Published: 17:30, 08 January 2020
| Updated: 17:50, 08 January 2020
The tragic deaths of twins Joey and Billy Smith in what is believed to have been a double suicide was not a sufficient reason to postpone the trial of one of their relatives, a court ruled today.
This morning Samuel Powell, of Wheat Gratten Stableyards, Forstal Road, Lenham, appeared before Medway magistrates to answer five charges of causing unnecessary harm or suffering to horses in his care.
His defence lawyer, Richard Hawgood, petitioned the court to allow a postponement of the case.
Mr Hawgood said that Powell was "not in the right frame of mind" to face the the trial because he was too emotionally disturbed after the double tragedy.
Mr Hawgood went on to explain that Powell's wife was a first cousin to the deceased pair, a bond already close within the tight-knit traveller community, but that furthermore she and the twins had been raised together as siblings by their grandmother.
The whole family had been incredibly traumatised by the tragedy for which they were at a loss to find any explanation. Since the twins' death on December 28, Powell's wife had been constantly with the elderly grandmother to offer comfort, leaving Powell to look after their four children, all under the age of 16.
Mr Hawgood said that after a post-mortem had been completed on the twins, their bodies were due to be released from Pembury mortuary today, and that Powell, along with other male members of the extended family would be expected to be there to escort the bodies home.
He said: "In the traveller community there is a tradition of holding a vigil ahead of a burial, rather than a wake afterwards."
Magistrates took over an hour to consider the request, but on returning to the courtroom the chairman of the bench, Stephen Blackhurst, ruled there would be no adjournment. He said they had taken into account that the trial had already been postponed once, from a date in October, and that witnesses had been summoned ready to give evidence. Mr Blackhurst said it was not in the interests of justice to adjourn again.
Powell, 34, who denied all the charges, was in the dock with two other men - brothers Danny and Jimmy Price, who also faced charges in relation to causing suffering to horses - and in Jimmy Price's case also causing suffering to two dogs.
The cases were being heard together because they arose from the same RSPCA visits, but the charges related to different animals and each man was individually represented.
Danny Price, 29, of Victoria Stables, Victoria Court, East Farleigh, pleaded guilty to one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a bay horse, in return a second charge of causing suffering to a bay mare, a black mare and a piebald mare, was dropped.
He will be sentenced after the conclusion of the trials of the other two men.
Jimmy Price, 25 of Forstal Farm, Well Street, Loose, is accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a skewbald trotter gelding and also to a Lurcher-type dog known as Scout and a Saluki-type dog known as Tramp.
His solicitor Stacey Holland said he would not dispute that suffering had been caused to the animals, but would argue that they did not belong to him and he was not responsible for them.
Rowan Morton is prosecuting the case for the RSPCA.
At the end of this trial, Jimmy Price will also be sentenced for four convictions in relation to the killing of a deer and hares, from a trial held in December.
The case continues.
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