#TheList Julie Smith (born 16/02/1956), Edward Smith (born 22/07/1953), Patrick Smith (born 12/02/1957) and Michael Morley (born 29/03/1978), all of White House Farm, Hemel Hempstead Road, Redbourn, St Albans AL3 7AQ – for the appalling neglect of horses, goats and dogs, which were kept in a “rubbish strewn holding teeming with rats”.
All four defendants were convicted at St Albans Magistrates’ Court in relation to the welfare of dozens of animals at White House Farm in Redbourn.
The convictions came after the death of another defendant, Stephen Parkin, who took his own life during the trial in 2016.
Edward Smith and his wife, Julie Smith were both found guilty of 12 offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
These included causing unnecessary suffering to three horses and eight goats, and failing to provide a suitable environment for 14 horses.
Michael Morley was found guilty of nine offences, causing suffering to 10 dogs, and for failing to provide veterinary care for various conditions.
He had previously pleaded guilty to one offence of failing to meet the welfare needs of 42 dogs, by failing to provide a suitable environment for them.
Patrick Smith was found not guilty of 10 offences.
Judge Mellanby described the 17-acre White House Farm in Redbourn as a smallholding occupied by all five defendants.
On October 14, 2014, RSPCA inspectors visited the farm to follow up on some horses, in relation to the condition of their hooves.
But, as a result of what they found, three vets, the police, the fire brigade – which provided emergency lighting – and other RSPCA personnel were called to the scene.
By the time the RSPCA had left, well after 9pm, three horses had been removed, three horses and one goat euthanised, and at least 14 goats had their feet clipped.
Twenty dogs were removed from the site, four of which were subsequently euthanised.
The judgement described the RSPCA inspectors as “credible and thoroughly professional. Much of the cross examination of these two witnesses revolved around the suggestion that [the officers] attended the farm that day with a ‘mindset’ of gathering evident to support a prosecution and ensure Edward Smith and his family never showed horses again.
“There was a suggestion of a long held ‘hostility’ towards the Smiths. I find no evidence whatsoever that this was the case. In fact, quite the contrary.”
The judge added that “photographic evidence showed a lame horse with grossly overgrown hooves”.
“[RSPCA] video footage speaks for itself. For anyone to suggest that these were anything other than appalling conditions in which to keep a horse would be deluding themselves, and against all common sense.”
“What was initially a routine visit commencing at about 11am that morning turned out to be a very large and time-consuming investigation revealing many instances of animal welfare and poor animal husbandry practices of an obviously longstanding almost overwhelming nature.”
There were “40 or so dogs found in an unlit, wet and cold outbuilding”.
Judge Mellanby added: “The photographs are truly shocking together with the deep mud and utterly squalid conditions beggars belief. For anyone to suggest these horses were not suffering is absurd.”
One horse was “so lame he was barely able to walk and was euthanased on site”.
In one barn, “horses must have suffered by being confined in such dreadful conditions with nowhere dry to lie down and scarcely able to move in the mud let alone the hazards of broken corrugated iron planks of wood, faeces, not to mention the rats which populated the entire site. Their needs were clearly not being met.”
There were goats with “grossly deformed and distorted long hooves”, but upon clipping, they began resuming normal walking.
The judge said: “The goats were hobbling and staggering around, I have no doubt that they needed to have their feet clipped to relieve their obvious suffering.”
In a prepared statement, Edward Smith said he was responsible for show horses in one barn and horses in the field, but the remaining ones belonged to Stephen Parkin. He also said his wife “gave the goats to Stephen”.
Julie Smith said: “I am not 100 per cent sure who owns which horses.”
But the judge said the couple had control of the horse passports and that Julie Smith must have known exactly who owned which horse and,
“Julie, Edward and Patrick have provided no evidence of how and when they were transferred to Stephen Parkin.”
Judge Mellanby said she did “not believe their written statements”. Furthermore, neither Edward nor Julie Smith “gave evidence at the trial”.
Michael Morley “was the only defendant to give evidence at the adjourned hearing. He unequivocally accepted full responsibility for each of the dogs, the subjects of the charges. He was clearly trying to care for ageing and sick dogs without any support from his employers Edward and Julie Smith. He did not go to them for help or money to take them to a vet.
“He was courageous in the way he gave his evidence and faced full responsibility for lack of care of the dogs … each dog was suffering without doubt.”
Morley – community order of 150 hours’ unpaid work; costs and charges of £2,060. Disqualified from keeping or owning any animals for two years (expired February 2019).
Edward and Julie Smith: 10-week custodial sentence suspended for two years. Costs and charges totalling £10,080 each. The couple were also disqualified from owning goats and horses for just three years (expires February 2020).
Patrick Smith was found not guilty of the 10 charges against him.