Katie Burris says……
Let me advise you to get a cup of tea now, this is going to be a very long email.
If you can’t be bothered to read through the facts of the matter, here is the synopsis in a nutshell; I will be seeking legal advice, and I will be perusing a private prosecution against South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire County Council – for their failure to follow their own statutory legal obligations and responsibilities.
Let me also make you aware. I am not a hunt saboteur. I am a Grantham resident; who believes that the law should be obeyed, whomsoever you are! I will exhibit all of the evidence collected over the last three years in this email.
Over the last 3 years I have been in contact with the Charter Trustees and the Mayor of Grantham. On these occasions I have been bringing to the attention of the Mayor of Grantham, the illegal activities of the Belvoir Hunt. I have been very friendly and approachable in trying to make the Mayor aware of these illegal activities; in a vain effort to prompt the Mayor into making a moral decision, on the invitation of the Belvoir Hunt to Grantham on Boxing Day.
Let me state, that my interactions with the Mayor Councillor Mike Cook were very positive, he was absolutely lovely to me and I would consider this gentleman to be very honourable . He was very approachable and he very carefully considered the moral argument, I had brought to his attention. Councillor Cook very nearly rescinded the invitation to the Belvoir Hunt in December 2017. However, after taking legal advice he advised me that as the 2 upcoming court cases had not yet been heard or proved, he could not deny the invitation, as in the interests of justice, everyone is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ I was happy with this, because the honourable Councillor Mike Cook was right, the law must come first! However, in 2018 both of these court cases resulted in guilty verdicts, and my moral argument was back on the table of the Mayors Parlour.
In July 2018, I again brought the moral argument to the new Mayor Councillor Linda Coutts. I presented all the evidence to councillor Coutts, in an effort for her to carefully consider the moral argument, and deny the invitation to the Belvoir Hunt on Boxing Day 2018, this was solely due to the Belvoir Hunts’ despicable and immoral behaviour, which had now been proved in court. Unfortunately all my efforts have been in vain, as it appears, nobody has any morals these days.
Let me give you the background to the facts of the matter.
In December 2015 I noticed an article in the newspaper (Exhibit A ) regarding a fox, which had been kept captive in an outbuilding in Buckminster, Grantham. This fox had been held captive, by the Head Gamekeeper of the Buckminster Estate, allegedly for the purpose of releasing the fox, for the Belvoir Hunt’s hounds to illegally chase and kill. This animal abuse was uncovered by employed undercover investigators from League Against Cruel Sports employees, Darryl Cunningham (an ex policeman) and Roger Swain. The result of this prosecution was a guilty verdict in the Lincolnshire Courts in March 2018 (Exhibit B)
Now, remember I mentioned the investigators Darryl and Roger from the League Against Cruel Sports. In March 2016 both Darryl and Roger were legitimately monitoring the Belvoir Hunt. Darryl and Roger were both viciously attacked by 6 men from the Belvoir Hunt (Exhibit C) Only 2 of these men were ever identified. Belvoir Hunt employee Mr George Grant and his son, Thomas Grant (a member and follower of the Belvoir Hunt.) Both George and Thomas Grant failed to cooperate with the police investigation, refusing to disclose the identities of their co-conspirators, to the police. Therefore, 4 balaclava masked men got away with it!
League investigator Darryl Cunningham sustained the worst of the injuries, with a broken neck in 3 places, he was very lucky not to have been killed or to have suffered life changing injuries. Roger Swain also suffered physical injuries and his camera was stolen by the masked men. In June 2018 both George and Thomas Grant were sentenced at Leicester Crown Court. (Exhibit D) At this point, you have to ask yourself, why would Belvoir Hunt employees and followers need to attack and rob 2 perfectly innocent men?
My only answer to this must be that the Belvoir Hunt do not like their illegal activities exposed. And since the Hunting Act 2004 was introduced, the Belvoir Hunt have paid no regard to the law, it appears that it is just business as usual. Here is the evidence to that: (Exhibit E )(Exhibit F) This complete disregard to the law is nothing new to the Belvoir Hunt or its owners, the persecution of wildlife by their employees seems to be the norm (Exhibit G.)
