Jail for farm owner in Britain's worst horse neglect case

June 13, 2009


One of the horses on arrival at World Horse Welfare.


The horses have responded well to care.

» Video from the RSPCA

The owner of Amersham's Spindles Farm has been jailed for 24 weeks as British charities reveal the cost of caring for horses taken from the property is close to £1 million.

More than 100 starved and neglected horses were removed by welfare groups from the Buckinghamshire property in January last year. The bodies of a further 32 equines were found on the property.

Members of the horse-trading Gray family were charged with neglect and defended the charges. They were found guilty early in May after a 12-week trial, brought by Britain's RSPCA.

It was the longest running animal welfare trial in British history.

They were also found guilty of failing to meet the welfare needs of 114 equines.

They were sentenced early today (NZ time) at Aylesbury Magistrates' Court.

James John Gray, 45, was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison and was banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys for life. He has also been ordered to pay £400,000 in costs.

His son, James Gray Junior, 16, was ordered to complete an 18-month supervision order and was banned from keeping equines for 10 years. He cannot appeal this ban for five years.

Wife Julie Gray, 42, and daughters Jodie Gray, 26, and Cordelia Gray, 21, were also banned from keeping equines for 10 years, which they cannot appeal for five years, and were ordered to complete 150 hours of community service each over 12 months.

Julie Gray was also ordered to pay £750 in costs, and Jodie Gray and Cordelia Gray £500 each.

District Judge Andrew Vickers said of James John Gray: "I know you have a strong background with equines so it is all the more sad that you stand convicted. It is something your father and grandfather would be ashamed of."

The Gray family has lodged an appeal.

James John Gray and his son were found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to 40 equines at the conclusion of the trial.

Along with wife Julie Gray and daughters Jodie and Cordelia, they were also found guilty of failing to meet the welfare needs of 114 equines.

The family was prosecuted after RSPCA inspectors discovered 111 horses, ponies and donkeys and the bodies of a further 32 equines at Spindle Farm near Amersham early in January, 2008.

The RSPCA says the investigation has been one of its biggest.

Just providing care and rehabilitation treatment for the 70 horses in its care has cost the organisation more than £850,000 so far.

World Horse Welfare, which took 11 of the equines into its care, says its bill is £112,000.

The costs for Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which initially took 22 horses and later a further seven, are not yet known.

RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Hampton said: "As a charity, we rely solely on the generosity of our supporters to continue our work.

"The operation to remove the animals to safety over a year ago was a difficult but successful joint effort between many animal welfare agencies and the police.

"The RSPCA would like to thank them all - and in particular the Horse Trust, Redwings, and World Horse Welfare - for helping us provide ongoing care for the huge number of deprived horses, ponies and donkeys removed from Spindle Farm."