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27/11/2015 | Tim Walker on Aggravated Trespass - defending hunt monitors.

I recently acted for a number of clients who were charged with aggravated trespass. They were accused of disrupting the lawful activity of the Waveney Harriers who traditionally hunted live quarry and who now hunt a false scent laid by a human. It was the prosecution case that the defendants (for some unspecified reason)  chose to disrupt this entirely lawful activity and spoil the fun of a group of people who were simply riding around the countryside.

My clients denied this. It was their case that they were present to prevent the hunt from unlawfully pursuing live quarry. They did nothing to disrupt the hunt until they became aware that they were indeed pursuing live quarry: in this case a fox. As they were interfering with an unlawful activity they could not be guilty of the offence of aggravated trespass.

This raised a real problem for the prosecution. My clients were seen on video complaining to the police that the hounds were chasing a fox. The police in evidence said that as they had not seen the fox they did nothing further to enquire whether the hunt was acting unlawfully.

The law on aggravated trespass has recently been clarified by the Supreme Court in the case of Richardson. That case states that when a defendant properly raises the issue of the legality of the act he or she is said to have interfered with, then the burden falls on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the act was lawful.

In my case the prosecution did not call any evidence to prove that the hunt was acting lawfully. Police failed to see the fox that the hunt monitors claimed to have seen, and one of the Masters of the Hunt said he was unaware the hounds were chasing a fox. These facts were insufficient for the prosecution to discharge the necessary burden and as a result the charge was dismissed at the end of the prosecution case.

The hunt monitors succeeded where the Appellants in Richardson failed because they were able to demonstrate that the unlawful activity complained of was 'integral' to the activity with which they had interfered, and because the unlawful activity complained of was 'fairly raised by evidence' because they had made complaint at the time.

The prosecution sought to argue that we had launched an ambush in our submissions but the Court was quick to point out that throughout proceedings (and indeed at the scene) the issue had been raised and was therefore well known to all parties.

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British Vetinary Association Views on the Cull.

True, the BVA eventually declared themselves in favour of the badger cull and the media frequently give the impression that this view represent a massive majority of vets. However it is interesting to analyse the comments by the BVA retiring president Robin Hargreaves.

His speech, referring to the cull, included the following terms:-

"A fragile consensus of members"

"Diametrically opposed views"

"Strong differences of opinion within membership"

"Remains a hugely emotive and difficult issue"  

"Independent monitoring," (one of the IEP’s conditions) "was absolutely imperative"

"A robust debate within the council"

"A number of vets expressed concern about the lack of independent monitoring"

[The BVA] "eventually gave its backing to the second year of the pilots."

Public interest found to be in favour of disclosure of secret badger cull policy documents
On 31st July 2014 the Upper Tribunal held that it was “not persuaded” by DEFRA’s justifications for withholding key badger culling policy documents.  

In May 2012, the Badger Trust requested documents relating to the controversial development of the Government’s badger cull policy in 2010. Unknown to the Badger Trust, these documents related to the involvement of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) on a secret project board set up to explore essential aspects of the Government’s policy. DEFRA refused to disclose the Risk and Issue Logs (RILs), which demonstrate the project board’s hidden assessment of the risks associated with developing a farmer-led badger cull prior to the Minister’s decision on introducing the policy. 
In June 2013, the Information Commissioner ordered DEFRA to disclose the RILs, finding that the public interest test favoured disclosure. DEFRA appealed to the First-tier Tribunal. The case was exceptionally transferred directly to the Upper Tribunal where it was vigorously defended by the Information Commissioner together with the Badger Trust.
Following two days of evidence and submissions at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Tribunal indicated that it was unconvinced by any of DEFRA’s public interest arguments to justify withholding the RILs. Full judgment will be handed down in due course. 
This places the Badger Trust at the forefront of potentially ground-breaking developments in environmental information law, which will assist other NGOs like themselves to ensure greater transparency and scrutiny of controversial environmental decision-making within Government.
Jeff Hayden, Financial Director and the Trust’s lead on judicial challenge, who attended the two-day hearing, said:
“The Badger Trust was unremitting and determined in challenging DEFRA’s refusal and today’s finding is a complete vindication for all its hard-work. 

Joint Badger Trust/Care for the Wild Press Release

87% Say ‘Badgers Should Not Be Killed’ as NFU Meets Anti-Cullers in Prestigious Debate

Killing badgers is not necessary to eradicate bovine TB (bTB), according to the results of a prestigious debate about the badger cull which brought opposing sides of the argument – and a TV expert – together for the first time.