That, is the background to my initial concern, and the only basis of my request relating to the moral argument to deny the Belvoir Hunt an invitation to parade themselves ‘as law abiding citizens’ to the public of Grantham on Boxing Day 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Due to the complete disregard of the moral argument by the Mayor Councillor Coutts, this has prompted myself and other Grantham residents to look into all the legal obligations surrounding the invitation. In which we have uncovered some very serious and gross failings by the Charter Trustees and SKDC, which following the line of enquiry, goes all the way up to Lincolnshire County Council.
On Thursday 22nd of November 2018, myself and a few other Grantham residents attended a Council meeting at Grantham. As a group of concerned Grantham residents, we presented some of the unearthed failings of SKDC to Councillor Matthew Lee. I enclose a copy of the transcript of the meeting and will refer to this as (Exhibit H) Collectively, we have also submitted various Freedom of Information Requests to SKDC and LCC, some of which have been answered and confirm SKDC failings.
I would also like to add that after we had left the council meeting on Thursday 22nd of November, I was informed that there had been some very sneering and personal remarks made by some of the councillors towards us. I have not seen the minutes to the meeting, although I can’t imagine that would have been recorded. It only goes to show the level of contempt, some councillors hold for their electorate and is very unprofessional.
So please, once again let me set this record straight. None of the 5 Grantham residents who attended the council meeting have ever been hunt saboteurs’. We are 5 Grantham residents, who are trying to maintain some morality to the reputation of our town.
Writer provides a short interval for reader to go and get another cup of cup of tea.
The first failing uncovered, is the requirement for anyone wishing to hold an event on SKDC land must complete an ‘events application pack’ (Exhibit I ) It would appear that the Belvoir Hunt have never had to do this! The event application is very thorough. It covers absolutely everything that an event organiser must do, before it can be considered to hold an event on any SKDC land. This includes, above all a risk assessment, which is necessary to ensure that the insurance liability does not rest with SKDC. If this risk assessment has never been done, then SKDC and the Charter Trustees have failed in their statutory duty, legal responsibility and duty of care; to ensure public safety. And only through luck, rather that judgement, nobody has been killed yet, and SKDC and the Charter Trustees have not been investigated by the Health and Safety executive, yet! At the council meeting Councillor Matthew Lee stated that the Belvoir Hunt must complete this ‘event application.’ Yet it appears that this has not been done yet, and SKDC are notoriously slow with FOI requests.
The second failing, and probably the most important failing, is the refusal to acknowledge the need to legally obtain permissions from Lincolnshire County Council, to close the roads. In fact this reveals, the roads have been closed illegally, on a nod from the Mayor, for the all the previous years historically.
I enclose a copy of Lincolnshire County Councils online advice for ‘Temporary road closures’ (Exhibit J)
I also enclose Lincolnshire County Councils online advice for ‘Events affecting the Highway’ (Exhibit K)
Reading through Lincolnshire County Councils own guidance advice (Exhibit L) it is absolutely clear that the Boxing Day event requires road closure authorisation from Lincolnshire County Council. It is also absolutely clear that any road closures must be registered with LCC 13 weeks prior to an event, and a FOI request to LCC confirms that there are NO planned road closures for ‘events’ in Grantham on Boxing Day 2018 (Exhibit M)
Which proves SKDC and the Charter Trustees are complicit in ignoring Lincolnshire County Councils own statutory duties and legal responsibilities, and furthermore, it will the public liability insurance of SKDC which is null and void on Boxing Day 2018, because SKDC have failed in observing their own statutory duty! And even if a application were made to LCC today, it would not be enough time for LCC to fulfil their statutory obligations to notify the public of a road closure! Therefore, this years proposed Boxing Day meet in Grantham is not in accordance with Lincolnshire County Councils own statutory duty, rules and regulations and must therefore be illegal.
