Pair guilty of 'feeding live fox cubs to dogs'

Paul Oliver, former master of hounds, was recorded by covert cameras
Paul Oliver, former master of hounds, was recorded by covert cameras

A senior huntsman and a kennel maid have been found guilty of animal cruelty after hidden cameras caught the man preparing to feed live fox cubs to his dogs.

Paul Oliver, the former master of hounds with the South Herefordshire Hunt, was recorded by covert cameras planted by anti-bloodsports activists and was found guilty of four counts of animal cruelty.

District Judge Joanna Dickens also convicted Oliver's partner Hannah Rose, who worked for the hunt as a kennel maid, of three counts of the same charge.

Oliver claimed that he had relocated two fox cubs in the wild.

A seven-day trial at Birmingham Magistrates' Court heard Oliver was recorded as he prepared to feed live fox cubs to his dogs in May 2016.

Delivering her verdicts, the judge said video clips recorded at the hunt's kennels by anti-hunting activists using covert cameras "speak for themselves" and had not been challenged by the defence.

Opening the case, prosecutor Simon Davis said: "The unnecessary suffering involved the killing of fox cubs, effectively feeding the animals... throwing the fox cubs into the kennels of the fox hounds, thereby killing them.

"Oliver and Rose were employed by the South Herefordshire Hunt, based at Wormelow, as master of hounds, and a kennel maid or groom."

The court was told hidden motion-sensitive cameras were placed at the kennels by the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) after they received information that animal welfare legislation had been breached.

As part of the HIT inquiry, two sites were identified where foxes were thought to have been "dug out" and police inquiries established gamekeepers had given permission for the animals to be destroyed on the land.

The court was told that a camera recorded Oliver handling foxes at the kennels and dumping the bodies of two cubs in a wheelie bin.

The footage also showed a stick with a noose attached, known as a grasper, being used by Oliver, who had previously been a senior member of Cornwall's Western Hunt.

Oliver, 40, and Rose, 30, both of Sutton Crosses, near Spalding, Lincolnshire, had denied four counts of animal cruelty.

They are due to be sentenced on Monday afternoon, along with two other defendants who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Julie Elmore, 55, also of Brynarw estate near Abergavenny, and Paul Reece, 48, from Itton, near Chepstow in South Wales, admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering before the trial.