#TheList Amersham horse trader James John Gray (05/09/1963), wife Julie Cordelia Gray (24/05/1967) and daughters Jodie June Gray (12/09/1982) and Cordelia Gray (29/05/1988) and James Gray junior (23/01/1993) – left more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys to starve among the rotting carcasses of other animals
In a case veterinary expert witness described as the worst case of animal cruelty they had ever seen, 31 equines were found dead at Spindle Farm, Chalk Lane, Hyde Heath, Amersham. Some 111 other horses, ponies and donkeys were rescued.
The massive rescue was co-ordinated by Thames Valley Police, Trading Standards and the RSPCA with help from the Horse Trust, the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the Blue Cross
Hooves and body parts of horses that had been left to die were scattered around and a grotesque mound made up of bones and skulls was discovered.
The horror scene was uncovered when RSPCA inspectors were called to the farm, where a horse-trading business run by the Gray family was based.
There were 140 animals at the farm and many were left with little food or dry bedding, were crammed into pens and ankle-deep in their own faeces.
In total 115 animals, some severely emaciated, had to be rescued and removed from the farm during a huge operation in January 2009.
Robert Seabrook QC told the court how two RSPCA inspectors visiting the farm in January 2008 were confronted with a “grotesque and distressing state of affairs”.
He said a number of horses were discovered in “disgusting pens”, some were tethered individually and others were loose in the paddocks.
The most extraordinary aspect he said was that many horses were next to carcasses in varying states of decomposition and the smell of rotting flesh was “over-powering”.
He added: “A number of animals that were found had plainly been dead for a number of days and as it turns out, some for many months.”
The court heard in one pen three severed hooves were found alongside the bodies of two other horses.
James Gray Sr was convicted of nine charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and two charges of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease.
His son James Gray Jr was convicted of identical charges although two were later overturned on appeal.
Gray’s wife, Julie, and daughters Cordelia and Jodie were found guilty of the two charges of failing to protect the animals.
No member of the family showed any sign of emotion as the judge passed sentence.
RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton described the conditions the horses were kept in as “grotesque”.
Speaking after the sentencing, Hampton said: “The RSPCA is pleased the district judge has recognised the extent of the cruelty, neglect and the suffering endured by the animals in this case.
“We see the disqualifications from keeping horses as an effective measure to prevent animals suffering in future.”
Sentencing: James Gray Sr was sentenced to six months in prison and banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys for life. He was also ordered to pay £400,000. Gray was given a further two months after absconding from court. Two of Gray’s convictions were overturned in 2010, but Gray was ordered to pay £600,000 towards the RSPCA’s legal costs and faced financial ruin. A later appeal against what Gray claimed were disproportionate legal costs was rejected.
James Gray Junior was given an 18-month supervision order. He was banned from keeping equines for 10 years with right of appeal after five (ban expired June 2019).
Julie, Jodie and Cordelia Gray were each given 150 hours of community service. They were also banned from keeping equines for 10 years, with the right of appeal after five (bans expired June 2019).
Julie Gray was ordered to pay £750 in costs, and Cordelia Gray and Jodie Gray £500 each.