The third failing relates to the street collection licence, concerning the legal collection of monies. The Belvoir Hunt have always collected monies on Boxing Day. It appears that they have never applied for the required street collection licence (Exhibit N) This was brought up at the council meeting and caused a hearty laugh throughout the councillors present, when it was disclosed that the Belvoir Hunt had just applied for a street collection licence that day! A Freedom of Information request has confirmed that the Belvoir Hunt have never had a street collection licence! Exhibit O , yet they have been collecting money from the Grantham public all the years I have seen them!
But then if, the Belvoir Hunt had ever filled in SKDC’s very thorough ‘Events Application Pack’ they would have known that a street collection licence is required, because it categorically states that requirement in there!
Now, bearing in mind that only 6 questions can be asked by the public at a council meeting. Those 6 questions have to be pre-submitted to SKDC beforehand; and those questions had been with SKDC for 6 days, I would suggest that SKDC made some quick phone calls to the Belvoir Hunt on that issue!
The fourth failing has been to the residents of Grantham who have followed the rules, followed the guidance, observed the rules of SKDC. I understand that there are many an aggrieved parties whom are angry, they have jumped through all the necessary hoops to hold an ‘event’ on SKDC land, and yet the Belvoir Hunt never have. I would imagine that SKDC are already receiving aggrieved letters from Grantham’s various church and charity groups about this, and rightly so!
The fifth failing relates to the use of SKDC equipment, used on the day of the event to illegally close the roads and clean up after the Belvoir Hunt on Boxing Day. After many FOI’s and denials by SKDC ( Exhibit P ) and only after photographic evidence was produced, did SKDC finally admit that it had supported the Belvoir Hunt Boxing Day event. SKDC had supplied equipment including; barriers, cones, road sweepers and staff to clean up dog and horse muck after the event. I enclose a copy of the FOI’s confirming this, (Exhibit Q ). I wonder if SKDC were so willing to hide this as in Lincolnshire County Councils ‘Guidance for Organisers of Events’ it states; Deployment of Traffic Management LCC, Lincolnshire Police and local authorities are not able to provide event organisers with cones, barriers or temporary signs for events taking place on the highway. It is the responsibility of the event organiser to organise any temporary traffic management required to operate their event safely and successfully.
Let me provide you with a perfect example of why St Peters Hill must be closed. In November 2018 SKDC held a ‘Christmas Lights’ switch on event in exactly the same area of St Peters Hill, where the hunt gathering is held. Please see a map of the area (Exhibit R) Freedom of Information requests show that this event, required a road closure. (Exhibit S) SKDC applied for the ‘Christmas Light’ event road closure in August 2018 (Exhibit T) SKDC ensured all the events planning were complete (Exhibit U) and had a thorough risk assessment in place(Exhibit V.)
Let me also make clear. The Belvoir Hunt cause much more traffic disruption than just on St Peters Hill. They park horse boxes and the hound trailer in Tanvic Tyres carpark on Wharf Road. They then release around 30 hounds and the loose dogs follow approximately 50 mounted horses down Wharf Road along the busy junction of London Road, the High Street Avenue Road and St Peters Hill. They congregate on St Peters Hill, whilst all the dogs are loose and have access to the High Street. In 2016 one of the hounds was hit by a taxi! (Exhibit W)
After being served alcohol, the 50 mounted riders then trot up St Peters Hill onto Avenue Road and down the High Street and along Wharf Road, with all the 30 loose dogs running all over the place, have a look at this video, and do a risk assessment! Exhibit X I would suggest that Wharf Road, The High Street, Avenue Road and St Peters Hill all need closing.
I rest my case at this point! I have made you all very aware of your legal and statutory responsibilities.
Should the Charter Trustees, SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council continue to hold the Belvoir Hunt Boxing Day event in 2018, I will personally pursue legal advice which will result in a private prosecution.
May I suggest that the Belvoir Hunt hold the Boxing Day meet within their own premises at the Engine Yard. And let the Belvoir Hunt take full responsibility for all the necessary arrangements, risk assessments, cost and public liability insurance, on their own land.
Katie Burris and Phil Gadd