Published: 06:00, 16 December 2019
| Updated: 08:36, 16 December 2019
A man has been convicted of four hunting charges after a court was shown horrific video footage of him stabbing a young deer as well as "trophy" pictures of his holding up dead hares.
Jimmy Price, 25, of Forstal Farm, Well Street, Loose, was arrested by police in Marsh Lane, Felixstowe, in November 2018, after they received reports of four men hare-coursing.
WARNING: Disturbing images below
He was caught after a police chase; his phone was confiscated and handed to the RSPCA for investigation.
RSPCA inspector Pippa Boyd told Medway Magistrates Courtthat she had found a number of images from various dates in October and November last year relating to dogs being used to chase a badger and hares, an image of a dog biting a deer's neck, as well as the video of the killing of a second deer which had its throat cut.
The court was shown the sickening footage in which Price stabs the deer several times in the neck but doesn't kill it. A second man then takes over and saws at the animal's neck with a blunt knife until he succeeds in cutting the animal's throat. The deer is then left to bleed to death.The excited voices of four or five men yelling encouragement are heard.
Insp Boyd also found WhatsApp messages revealing details of an illegal hare-coursing competition, in which entrants paid £100 to take part, with an engraved cup and £1,000 in prize money going to the winner who could produce evidence of having killed the most hares.
Price initially faced nine charges relating to breaches of the Hunting Act, the Deer Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, all of which he denied, and his defence lawyer Martin Scott of Bassets put up a spirited defence.
Although all the photos submitted to the court were downloaded from Price's phone, he himself was often not in the shot. Insp Boyd said she believed this was because he was taking the photos and said she recognised one of the dogs in the images as a lurcher belonging to Price, but Mr Scott said that she could not prove that, or even if it was Price's dog, she could not prove that it had been Price's dog that had killed the badger and hares. He asked: "Did you hold a dog identity parade?"
Although the photos had been on Price's phone, Mr Scott said this did not prove he took them. There was evidence that they had been downloaded from another phone.
He further argued that since the date attached to the images was a "last modified" one, they did not show when the offences had taken place - and they could therefore have been taken much earlier and could be outside the statute of limitations.
Mr Scott further contested that Inspector Boyd could not be certain the figure stabbing the deer was Mr Price, although the video captured the voices of other men in the background shouting: "Stick it, Jim. Stick it."
Prosecuting for the RSPCA, Rowan Morton was allowed to introduce evidence of Price's bad character - that he had three previous convictions related to causing unnecessary suffering to dogs.
Mr Scott argued that was irrelevant in regard to the hunting charges.
He told magistrates: "You may have your suspicions, and I would understand it if you did, but you can only convict where you are certain there is proof."
Price declined to give evidence on his own behalf.
Mr Scott reminded the court that hare-coursing had been legal until 2006 and had been a past-time "enjoyed by thousands of people."
After two hours of deliberation, the chairman of the bench, Ashleigh Lawrence, told Price that on five charges the magistrates "could not be satisfied that you are guilty as charged" but they found Price guilty of four counts - two concerning the killing of a deer, and two concerning the killing of a hare - where they were certain there was clear photographic evidence of Price's involvement.
Magistrates were told the conviction put Price in breach of a 90-day suspended prison sentence that had been imposed in March 2018 after his conviction on two counts of theft and one of attempted theft.
Price is due to appear in court again in January along with two other men to answer further charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog and horses.
The magistrates decided to defer sentencing on the current convictions until the completion of the next trial on January 10.
Price then walked free from court.
More by this authorAlan Smith