James Gray Animal Cruelty Trial

This was the worst cases of horse neglect and cruelty in UK's history. 32 horses, ponies and donkeys were found dead and over 100 were removed from Spindles Farm in Amersham in January 2008. Jamie Gray and his family were in Bicester Magistrates Court for 51 days in the longest-running animal welfare trial in history. This was the most high profile test of the new legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and it sent a clear message that neglecting and mistreating animals in this way is totally unacceptable.

James Gray & family Sentencing 12/06/09
Friday 8th May 2009 (The Verdict)
Tuesday 17th March 2009
Wednesday 11th March 2009
Monday 12th January 2009
Friday 19th December 2008
Thursday 18th December 2008
Monday 15th December 2008
Friday 12th December 2008
Wednesday 10th December 2008
Tuesday 9th December 2008
Monday 8th December 2008 (1st Day)

Friday 8th May 2009


(1) James John Gray (45) GUILTY 11 Charges

(2) James Gray Junior (16) GUILTY 11 Charges
(3) Julia Gray (41) GUILTY 2 Charges
(4) Jodie Gray (26) GUILTY 2 Charges
(5) Cordelia Gray (20) GUILTY 2 Charges

(All of the above defendants pleaded not guilty to a total of 12 charges each of neglect and cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006)

All five members of the Gray family (Gray's Horses Limited) have today been found guilty of neglecting more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys on their family farm in Hyde Heath; they have been convicted of animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
James John Gray (45) and his 16 year old son also called James (*) were convicted of nine counts of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and two charges of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease under sections 4 and 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Julia Gray (41) and her two daughters Jodie (26) and Cordelia (20) were cleared of charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, but convicted of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
All five people will be sentenced in four weeks’ time.

District Judge Andrew Vickers indicated custodial sentences were unlikely for James junior, Julie, Jodie and Cordelia, but that the offences committed by James senior were serious enough to have “crossed the custody threshold” and he did not rule out imprisonment.

The final sentences will be decided when full mitigation is made and the pre-sentence report is made, he also said Gray's past offence would be taken into account.

During the course of the trial, evidence was heard from two expert witnesses Ms Madeleine Forsyth and Mr. John Parker both vets. Judge Vickers said he was “unable to rely” on their evidence as it could not be corroborated.
So much for their reputations, they both attended regularly throughout the trial in steadfast support of James Gray and his family, if they had their way all five members of the Gray family would not be accountable for their actions at Spindles Farm. Such a lack of compassion they have shown for God's creatures, and they are both vets.

I shudder at what these gentle animals had been put through. Every horse pony and donkey matters and deserves to be protected from cruelty, pain and suffering and should be fed and stabled properly, at least they have their 30 pieces of silver each intact! - Maybe they should have a lifetime ban on defending the Gray's in future animal cruelty cases brought to court by the RSPCA!

The court heard today James Gray senior has a previous conviction for causing unnecessary suffering after failing to call a vet when a piebald colt needed treatment. He was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £7,871 costs in October 2006 in another case brought by the RSPCA which was heard at Hemel Hempstead Magistrates Court.

The sentencing will take place at AYLESBURY Magistrates Court on Friday 12th June 2009 at 12 noon.

James Gray and his son also James Gray face the possibility of being jailed for up to six months and a possible fine of up to £20,000, and Julia Gray, and her two daughters Jodie and Cordelia each face possible fines of up to £5,000 each.
The equines remain the property of the guilty Gray family unless the court rules otherwise at the sentencing.

The RSPCA have launched an appeal for funds to care for the neglected horses, if you wish to donate money please click here

(*) District Judge Andrew Vickers today lifter the court order banning James junior from being named.

Tuesday 17th March 2009

Today was the last day for evidence to be heard in the trial of Jamie Gray (45), Julie Gray (41) and Cordelia Gray, (20), all of Spindles Farm, and Jodie Gray, (26), of Park Road, Ashford, Middlesex, and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons, at Bicester magistrates Court. All the defendants deny all the 12 offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

It was the turn of expert witness Ms Madeleine Forsyth acting for the defence to give evidence, she told District Judge Andrew Vickers that the deaths of several horses at Spindles Farm, could be down to a massive outbreak of worms.

