Aylesbury Magistrates Court Friday 12th June 2009
The Animal Rights Protesters outside Aylesbury Magistrates Court ready to greet the Gray family as they arrived for the sentencing. We were on ITV Anglia and BBC Oxford and I was on LBC Radio too.
District Judge Andrew Vickers in passing sentence told
the defendants “I have received petitions and representations from
members of the public, but you are not being dealt with by the public,
you are being dealt with by the court process.”
James Gray 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.
James John Gray, 45, was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison which is the most the District Judge could order without committing the matter up for sentence to the Crown Court, he was told he would serve 12 weeks of his sentence before being released on license, he was ordered to pay £400,000 costs towards the expenses of the investigation by the RSPCA and the 50 day trial which was held Bicester Magistrates' Court.
Robert Seabrook QC, representing the RSPCA, told district judge Andrew Vickers: “One can say from the very, very beginning to the end of these proceedings, there has either been obstruction or opposition and these are material in the levels of representation in this case and the cost.”
The RSPCA have said that this was one of the worst cruelty cases in its history. James Gray was also given a lifetime ban on keeping, trading in or transporting horses.
Judge Andrew Vickers told Mr. Gray "I know that you have been involved with horses and are familiar with their behaviour. Therefore it's all the more sad you stand convicted of offences that I am sure your father and grandfather would be ashamed of.” He also went on to say
"I cannot accept that it's appropriate that the economics of your trade require you not to intervene and provide appropriate veterinary care."
James Gray junior who had been an apprentice at Spindles Farm since he was 14, and had been receiving home tutoring since leaving school. was handed a 10 year ban on keeping, trading in or transporting horses. However he will be eligible to apply for the ban to be lifted five years after it comes into force.
Regarding the ban Judge Vickers added: “I believe it is proportionate and allows you to consider whether you are going to follow the horse trade.”
He was also ordered to complete an 18 month supervision order by Aylesbury Youth Court. Judge Andrew Vickers lifted reporting restrictions usually granting anonymity to young defendants today in the sentencing of this16-year-old. Judge Andrew Vickers said: "There will need to be considerable work done to reflect your traveler culture and history and the way of life your family will follow.
"There are specific examples in which you were found being cruel certainly to one animal. The court is aware you were heavily involved with your father in horse trading."
Julie Gray, 42, and her two daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 21, were convicted of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease.
Addressing them, Judge Vickers said: "You were all aware that animals, equines at Spindle Farm, were not being well cared for."
Julie Gray (the wife of Jamie Gray Senior.) has 6 children, 3 young children who live at Spindles Farm, who are aged 4, 9 and 13, as well as Cordelia, and her daughter, and James junior. She was handed a 10 year ban on keeping, trading in or transporting horses. She was also given 150 hours of unpaid community service work to be completed over the next 12 months and ordered to pay £750 costs.
The court heard how Jodie Gray, 26, a mother of 3 young children, is now 3 months pregnant, and has no support from her husband who doesn’t live with her, following a nervous breakdown. She was handed a 10 year ban on keeping, trading in or transporting horses. She was also given 150 hours of unpaid community service work to be completed over the next 12 months and ordered to pay £500 costs.
Cordelia Gray, 21, was handed a 10 year ban on keeping, trading in or transporting horses. She was also given 150 hours of unpaid community service work to be completed over the next 12 months and ordered to pay £500 costs.
No member of the family showed any sign of emotion or remorse whatsoever as sentence was passed.
The rescue at Spindle Farm resulted in one of the most expensive operations in history for the RSPCA. The charity has spent more than £850,000 looking after 70 of the neglected animals and said the total operation had cost around £1.6 million. The family was prosecuted after RSPCA inspectors discovered more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys and the bodies of a further 32 equines at Spindle Farm near Amersham between Friday 4 and Wednesday 9 January 2008.
Before he rose, District Judge Andrew Vickers said: “One of the enduring images that will remain with me was of the carcass of horse C20 which was discarded and tied up in a horse trailer, with it's head on a bag of feed.”
The small group of friendly animal rights protesters in the public gallery gave a spontaneous round of applause and cheered as James Gray was led from the dock in handcuffs by prison officers.
All 5 defendants had denied all counts of cruelty and neglect, and have each lodged an appeal against both their convictions and sentences.
The operation to remove the animals to safety over a year ago was a difficult but successful joint effort between many animal welfare agencies and the police and in particular the Horse Trust, Redwings, and World Horse Welfare who helped to provide ongoing care for the huge number of deprived horses, ponies and donkeys removed from Spindle Farm in January 2008.
Let us all hope that the way the courts have dealt with this family will deter any one else from committing grotesque acts of cruelty and neglect on defenceless animals. I feel the sentences are too lenient as it would have been far better if all members of the Gray family had of received a lifetime ban on keeping any equines.
After the court case had finished I had an opportunity to meet Nick White a field office with “World Horse Welfare” he was a lovely man and had heard all about me, and also RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Skinner again he was pleased to see me, and told me he was very happy with the outcome of the case . I was very keen to meet RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Hampton, who I had heard a lot about from my Dad, and I asked my Dad to introduce me but she said that she was too busy to gave me any of her time which was a shame. If there are any women RSPCA inspectors out there willing to spend some time with me please email me, I am very interested in the work you do and would dearly love to meet you.
The RSPCA has previously prosecuted James John Gray. He was convicted on 19 October 2006 if causing unnecessary suffering to a horse. Magistrates at Hemel Hempstead fined Gray £3,500 and ordered him to pay £7,871 in costs, but he was not banned by the court from keeping animals. Thus until now he has been legally entitled to keep horses.
The RSPCA has spent more than £1.6million on prosecuting the Gray family (including legal fees etc), of which more than £850,000 has been spent on looking after the horses in care. This includes veterinary fees, food, board, farriers´ fees, and transportation costs. The charity has incurred great expense to get them fit and well.
As of 11 June, the RSPCA appeal connected with this case had raised around £30,000 - nowhere near the amount the Society has spent on it. Please help, to make a donation click on the Amersham Horses Appeal picture.
Jamie Gray arriving at Court for sentencing
(Photo © David Armitage)
James Gray Junior arriving at Aylesbury Youth Court
(Photo © David Armitage)
TUESDAY 16th JUNE 2009
James Gray released from Woodhill Prison after serving 4 days!