Hunt sab disrupted shoot again just days after acquittal, court hears

Posted On 06 Dec 2021 at 5:49 pm

A hunt sab joined a group of balaclava-clad comrades to disrupt a legal pheasant shoot just days after being cleared of doing exactly the same thing, a court heard today.

Melissa Page, 31, was one of four animal rights activists acquitted by a district judge of aggravated trespass at Waterhall Farm after a trial in December last year.

Just ten days later, she was caught on camera wearing a mask and a hat with a hunt sab logo attempting to stop another shoot at the same farm.

Today, she and another hunt sab, Daniel Howells, 50, went on trial at Brighton Magistrates Court having denied obstructing a legal shoot.

The court has been told Page was cleared in order for the prosecution to argue she was aware she was trespassing on private land. The reasons for the acquittal have not been disclosed.

Prosecuting, Dominic Dudkowski said: “Some weeks before this incident Melissa Page was in this court facing an allegation for which she was acquitted at trial of aggravated trespass in what the prosecution suggests was almost identical circumstances, but for the fact she didn’t have a radio or walkie talkie in that situation.

“The sole purpose is for showing that she knew, as a result, that the land on which she was present on that earlier occasion was private land that there was a lawful shoot taking place and she was a trespasser.”

Mr Dudkowski said about ten men and women, nearly all dressed in black and wearing masks, balaclavas, body worn cameras and holding walkie talkies, ran down the valley to the shoot shortly after it began, on Thursday, 17 December,

In brief clips filmed by the hunt organisers shown in court, some of them can be heard shouting “Break your guns! Break your guns!”.

In another, a balaclava-clad woman identified by the prosecution as Page shouts at the person filming her to “get out of our faces”.

The sabs stayed at the shoot for about 15 minutes until police arrived, at which point they began to disperse, Mr Dudkowski said.

A number of sab were then intercepted by police just outside the farm.

After an investigation, police were only able to say with confidence that Page, of Shanklin Road, Brighton, and Howells, or Olivette Street, Wandsworth, were part of the group on the farm.

The shoot organiser, Stephen Attwood, said he and his staff started filming the sabs because this was the third time a shoot had been disrupted and they wanted to collect evidence after the previous acquittal.

He said: “They knew very well it’s a pheasant shoot. They had been here twice before … After the first two attempts, we decided we must get more evidence so everyone is briefed they must start recording straight away.”

He said that his company made between £10,000 – £12,000 for each day’s shooting.

David Gorringe, who has a life tenancy with Brighton and Hove City Council for Waterhall Farm, said there had been shooting on the farm for more than 50 years.

He first ran the shoot when his father ran the farm in 1975, and when he took over the tenancy, the council knew he would be holding shoots there too.

He said it was run as a livestock farm, and so there was fencing with barbed wire around the entire boundary, except for locked gates, so the sabs could not have unknowingly strayed from the South Downs Way.

He told the court: “Melissa Page was in the same field she was before. It’s almost a carbon copy … This is the third occasion.

“On the first occasion, I was told to tell her it was private land. I told her it was private land and they weren’t welcome.

“They came back the following week and they obviously didn’t take any notice of what I said.”

The trial continues.

  1. Matthew Waddington Reply

    These sabs do nothing to help animals or people. They just enjoy being unpleasant.

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