Prosecuting Barrister Robert Seabrook QC said to Ms Forsyth that she was a professional expert witness, and was giving evidence well outside her level of competence and expertise. He also accused her of seeking to confuse the real issues of the case with the evidence. Ms Forsyth denied the accusation.

During his cross examination Robert Seabrook QC presented to the court an initial report written by Ms Forsyth which stated

"the care of Horses and Ponies has been a substantial proportion of my professional practice".

He then went on to produce to the court two identical statements written by Ms Forsyth from other trials where she stated that

"avians and domestic animals were a substantial proportion of her work".

Ms Forsyth stated that her background is that of a mixed practitioner, and informed the court that is exactly what she is. She explained that a proportion of her work approximately one third is with domestic pets and a part of this was avian.

In further cross examination Robert Seabrook QC also accused Ms Forsyth of using arcane words or phrases which held no recognised meaning. Ms Forsyth told the court she did not agree.

Wednesday 11th March 2009

John Parker a senior vet gave evidence in court today for the defence of Mr. Gray and his family of Spindles Farm, and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons. He told the court that in his opinion Mr. Jamie Gray was not aware of the gravity of an infection affecting his equines, he also went on to tell the court he was unable to prove his theory as it was several months before the idea came to him and after he had compiled his initial 73 page report on his findings. Expert witness Mr. Parker said he believed the horses could all have died from an infestation of worms.

Mr. John Parker (former chairman of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) also said witness accounts of Jamie Gray pulling a horse onto a trailer by tying ropes round its tail and mane showed a misunderstanding of the correct treatment of horses. He said he had taken horses out of water jumps in that manner himself. He told the court it was the correct way to do it, but accepted that to a lay person it might not seem very good.

Katy Quote: " I don't agree with that, there are proper padded horse rescue harnesses and slings specifically designed to recover a horse in that situation."

Mr. Roberts Seabrook QC prosecuting, told Mr. Parker it was impossible for so many animals to die in such a short space of time. He questioned Mr. Parker and asked him if it was possible to have sudden deaths from an infestation of worms without any of the equines showing any clinical signs that would be apparent to Mr. Gray. Mr. Parker said it was possible; they could have all died within 48 hours of contracting worms. He told the court that if this was the case it would be one of the largest outbreaks ever recorded, but hastily added that he was giving the hypothesis of what had killed the animals, but also stated it cannot be proved as unfortunately any supporting evidence had now gone.

Mr. Parker said the possibility of cyathostomiasis - an infestation of worms, did not cross his mind until after he had completed his initial report on his findings.

Robert Seabrook suggested to Mr. Parker that he did not have any personal knowledge or experience of cyathostomiasis, Mr. Parker disagreed, but added he did not know what yardstick to measure his findings against, he said he had seen 2 outbreaks of this condition.

Robert Seabrook told Bicester Magistrates Court that Mr. Parker had been swotting up on his knowledge of the disease and that he had contacted another vet from Shrewsbury to ask about it. Mr. Parker agreed that he had sought advice from the vet, to confirm whether his experience of sudden death was the same as his, which he said was the case. He told the court he had spoken to the vet three or four times, and added they were good friends and said he had not contacted him specifically with the intention of talking about the trial.

Mr. Parker said that evidence already heard from vets and the RSPCA inspectors had been exaggerated and overstated. He referred to evidence given by Katie Robinson a vet, saying that neglect and cruelty may well not have contributed to everything that she saw at Spindles Farm.

Mr. Seabrook asked Mr. Parker if he would be cautious about challenging Miss Robinson’s evidence, and he replied he would not, but he added he did not contest her remarks that the animals were in urgent need of attention. He went on to tell the court that if Mr. Gray was a reasonable dealer he would give his equines enough food to keep their weight up over the winter months, but not to put a great deal of flesh on them.

Robert Seabrook QC suggested Mr. Gray had got away with as little as he could when feeding the animals on his farm. Mr. Parker disagreed.

Mr. Seabrook said Mr. Parker had not mentioned anywhere in his 73 page report of findings anything about Cyathostomiasis. Mr. Parker said his remit until 4th April 2008 was not to do with diagnosis; it was to see some horses and see how healthy they were.

