Senior huntsman and partner convicted of fox cub cruelty charges
A senior huntsman has been found guilty of allowing his hounds to kill fox cubs after being recorded by covert cameras planted by anti-bloodsports activists.
Paul Oliver, the former master of hounds with the South Herefordshire Hunt, was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty after a judge rejected his claim that he had relocated two fox cubs in the wild.
District Judge Joanna Dickens also convicted Oliver’s partner Hannah Rose, who worked for the hunt as a kennel maid, of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering.
A seven-day trial at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard Oliver was caught by a hidden camera as he prepared to feed live fox cubs to his dogs in May 2016.
Giving verdicts in the case, the judge cleared terrierman Nathan Parry, who did not work for the hunt, of causing suffering to four foxes.
Parry, aged 40, of Brynarw estate near Abergavenny, took the foxes to the kennels but was found not guilty after the judge accepted that he believed they would be relocated in the wild.
Julie Elmore, aged 55, also of Brynarw estate near Abergavenny, and Paul Reece, 48, from Itton, near Chepstow in south Wales, admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering before the trial.
Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecutor Simon Davis said: “The unnecessary suffering involved the killing of fox cubs, effectively feeding the animals… throwing the fox cubs into the kennels of the fox hounds, thereby killing them.
“Oliver and Rose were employed by the South Herefordshire Hunt, based at Wormelow, as master of hounds, and a kennel maid or groom.”
The court was told hidden motion-sensitive cameras were placed at the kennels by the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) after they received information that animal welfare legislation had been breached.
As part of the HIT inquiry, two sites were identified where foxes were thought to have been “dug out” and police inquiries established gamekeepers had given permission for the animals to be destroyed on the land.
The court was told that a camera recorded Oliver handling foxes at the kennels and dumping the bodies of two cubs in a wheelie bin.
The footage also showed a stick with a noose attached, known as a grasper, being used by Oliver, who had previously been a senior member of Cornwall’s Western Hunt.
Oliver, 40, and Rose, 30, both of Sutton Crosses, near Spalding, Lincolnshire, had denied four counts of animal cruelty.
Sentencing in the case is expected to take place on Monday afternoon.