Two saboteurs were in court last week on disruption charges, which were dropped during the trial. H&H reports on the full court hearing, including a conviction for assault
CHARGES of disrupting hunts were dropped against two saboteurs – although one was convicted of assault – after the prosecution tried to amend the charge during the trial.
Daniel Poustie, 52, whose address was given as an animal sanctuary in Bexhill, and Anthony Robinson, 25, of no fixed abode, had both pleaded not guilty to “obstruct/disrupt person engaged in a lawful activity”, in relation to the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent hunt on 5 November 2019.
On 28 April, Margate Magistrates’ Court heard from witnesses including two police officers, who said after the pair were arrested, various items were found on them. As well as a radio and GPS device, Mr Poustie was alleged to have had a spray can, a hunting horn and a “bullwhip”.
The court heard the spray was a scent-based product, designed to mask the scent of a bitch in season, which could be used to “deter, distract or disorientate other dogs”. The officer said the whip could be used to control hounds, so could be used for this by the defendant, and the horn to “disorientate hounds away from any trail being laid”.
Mr Robinson had a spray he said was essential oils and water.
Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent amateur whipper-in Benjamin Giddings had told the court there had been some six to 10 saboteurs out that day. He said sabs “are always quite abusive” and constitute another factor for hunt staff to take into account, as well as those such as the laid trail, when keeping a situation under control.
“They always try to get between us and hounds,” he said. “They accuse us of breaking the law, and they play hound music, using gizmos, for them to take control of the hounds away from us, and use hunting horns.”
Mr Giddings said the sabs had been imitating hounds in this way that day, but not on the land specifically mentioned in the charge, as at the time the assault occurred the hunt had just moved on to that land and was not yet following the new trail.
The prosecution lawyer asked for the charge to be amended, as it related to a specific farm, on which the sabs had not been witnessed using any of the mentioned items to disrupt the hunt.
He said: “I don’t know why it’s been charged in that way”, and asked for the words “or adjoining land” to be added.
But the defence lawyer objected, saying the team could not have been expected to accept this amendment, and the judge, who said, “The prosecution’s got itself in a bit of a mess,” did not allow the change, as it was at too late a stage, and all the evidence concerned the particular farm.
The charge was dropped against both saboteurs, but Mr Robinson was convicted of assault.
The court saw a video showing tenant farmer Anthony Dodd, who was attempting to stop Mr Poustie advancing on his land, pushed by Mr Robinson and falling to the ground. Mr Dodd got up and approached saboteur Rebecca Hobbs, and was pushed down again by Mr Robinson.
Mr Robinson told the court he had approached Mr Poustie and Mr Dodd as he said the latter had his hands “round Daniel’s throat”, and he was concerned for his friend’s safety.
“I grabbed Mr Dodd’s arm and pushed it away from Daniel,” he said. “He dropped to the ground; I felt it was a bit of a jump. I didn’t push him that hard, and felt him move back with extra force that wasn’t in my hands.”
Mr Robinson said a “bit of a commotion” ensued, and alleged that Mr Dodds put his hands on Miss Hobbs in a similar way.
“I did the same thing; pushed his arm off her because I feared for her safety,” he said, adding that he felt he had used less force this time, but that Mr Dodd’s reaction was “more exaggerated”, and he was “certain it was an act”.
Mr Robinson said he was not “looking for trouble” that day, only to disrupt a hunt acting illegally, which he believed was the case.
Ms Hobbs, who said she was not aware she was trespassing despite repeated requests for the sabs to leave, alleged that Mr Dodd was “being aggressive”, and “coming at” Mr Poustie, and that he “had [Mr Poustie] by the throat”, something Mr Dodd denied.
She also told the court Mr Dodd “jumped back”, and she felt “the whole thing was staged”, although the prosecutor queried how close she had been to the incident.
The judge pointed out that Mr Dodd had the right to be there, and to use reasonable force to remove trespassers, “which you were”. He said he saw Mr Dodd “raising his arm with his hand out”, but “certainly not grabbing someone round the throat”.
The judge ruled that the first fall was not assault, but the second was, adding: “I feel your witness was being disingenuous and wouldn’t accept what happened”, and that it was “an aggressive act”.
Mr Robinson, who had no previous convictions for violence and had recently been dismissed from a job at a supermarket having been “long-term sick with mental health problems”, was fined £180 and ordered to pay costs and a surcharge.
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