Audience members at the Bristol University debate, which featured TV Wildlife expert Simon King, Dominic Dyer of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, Adam Quinney of the National Farmers Union and Dr Lewis Thomas  of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, voted against the cull by 87% to 13%.




BT Press Release 
Badger blame game is leading to huge increase in persecution 

A Badger Trust annual report  on badger persecution claiming that the demonisation of badgers by the government and farming industry to justify the badger cull is leading to a significant increase in illegal persecution of the species. 

The report shows that 2013 proved to be another year of mayhem, death and destruction for badgers throughout the UK. Badgers were baited with dogs, illegally shot and gassed, badgers were poisoned and had petrol poured down their setts and ignited and in some cases badgers were even skinned alive and thrown by the side of the road. 

A total of 697 badger persecution incidents were reported during 2013 involving badger baiters, farmers, landowners, game keepers and property developers across the UK, but this is only the tip of the iceberg with thousands of incidents of illegal killing of badgers going unreported every year.

Commenting on the persecution report, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said: 
“The badger is a protected species but remains subject to rising levels of persecution across the UK. The badger blame game when it comes to bovine TB and the demonisation of the species by the government and the farming industry to justify the disastrous badger cull policy, is making a bad situation worse.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen an increasing number of farmers and landowners taking the law into their own hands by illegally killing badgers by gassing, shooting, poisoning, snaring and the destruction of their setts. 

“In the badger cull zones of Somerset and Gloucestershire we have seen a 250% increase in calls to local badger group helplines to report incidents of badger persecution, since the culls commenced three weeks ago. 

“This includes two cases of fires being started on top of badger setts, in one case a farm contractor was seen piling up straw after the harvest and then setting light to it. Fortunately a local badger group volunteer called the fire brigade, who promptly responded and put the fire out.

“We have also seen an increase in illegal snaring of badgers, including a case where a lady checking her ponies found a badger with a snare caught in its mouth. The injuries were so severe, with the wound infested with maggots, that the badger had to be put to sleep. The snare was manufactured and set in the illegal self-locking configuration.

“Badger persecution is a blight on our modern society and involves people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Wildlife crime is a serious offence and wildlife protection groups such as the Badger Trust play a key role in helping the police gather intelligence on criminal activity in order to bring this issue to the attention of politicians and the media.

“I call on everyone who cares for the future of our badgers to remain vigilant and report all incidents of badger persecution to the police and the Badger Trust. By working together we can help to beat wildlife crime and make the countryside not only a safer place for badgers but also for every other wildlife species.”



Lessons Learned from the Cull Trials?

The independent panel of experts' report on the disastrous badger cull trials revealed a catalogue of failure and cruelty. So what lessons will be learned for the repeat cull in 2014? Will the under-secretary of state for EFRA be asking for further monitoring?

In answer to a parliamentary question this week George Eustice's curt reply was, "I have no plans to ask the Independent Expert Panel to report on the second year of the pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire."

He also declared that "Cage trapping was used from the outset in each of the pilot areas."

We are left to assume that the degree of cruelty dealt out to the 'free-shot' victims was far greater than the official report has indicated.

How big is the bTB Problem?

EFRA Shadow Minister has just pointed out that the percentage of the National Herd slaughtered for testing positive to bTB is only 1%

Control of Cattle Movement

Did you know that farmers are still permitted to move cattle between farms which they own, and take them to cattle shows, without pre-movement testing?


 EU Debate on Wildlife Crime

In todays vote in the European Parliament just 14 MEP’s voted against the proposal to improve the fight against wildlife crime. Half of those 14 were British MEP’s and 6 of the 7 were UKIP members.

Not Guilty – Bovine TB Epidemic Caused by Cattle, Not Badgers

Ground-breaking new research shows how infected cattle missed by testing are key spreaders of the disease

New ground-breaking research by the University of Warwick into the spread of bovine TB (bTB) has confirmed claims by wildlife organisations like the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild that the disease is being spread by infected cattle – not badgers.

The paper, “A dynamic model of bovine tuberculosis spread and control in Great Britain”, demonstrated that the majority of herd outbreaks are caused by multiple transmission routes - including failed cattle infection tests, cattle movement and reinfection from environmental reservoirs. But the model proposes that ‘whilst badgers form part of the environmental reservoir they only play a relatively minor role in the transmission of infection’.