Monday 12th January 2009

The trial of Jamie and Julie Gray and Cordelia Gray, 20, all of Spindles Farm, Jodie Gray, 26, of Park Road, Ashford, Middlesex, and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons, resumed today at Bicester magistrates Court, after the Christmas and New Year break.

There was a peaceful gathering of six demonstrators carrying placards outside the court to great Mr. Gray and family when he arrived, and there were Thames Valley Police officers also present.

Mrs. Julie Gray was unable to attend court today as one of their children was poorly, and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons, was only able to attend the afternoon session. District Judge Andrew Vickers was presiding.

Robert Seabrook QC called his first witness to give evidence WPC Tamara Scott, she explained how she met RSPCA officers and Mr. Bob Baskerville a vet at Keepers Lane, Hyde Heath on 5th January 2008 at 8:30am and then attended Spindles Farm, Chalk Lane Hyde Heath, with them, and saw for herself the state of some of the animals on the farm.

Mr. Mike Fullerton acting for Mr. Gray asked why she felt it necessary to remove the animals under Section 18 (5) of The Animal Welfare Act 2006, she answered it was on the advice of the vet present Mr. Bob Baskerville.

Section 18 (5) of The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that

An Inspector or a Constable may take a protected animal into possession if a veterinary surgeon certifies-

(a) That it is suffering, or
(b) That it is likely to suffer if its circumstances do not change.

Mr. Fullerton questioned WPC Scott to see if she fully understood The Animal Welfare Act 2006, he asked if she had time to look up the act while at the yard, and also whether there was any discussion about making the yard satisfactory for the animals.

He asked her if she realised she could have, as an alternative to seizing the animals and removing them from the farm, have opted for Section 18 (8) of The Animal Welfare Act 2006, in that the animals could be taken into possession under section 18 (5) and under Section 18 (8) remain at Spindles Farm and be cared for on the premises instead.

Section 18 (8) of The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that

Where an animal is taken into possession under subsection (5), an inspector or constable may-

(a) Remove it, or arrange for it to be removed, to a place of safety;
(b) Care for it, or arrange for it to be cared for-

(i) on the premises where it was being kept when it was taken into possession, or
(ii) at such other place as he thinks fit:

(c) Mark it, or arrange for it to be marked, for identification purposes.

WPC Scott was asked if she saw the vet Mr. Bob Baskerville examine any of the animals on the farm and especially KH15, she replied she did see him examine the animal, she was asked exactly how long the vet took to examine KH15 and she replied 20 minutes, she was asked if Bob Baskerville took notes by calling out the findings and also if she saw KH16 to KH20 being examined, she was asked if the vet got in the pen to examine the animals and she said yes he did. WPC Scott informed the court that she made a statement on the 8th January 2008, from notes taken from her pocket book, which was subsequently lost. She said also when asked that some of the animals that were destroyed, on the vets advice because of their poor health.

Robert Seabrook QC called his next witness PC Nigel Rosier of Amersham Police station, who informed the court that he attended Spindles farm on Sunday 6th January 2008 at 11:30am to remove the animals, he was asked by Mr. Fullerton if he had come across the donkey KH22 which was dead and had been alive the previous day. He was also asked if he had made notes at the time and was his statement the same as his notes.

PC Nigel Rosier told the court how he had received a telephone call that morning from an RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Hampton asking for assistance under Section 19 of The Animal Welfare Act 2006, powers of entry, he was asked if he knew about the act before, he answered he did not. He was also asked if he had seen the animals being examined by the vet, and if he saw the animals marked, and to tell the court exactly where the first animals that were seized, were taken from, he answered they were taken from the top barn.

PC Nigel Rosier was asked on what bases were the animals seized and he answered their general condition, he was asked if he ascertained which animals were suffering, and if he knew which animals to remove. He was then asked by Mr. Nigel Weller if he gained entry to the property by invitation of the person who controlled the property and if he was at the head of the expedition on entering the property.

He informed the court that he spoke to Mr. Gray’s daughter on arrival, and said it was his duty to keep the peace and seize the horses that were in poor condition. He was asked if he knew the contents of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 before entering the property and he answered he did not. He understood from Inspector Kirsty Hampton of the RSPCA that it was his job the seize the sick animals as a vet had carried out examinations of the animals.

