Belvoir Hunt supporters given suspended prison sentences after assaulting investigators
Two supporters of the Belvoir Hunt received suspended prison sentences yesterday at Leicester Crown Court for seriously assaulting two professional investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports.
The investigators were attacked whilst monitoring a fox hunt on behalf of the animal welfare charity.
One of the investigators, former policeman Darryl Cunnington, had his neck broken in three places during the assault.
Lady Sarah McCorquodale, older sister of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, joint master of the Belvoir Hunt and former High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, gave a character reference in court for George Grant, one of the men being sentenced.
George Grant, the Belvoir Hunt terrier man, and his son Thomas Grant both pleaded guilty to charges of grievous bodily harm on investigator Darryl Cunnington, actual bodily harm on investigator Roger Swaine, theft of a video camera and criminal damage of a memory card.
For the charges of grievous bodily harm to Darryl Cunnington, both men received prison sentences of 13 months and two weeks, suspended for two years. Additionally, over the next 12 months they have to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and to pay a victim's surcharge.
For the charges of actual bodily harm to Roger Swaine and theft of the camera and damage to a SD card, they were handed a three months custodial sentence to run concurrently, suspended for two years.
Both men have to pay £500 compensation to Darryl Cunnington to be paid in full within 28 days.
The attack took place on March 12, 2016, close to the village of Stathern in Leicestershire and involved the two convicted men and four unidentified masked men who punched and then pushed the investigators off a 14-foot ridge before escaping with one of the investigators' cameras.
Martin Sims, League Against Cruel Sports Director of Investigations, and former Head of the Police’s British National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “The people who are employed by or support hunts often act like gangsters and this case illustrates what a dark and menacing blight they are on the countryside. The hunts are a barbaric throwback to crueller times and should have no place in a modern, compassionate society.
"The fact that both guilty men made ‘no comment’ throughout this investigation shows their lack of courage when confronted with the part they played in this brutal and unprovoked attack on our professional investigators. Why didn’t the hunt come forward with the names of the people who escaped prosecution when in court today it was stated that those individuals had been given the role of shadowing the investigators?”
Four other individuals were involved in this attack on Daryl and Roger and the League will consider a reward for any information that leads to their conviction.”
Darryl Cunnington, said: “l am very lucky that the assault has left me with no long-term serious injuries. After falling fourteen feet, finding myself unable to move, I feared I was paralysed.
“The offenders refused to cooperate with the police and showed no remorse or concern. They must both think they are very fortunate not to have gone to prison today.”
Roger Swain, League Against Cruel Investigators Field Operator, who was also assaulted, said: “The Investigations team has 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.”
Andrew Knot, Interim CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We are proud of Darryl Cunnington and Roger Swaine – their courage and integrity stands head and shoulders above the people that attacked them.”