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Animal Rights Trial Success

Chesterfield Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson undertook the litigation in relation to two of six animal rights defendants who faced trial before Preston Crown Court.  The clients were represented by Andy Fitzpatrick and Matthew Stanbury of Garden Court North.

vhs fletchers animal rights trial
Preston Crown Court

All six were charged with Conspiracy to Cause Criminal Damage to animal traps and snares on a country estate in Lancashire.  The allegation was that the defendants agreed to cause damage to animal traps and snares.  These had been set by gamekeepers on the grouse and pheasant shooting estate.

Over time, the gamekeepers had found damaged traps and snares and reported the matter to Lancashire Wildlife police officers. Ultimately, the police enquiry was taken over by the Counter Terrorism Unit of Lancashire police.

The defendants all had an interest in animal rights and welfare.  The trapping and snaring of animals on the shooting estate was considered to be responsible for the decimation of the hen harrier population in the area, and the trapping and snaring of a wide range of animals, including badgers and, as it turned out, domestic animals.

These issues have recently been debated in parliament and is due to be debated again following a successful campaign by Chris Packham.

vhs fletchers animal rights
Chris Packham Campaign

Five of the defendants were detained by the police at the scene following their rescue of a cat from a trap.  It had been found hanging by a badly broken leg.   The police allowed them to take the cat to a vet for urgent treatment. Their details were taken and subsequently all five and one other were arrested.

The trial was listed in September before Preston Crown Court.  Three weeks of court time had been set aside.  In the event, two of the other defendants pleaded guilty to criminal damage to traps and snares.  This was to a value of £312.  As a result, both of these defendants received community orders for offences that could and should have remained in the Magistrates’ Court.  This would have represented a substantial saving to the tax payer.

Kevin’s two clients and the remaining to defendants were found ‘not guilty’ when the prosecution offered no evidence on the same day.  Kevin’s clients were placed in a strong position by the work that he had undertaken on their behalf.  Any argument at trial would have been two-fold:

  • there was no agreement to cause damage
  • in any event, the traps and snares had been set illegally by the gamekeepers

The second part of the defence was based on expert evidence from the country’s leading expert in animal trapping, Professor Stephen Harris.  He examined the evidence of the gamekeepers and would have told the jury of the illegal use of traps and snares on the estate by the employed gamekeepers.

Had the case gone to trial it may well have exposed an arguably  ‘cosy’ relationship between the gamekeepers and the Wildlife crime officers of Lancashire police.

If you have a similar case involving your protection of animal rights that you wish to discuss then please contact Kevin Tomlinson on 01246 283000 or by email here.

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