Robert Seabrook QC called PC Garry Holliday from Amersham Police Station, and he informed the court that on Monday 14th January 2008 he conducted interviews at Amersham Police Station of members of the Gray family and of a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons, in the presence of Tina Roberts.

Mr. Widdets was acting for the Gray family and arrived at the police station at 2:00pm no members of the Gray family were prepared to be interviewed, neither was the teenager. PC Holliday then asked the custody sergeant to intervene and he said that interviews were necessary as offences allegedly had been committed. All gave no comment answers when asked to answer material questions.

Mr. Fullerton acting for Mr. Gray and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons confirmed with PC Holliday that the defendants were not under arrest at the time.

Mr. Charlton acting for Julie Gray and Cordilia Gray, ascertained that the defendants were acting on the advice given by their solicitors, and that all the defendants had voluntarily given their names and dates of birth to PC Holliday.

Mr. Nigel Weller acting for Jodie Gray also confirmed that the defendants were asked not to say anything to the police at this time on advice given to them by their solicitor.

After a short break Mr. Fullerton informed the court that members of the public in the public gallery were looking at the defendants in a menacing way, and some were mouthing words like “rubbish” to them, this he felt was unnecessary and he felt they were trying to influence the court, the defendants had pointed out that they found this behaviour intimidating.

Two police officers spoke to the public gallery and informed them they must desist from looking at the defendants during the trial; they replied that they were being stared at the whole time by the two female members of the Gray family.

When the trial resumed District Judge Andrew Vickers told Mr. Fullerton that he had not seen any members of the public acting in this way, and suggested that Mr. Fullerton ask his clients to perhaps not look towards the public gallery at the back of the court.

Mr. Robert Seabrook called Neil Harris who is Gardens and Countryside Manager at Hughenden Manor High Wycombe, which is now owned by the National Trust, he described how ten horses appeared in one of their fields on 20th November 2007 which belonged to Mr. Gray of Spindles Farm Hyde Heath near Amersham, he told the court how one of the horses looked like it was already dead, he said how the owner of the horses Mr. Gray had said it must have been one of ten that might have escaped from Spindles Farm.

Mr. Nick Phillips the Property Manager at Hughenden Manor, told the court how Mr. Gray had told him that he believed the equines had escaped from his farm and ended up in the field at Hughenden Manor. Mr. Phillips told the court how he questioned that, as he knew how far away the field was from Spindles Farm, and felt it was extremely unlikely that they could have all escaped together and arrived at the field near Hughenden Manor.

Mr. Gray informed him that they could have been stolen and dumped in the field.
Neil Harris made arrangements with Mr. Gray for the animals to be collected, but Mr. Gray did not come to remove them until 5:30pm on 18th December 2007.

Mr. Harris explained of how on that day he was told that one of the horses in the field had fallen and was unable to get up again. He went to Hughenden Manor at around 5:00pm, where he saw the horse on the ground in the far corner of the field, he said it was clearly not looking well.

Half an hour later Mr. Gray arrived with a teenager, who also faces animal cruelty charges but cannot be named for legal reasons, and a female, who was not identified to the court. Mr. Harris told the court how Mr. Gray drove a 4x4 and trailer near to where the horse was, and because of the boggy conditions the vehicle was stopped about 25 metres from the trailer. Mr. Harris told the court that they made some attempts to get the horse to stand up, but were unable to get it to stand on its own four legs. They then took a head collar and some rope and Mr. Gray attached the rope to its tail, it tried to stand up but was unable to. The horse was then dragged, head and tail, towards the trailer. It was pulled from the front then pushed from the rear in a see-saw motion.

Mr. Robert Seabrook QC, prosecuting then asked Mr. Harris if the horse moved by itself, and Mr. Harris replied that it did not, he explained that at one point it looked dead. The horse was eventually lifted up into the trailer in the same see-saw motion; then the teenager gave it a kick to make sure it was fully in the confines of the trailer. The court was told the horse occasionally twisted but was being dragged all the way, not smoothly at all. Mr. Phillips said that he expressed concern as the horse was clearly in distress, and told Mr. Gray it might be best to call a vet out or have it shot. The reply was the horse will be fine, it just needed an injection.

