#TheList Paul Oliver, born c. 1978, and Hannah Rose, born c. 1988, both of Sutton Crosses, Long Sutton, Spalding PE12, Paul Reece, born c. 1970, of Grove View, Usk Road, Chepstow NP16 6SA and Julie Elmore, born c. 1963, of 6 Brynarw Estate, Abergavenny NP7 7ND – convicted of animal cruelty after fox cubs were fed to hounds
Footage obtained by a group called the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) was instrumental in the successful prosecution of Paul Oliver, master of hounds with the now disbanded South Herefordshire Hunt.
Oliver was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty for allowing his hounds to kill four fox cubs and was handed a 16-week suspended jail sentence for causing their “painful, terrifying” deaths.
District Judge Joanna Dickens, sitting at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, also imposed a 12-week suspended sentence on Oliver’s partner, Hannah Rose, the hunt’s kennel maid.
The pair were ordered to pay £300 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering.
HIT, a relatively new group whose members include ex-services personnel, received training in covert investigative methods.
They fixed a device to Oliver’s Land Rover following a tip-off and tracked him to a site where they suspected he was catching fox cubs in May 2016.
They also set up cameras at the hunt’s kennels and obtained footage they said proved Oliver was catching cubs and taking them back to his hounds to “blood” them.
The court heard that one camera recorded Oliver dumping the bodies of two cubs in a wheelie bin.
The activists are said to have taken legal advice from lawyers and animal welfare organisations who told them they could not recover the cubs as this would amount to theft.
They said they did not pass the case to the police because they did not believe officers would have the resources to follow it up.
HIT members, who are involved in several ongoing investigations, are so worried about reprisals that one was allowed to give evidence during the seven-day trial from behind a screen.
Julie Elmore and Paul Reece admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to cubs which were distressed by being transported to the kennels.
Elmore and Reece were given conditional discharges and ordered to pay costs of £50 after the judge said both had been “motivated by consideration” for two fox cubs.
A fifth defendant, Nathan Parry, born c. 1978, also of Brynarw estate, was cleared of all charges.
Parry took foxes to kennels but was found not guilty after the judge accepted he believed they would be relocated in the wild.
Martin Sims, director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports and former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “We believe the incidents show that hunts are clearly still hunting as the poor fox cubs were thrown into the kennels to give the hounds a taste for blood.
“The barbarity of these incidents is sickening and will horrify the vast majority of the British public who are overwhelmingly opposed to fox hunting.”
Deborah Marshall, HIT spokeswoman, said: “This case has taken far too long to come to court and we have faced false allegations against investigators and obstruction throughout. We are glad that justice has finally taken its course.
“The capture of fox cubs to be used to train hounds is nothing new and is widespread across Britain, as is the mass destruction of healthy hounds to make way for younger ones. We will continue to expose cruelty and wildlife crime.”
The Masters of Foxhounds Association suspended the South Herefordshire Hunt after the footage emerged and it has since disbanded.
A spokesperson for the association said Oliver’s actions were “completely disgraceful” and had no place in hunting.