outbuilding, which the League believes was being held to be chased and killed by the hunt.

Nigel Smith, head gamekeeper of the Buckminster Estate, was found guilty of charges brought under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act for failing to meet the welfare needs of an animal, at Lincoln Magistrates Court on March 29.

He was caught on camera by investigators from the League with a bag and net outside the disused building only hours before the Belvoir hunt met nearby. This followed a successful League operation during which investigators had found the fox, captured it and taken it to a local vet for treatment, before releasing it back into the countryside. The fox had been found in appalling conditions and in a terrified state.

The incident happened less than three months before the same investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports were assaulted by people with connections to the Belvoir Hunt.

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