A horse with similar markings, mane and colour to the one dragged across the field was later found dead at Spindles Farm, unfortunately neither Mr. Phillips nor Mr. Harris could confirm with 100 per cent certainty that this was the same animal.

Michael Fullerton acting for the defence said that the ground sloped downwards towards the trailer; Mr. Harris agreed that it did. Mr. Fullerton then suggested the wet ground under foot, and the downwards slope would have allowed the horse to slide to the trailer. Mr. Phillips disagreed and said the ground was uneven and that it was dragging not sliding.
Mr. Fullerton also went on to suggest that the teenager did not kick the horse. Mr. Harris informed the court that he was close enough to confirm the kick connected with the animal.

The case will continue tomorrow Tuesday 13th January 2009.

Friday 19th December 2008

Mr. Geoff Higgins a health and welfare officer with Buckinghamshire County Council Trading Standards was giving evidence today.
He told District Judge Andrew Vickers how on Sunday 6th January 2008, he was asked to visit Spindles Farm, Chalk Lane, Hyde Heath, as RSPCA officers had found a number of dead equines on the farm.

Robert Seabrook prosecuting, asked him what he had found there, and he told the court that he discovered the carcases of several animals on a rubbish heap. Photographs were taken of the field where the rubbish heap was, so as to show the fact that livestock had access to the detritus including any animal matter, which he said was plainly against the law.

He explained that the mound was scattered with general detritus, like plastic and piping, he said it was a general rubbish tip, but there wasn’t much in the way of recent additions.
There were lots of bones scattered across the surface which had the appearance of jawbones and ribs, he said some of the bones appeared to be protruding from the heap, as if they were buried, others were on the surface.

He said how a nearby carcass caught his eye the animal had a rope tied to its left hind leg. Mr Geoff Higgins said that the carcass was semi decayed.
He told the court that animals in one of the fields had uninhibited access to another field which contained the animal remains, because of his findings a 7 day notice was served by him under the Animal By-products Act, ordering the bones and rubbish to be removed. The notice had to be posted through Spindles Farm house door, as Mr. Gray was said to be unwell at the time.

Robert Seabrook QC, acting for the RSPCA asked Mr. Geoff Higgins to explain to the court what his overall impression of the farm was. He explained that he felt that things had got out of hand and had been let go. He said there was an air of neglect about things. He told the court how he was surprised at the mucky conditions for the animals. They were eating their own bedding from what he could see. There was excrement in the in a water trough, the animals didn’t have any water that was clean. He explained that they appeared not to have been cleaned out for some time.

The case is now adjourned until Monday 12th January 2009 at Bicester Magistrates Court.

Thursday 18th December 2008

Nicki Cooke an RSPCA Inspector was the first witness called by Robert Seabrook QC, acting for the RSPCA, to give evidence today.

She recalled how she attended Spindles Farm, Hyde Heath on Saturday 5th January 2008 and checked the perimeter of property with Chief Inspector Rob Skinner of the RSPCA, she told the court how they found a bay mare wearing a rug (K15) which had a pussy eye, and was seen to be in a poor condition when the rug was removed. She told also how they also discovered a dark bay pony which looked unwell, and in the second largest field a herd of 10 Shetland ponies, and a black cob that was also in a poor condition with ribs sticking out (KH16)

Robert Seabrook QC mentioned to the court that at a property called 31 acres, which was land utilised by Mr. Gray for the grazing of some of his horses, an RSPCA Inspector Mark Martin had discovered 2 horse carcases on 10th January 2008, no charges were being brought by the RSPCA in respect of this.
Mr. Fullerton acting for Mr. Gray and a teenager, interjected that this information was not relevant to this case; he also said that it was not a big deal with so many carcases around.
Mr. Seabrook acting for the RSPCA felt that it was, in that it showed the environment in which the enterprise was run by Mr. Gray and his family.

Inspector Mark Martin of the RSPCA was called next, and he recounted how he had attended at Spindles Farm on Wednesday 9th January 2008, and took photographs of the yard and field and also a trailer and its contents, which was an equine bone. He also told how he took photographs of a hoof, and some long bones in a muck heap, and also of some fallen barbed wire fencing which was in a loop and could have been a danger to the horses, he also photographed plastic wrappers and twine in fields 1, 2 and 3, and also in the yard. He explained how in his opinion these items might be of danger to the animals.

