Giles Wheeler, the hunt supporter sentenced to 60 days imprisonment by Bow Street Magistrates Court in April, has been acquitted on appeal.
Wheeler’s appeal was heard by Southwark Crown Court on Friday, 10 June. The 45-year-old former professional huntsman to the Isle of Wight and Fernie hounds was originally sentenced following police testimony relating to events in Parliament Square on 15 September last year, during the demonstration against the Hunting Bill.
It was originally alleged that, in throwing a lit flare on to neutral ground on the corner of Canon Row and Bridge Street, Westminster, Wheeler had breached the Public Order act.
Despite pleading “not guilty”, he was sentenced on 25 April by judge Nicholas Evans at Bow Street. He was taken from there to HMP Brixton, but released on bail two days later.
During the retrial at Southwark, judge Mr Justice Price was presented with oral and video evidence from both the police and defendant. While he accepted that Wheeler had acted “recklessly”, Price did not accept that the defendant had intended, in removing the lit flare to a place of relative safety, to endanger the wellbeing of either the police or the public. His appeal was upheld.
Meanwhile, hunt supporter and trainee farrier Thomas Haddock has been acquitted of threatening behaviour at another hunting demonstration last year.
Haddock, from Mid Glamorgan, was charged with a public order offence after an incident outside a Labour Party charity dinner in Cardiff on 25 November 2004. Last week, District Judge Hughes at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court found him not guilty.
PC Christopher Davies told the court that he had seen Haddock move out of the crowd and barge an elderly guest. He said the man was visibly shaken and he had immediately arrested Haddock.
But under cross-examination by Haddock’s solicitor, Clive Rees, PC Davies admitted that Haddock might have been propelled from the crowd involuntarily. Davies also accepted that the elderly man had made no complaint to the police.
Haddock told the court he had been pushed by the crowd, and that he had made physical contact with the man, but not intentionally.
In response to the suggestion that he had acted deliberately, Haddock said: “I have been brought up better than that.”
After looking at a video and hearing the evidence, the judge said he could not be sure that Haddock’s actions were deliberate, so he must be acquitted.