Two men connected to the Belvoir Hunt were today convicted of seriously assaulting two professional investigators who were monitoring a fox hunt for an animal welfare charity.
George Grant (57), the hunt’s terrier man, and his 25-year-old son Thomas Grant, pleaded guilty to charges of grievous bodily harm on investigator Darryl Cunnington, actual bodily harm on investigator Roger Swain, theft of a video camera and criminal damage of a memory card when they appeared at Leicester Crown Court.
One of the investigators, Mr Cunnington (59), a former policeman who lives at Scalford, was treated for broken neck vertebrae after the incident, which took place as he monitored the activities of the Belvoir Hunt meeting on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports.
The attack took place on March 12, 2016 on Tofts Lane near Stathern and involved the two convicted men and four unidentified masked men who punched and then pushed the investigators off a 14-foot escarpment before escaping with one of the investigator’s cameras.
After the hearing, Darryl Cunnington, who is head of field operations for the charity, said: “Hopefully this will send out a message to all hunts that they cannot carry out assaults on people who wish to monitor their activities.
“If they are operating within the law as they claim, then they have nothing to hide.
“By attacking monitors and stealing camera equipment they have shown they fear their hunting activities being recorded, and the possibility of prosecution.
“l am very lucky that the assault has left me with no long-term serious injuries. After falling 14ft, finding myself unable to move, I feared I was paralysed. “The offenders showed no remorse and left us injured. The fact they refused to co-operate with the police shows no remorse or concern.”
Mr Swain (46), who said he was delighted by the outcome of the hearing, commented: “The investigations team have a policy of non-interference and we are there purely to record any hunting or other cruelty offences.
“We were filming the Belvoir Hunt from a public bridleway from a distance of 1km
“This violent response by an employee of the hunt and five others was unprovoked and a complete overreaction
“My colleague, Darryl Cunnington, was lucky not to have been killed
“This conviction sends a powerful message to hunts up and down the country that you cannot simply attack anyone in the vicinity who happens to have a camera or who may disagree with your activities.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “A hunt broke the neck of a charity worker working for an animal welfare organisation operating within the law to monitor potential illegal hunting activity.
“Despite being banned in 2004, hunting is still widespread and endemic across the British countryside hence why we employ professional investigators to monitor their activities and bring them to justice.”
PC Stuart Venables, the investigating officer for Leicestershire Police, said: “Both victims of this incident were injured with one of them requiring hospital treatment.
“We take crimes of this nature seriously and we will seek to prosecute those responsible.
“We are pleased that the defendants pleaded guilty today.”
George and Thomas Grant, who are both from Belvoir, will be sentenced by a judge on June 14.