Mr. Fullerton stated that Spindles Farm had been a dairy farm 6 years previously, and indicated that might explain the bones, he asked Inspector Mark Martin of the RSPCA if he had known that fact and Inspector Martin replied that he had not.

After a short adjournment the court resumed, and Robert Seabrook QC called his next witness Mr. Nicholas Barry White, a field officer with “World Horse Welfare, formally called the “International League for the Protection of Horses” (ILPH) based in Norwich a charity organisation, which as the name suggests deals with all aspects of horse welfare.
Mr. Nicholas Barry White had before joining the organisation been a Metropolitan Police Officer for 30 years, latterly served with the mounted division. He explained that he deals with all aspects of equine welfare and helps with advice and education on any matters appertaining to the welfare of horses, and works with the RSPCA when requested.

He told the court how on Friday 4th January 2008 at 4pm he arrived at Spindles Farm, after receiving a telephone call from Chief Inspector Rob Skinner of the RSPCA, he went on to explained how he met with RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Hampton and a vet from Wendover Heights Surgery, and explained how they discovered carcases and bones in the yard.

Roberts Seabrook QC asked about Pen 1 and Pen 2, and was told there were 2 carcases in Pen 3. When Mr. Nicholas Barry White was asked about the conditions in the Pen , he replied by saying, there was no feed or forage and there was string on the ground, the drinking was low and had excrement in it. When he was asked about the condition of Pen 6, he described them as narrow stalls with some protruding nails, the equines were tied to the wall, and their movement was severely restricted, they had no feed, no hay and no water, and the animals were kicking each other in frustration, as they were much too close together.

There was a dead horse next to Pen 6, and there was muck on the floor, droppings and old stray. Pen 4 he said contained 8 or 9 equines on concrete, they were totally silent one could not hear any of the usual sounds horses make, no sound of straw underfoot, no eating sounds or drinking sounds at all. Pen 5 did have fresh water and was occupied by thin donkeys, Pen 7 had 14 animals in one pen, a bay cob which was unable to stand (KH1) was on concrete, and when rolled over it was discovered to have a huge sore down its side. Pen 7, had a horse with a swollen penis, Mr. Nicholas Barry White said that he felt the bedding was wet and there was strapping on the floor which could represent a trip hazard.

When he was asked by Robert Seabrook QC what was his opinion of the conditions in the yard he replied with one word only “appalling”

Mr. Nicholas Barry White stated that there appeared to be no tack room and no hard feed at all.

On 5th January 2008, Mr. Nicholas Barry White, informed District Judge Andrew Vickers, that he had help unload some of the equines at The Horse Trust at Speen.

Monday 15th December 2008

Mike Fullerton, representing Mr Gray expressed concerns that Jamie Gray and members of his family would not receive a fair trial, because of all the media coverage. They pointed out that the family had been the victims of hate mail and had received malicious phone calls from members of the public threatening them, the Thames Valley Police were actively involved, and Chief Inspector Stuart Greenfield, the local police area commander for the Chilterns had apparently set measures in place to protect Mr. Gray and his family, and the police would be taking very seriously any threats to the family received during the trial which might included the possibility of any public order offences taking place.

The court was told by council representing Mr. Gray and his family, that caution should be exercised when allowing the release of any RSPCA photographs and DVD evidence used in the case especially when it involved the juvenile family member.

The defence council told District Judge Andrew Vickers that this case had received more media attention than most cases. It was pointed out that the defendants had every right to a fair trial, and that any press reporting of the case must be fair and accurate.

District Judge Andrew Vickers pointed out that this was a private prosecution being brought by the RSPCA and there was no jury involved, so he was allowing photographs and video taken by the RSPCA to be released to the public.
Chief Inspector Rob Skinner of the RSPCA gave evidence today and told District Judge Andrew Vickers at Bicester Magistrates court that he had discovered the bodies of 20 animals left rotting among more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys allegedly left to starve.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Skinner told Bicester Magistrates' Court Mr Baskerville said one of the equines “would die if it was left” at the farm.

Mr Baskerville also recommended a number of animals be removed from the farm following examinations , three of which were “in need of specialist care”. These included an animal referred to in court as animal KH8.

