John Robert Muir Layland
John Robert Muir Layland

A former master of the Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt who was jailed for animal cruelty has now had a lifetime ban preventing him keeping dogs lifted – despite flouting the order.

John Robert Muir Layland, 71, was jailed for four months in 1997 and was also banned from keeping horses and dogs after 16 emaciated horses were found at his farm.

The horses became known as the “Gisburn 16” after they were rescued from Layland’s farm in Newsholme, near Gisburn, and the surviving animals were cared for by the Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA), Briercliffe.

Despite breaking the ban on several occasions, the former racehorse owner and trainer and master of the hunt has been allowed to look after dogs after magistrates relaxed the order.

However, HAPPA, which the court was told is still owed £5,000 from Layland after the original case, hit out at the decision and warned it would oppose any bid from Layland to have the ban on him caring for horses lifted.

After the case, Ken Cranage, chairman of HAPPA said: “We are very disappointed that Robert Layland has successfully had the ban on keeping dogs lifted.

“If an appeal is made by Layland to have the ban on horses lifted we will strongly oppose the application.

“HAPPA feels in the circumstances the ban was applied due to the horrendous state of the horses taken into our care, and a life ban should be retained.”

Blackburn magistrates were told Layland, of Demesne Farm Barn, Settle Road, Newsholme, breached the order against keeping dogs on several occasions by having control of dogs, said to have belonged to a friend, Christine Green.

The bench was told the pensioner was jailed in 2004 for breaching the order when a greyhound ran from his house and killed a neighbour’s cat.

After hearing that there was never any suggestion the dogs in his care had been mistreated, magistrates allowed an application to remove the disqualification for having care or control of dogs.

Layland pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the order in March.

He was made subject to community supervision for six months which will run alongside an existing order.

Magistrates made no order for costs after hearing that Layland still owes £6,500 from the original case.

Of the £6.500, £5,000 is owed to HAPPA as part of the costs it incurred in treating the horses, some of which are still housed at its Briercldiffe farm.

Layland, who the court was told is dependent on a state pension, is paying the debt at £52 a month.

Graham Tindall, defending, said the suggestion to apply to get the ban lifted had come from a police officer who was arresting Layland for one of the latest breaches.

“He could see the dogs were clearly in good health and that has always been the case whenever my client has breached the order,” said Mr Tindall.

“There have been breaches of the order but there has never been any suggestion the dogs have been mistreated in any way, shape or form.”

Mr Tindall said that up until 1990 Layland had been a very successful businessman but when his business interests fell into difficulties he declared himself bankrupt.

“Things got on top of him and he let things slide,” said Mr Tindall.

“That is when the offences that lead to the order being made were committed,” he added.

Magistrates said they had some sympathy for Layland, who they said probably needed the dogs more than they needed him.

The magistrates said their decision would be communicated to the RSPCA so the charity could constantly monitor the situation.

Source: Lancashire Telegraph

Hunt Details: Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt

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