Mr Skinner told the court: “Mr Gray stated there was no need to take animal KH8 at all. He said it had a snuffly nose and he was already treating that.

“Mr Baskerville repeated KH8 should be removed. Mr Gray then said, 'You are on their side as well'.”
Mr Skinner added Mr Gray's wife Julie, 41, told Mr Baskerville: “You've always had it in for my husband.”

When the RSPCA inspectors left the farm, they told Mrs Gray to ensure the animals were given food and water.

They returned the next day, and found “good quality hailage” was being provided to animals in one of the fields. Mr Rob Skinner told the court the hay bale was not there the previous day.

He said however a horse was found in the field away from the food supply which upon inspection was found to have a badly infected eye. He told the court a total of 37 horses were in the field that day and “several were in poor condition”.

On January 4, when the inspectors first visited the farm, 31 carcasses were discovered and 14 animals were removed as they were considered to be suffering or likely to suffer if they were not removed. On January 9, 97 animals were taken away from Spindles Farm.

Another carcass was found on January 5, which Mr Skinner told the court “had been there some time”. A further four horses were put down by vets.

Mr Gray said initially the dead horses had died from worms.
Mr. Mike Fullerton, representing Mr Gray, asked Mr Rob Skinner if worms can kill an equine. “It's certainly a major contributory factor,” he replied.

Mr Fullerton asked Mr Skinner if he had asked when the animals had last been wormed. Mr Skinner said he did not. While being cross-examined, Mr Skinner also said he had not asked when the animals had last been fed and how often they were fed.
Mr Fullerton asked: “Did you consider that might be relevant before you looked round the farm further?”

Mr Rob Skinner replied: “We had grounds to suspect an offence had been committed. Therefore we commenced an investigation.”
He added he considered the questions suggested by Mr Fullerton to be more appropriate in an interview situation “rather than a conversation in a dark, wet yard”.

Chief Inspector Rob Skinner also described how he found one pony (Called C20) lying on a trailer with a rope still tied to its tail with the other end attached to the trailer. The court was told at times Mr. Gray became aggressive towards those handling the investigation.

Friday 12th December 2008

The trial of the 5 members of the Gray family of Spindles Farm, Hyde Heath has been adjourned until Monday 15th December 2008 at 10.30am, while district judge Andrew Vickers, sitting at Bicester Magistrates' Court, considers an application from the Sun newspaper.

The Sun newspaper has requested that photographs and video evidence shown in court during what promises to be the highest profile equine welfare trial ever to be held in the UK, can be released to the public.

Wednesday 10th December 2008

Kirsty Hampton an RSPCA inspector told Bicester Magistrates court that she had found the bodies of 20 animals rotting at Spindles Farm on 4th January 2008

Kirsty Hampton said some carcasses were left in pens with live horses, others were burnt and dumped next to a bonfire while some were simply left lying on the ground covered in rubbish.
One dead horse was found on the back of a trailer with ropes around his tail and neck, she said.

The court heard how she discovered the "horror scene" after being called to Spindles Farm at Hyde Heath in Buckinghamshire, run by 45-year-old horse trader James Gray.

Kirsty Hampton said she was called to Spindle Farm after receiving a call about the horses on the farm.
She immediately discovered two dead horses lying with nine live animals in a pen and then pointed out two more bodies which were covered by an old tarpaulin.
She said: "I asked Mr. Gray how the horses had died and he replied that you always get a few that die when you have this many.

"I asked him how they died and he replied: 'The worms'."

Miss Hampton told the court she found horses in over-crowded pens covered in faeces with no clean water, feed or dry bedding.
She said one horse was so "painfully thin and weak" that it could not stand up while another was left with blood dripping down its leg from a serious infection.

She said some animals were so thin she was able to see their spines and rib cages, she found evidence that some distressed animals had been biting and kicking each other.

She told the court that two dead ponies were found in a dilapidated shed while three more bodies were found badly burned with rubbish on them next to a bonfire.

More bodies, including two Shetland ponies, were found dumped in other locations around the farm, she claimed.
Miss Hampton said Mr Gray became aggressive towards the inspectors and threatened to set a Rottweiler dog on them. She also said she later discovered one of the tyres on her van had been slashed.

The inspector told the court that she and her colleagues returned to the farm over the following days where more bodies were found and more animals had to be put down. She also discovered a pile of seven horse skulls next to a gate.

Tuesday 9th December 2008

The worst case of animal cruelty ever seen, where animals were left to starve to death at Spindles farm, Chalk Lane Hyde Heath, in Buckinghamshire started yesterday Monday 8th December 2008.

On trial are James Gray, 45, Julie Gray, 41, Cordelia Gray, 20, all from Spindles Farm, and 26-year-old Jodie Gray, of Park Road, Ashford, Middlesex, and a teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons, at Bicester Magistrates Court, all family members each face a total of 12 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The offences relate to causing unnecessary suffering to, and failing to meet the welfare needs of, horses, ponies and donkeys in their charge. Each faces a possible prison sentence of up to six months and a £20,000 fine, as well as a possibility of a lifetime ban on keeping animals.

District Judge Andrew Vickers, sitting at Bicester Magistrates' Court, heard how more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys were left to starve among the carcasses of other animals at the Buckinghamshire farm. The horrid scenes and total carnage was uncovered after RSPCA inspectors were called to the Gray family's property, Spindles Farm, Chalk Lane in Buckinghamshire, on 4 January 2008, they found at least 15 dead animals and removed 115 horses, donkeys and ponies to animal sanctuaries for safety over the next four days. Four more horses were so ill they had to be destroyed immediately.

Prosecuting for the RSPCA, Robert Seabrook QC said hardened RSPCA officers, vets and police were confronted by "a grotesque and disturbing state of affairs". As they crossed the fields owned by meat trader Jamie Gray, they were greeted with 'the repugnant smell' of rotting flesh.

"Perhaps most extraordinary, disgusting and distressing of all, a number of carcasses of dead horses [were found] some in the pens with other live horses cooped up around them. Many of the surviving animals were next to carcasses in varying states of decomposition and the smell of rotting flesh was "overpowering", said the prosecutor.

Many were so malnourished that they could not stand and were discovered collapsed in the faeces of other horses, the judge was told. some were tethered individually and other were loose in the paddocks.

Robert Seabrook QC, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the accused showed a 'callous indifference to the welfare and suffering of his animals'.

As the full extent of the animal cruelty became apparent, Vet Katherine Robinson told investigators how 'the smell of rotting flesh was overpowering'. Miss Robinson sank to above her ankles in faeces, urine and straw when she entered one pen, said Mr Seabrook.

Miss Robinson's boss, senior equine vet Bob Baskerville was sent for. Mr Baskerville was forced to destroy a piebald gelding covered in abscesses and another animal almost immediately, including an extremely emaciated mare suffering chronic diarrhoea and a severe eye infection.

The experts quickly realised that the dead animals had not been killed humanely, but instead were left to starve over many months, Mr Seabrook said.

“Mr Baskerville has been a vet since 1955 and he said it was the worst case of animal cruelty and unnecessary suffering he had ever encountered,” said Mr Seabrook.

'A number of animals had plainly been dead for many days and some of them months,' Mr Seabrook said. The court heard that over 15 different carcasses were found around the site which had died on their feet from starvation and in one pen three severed hooves were found alongside the bodies of two horses - none of which belonged to them, it was claimed. and a mound made up of bones and skulls was discovered.

A witness Helen Evans saw the meat trader drag a horse to a trailer using a rope tied around its neck and tail as it winced in agony, it was said.

The defendants deny all charges, and all gave no comment interviews when spoken to by police.

The trial which is expected to last 10 weeks was adjourned after the opening prosecution speech and continues tomorrow (Wednesday 10 December).

Monday 8th December 2008

The first day of the trial was taken up in legal argument.
The case was adjourned until Tuesday 9th December 2008 at 10.30am when prosecutor Robert Seabrook QC is expected to outline the prosecution's case to the court.


All About Me
Animal Welfare
James Gray Sentencing 12/06/09

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RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Skinner
 outside Bicester Magistrates Court.

RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Hampton
(Photo © RSPCA/Andrew Forsyth)

A peaceful group of Animal Rights protesters
Bicester Magistrates Court
Monday 12th January 2009