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Horse trader clears off, leaving family to hear fate

May 13, 2010

by Neil Clarkson

Horse trader Jamie Gray cleared out from court, leaving his family to hear their own fate before a British judge, the RSPCA says.

A still from the World Horse Welfare video taken at Gray's property.

Gray and his family lost their appeals against sentence in Aylesbury Crown Court early today (NZ time) in what is widely considered one of Britain's worst cases of animal neglect.

An arrest warrant was issued for Gray.

The RSPCA said that after breaking to consider the sentences, the court reconvened in the afternoon.

"It was then that staff realised James Gray was missing, leaving his family to hear their own verdicts," the RSPCA said.

Gray was sentenced in his absence to 26 weeks in prison for cruelty to more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys. The sentence was two weeks longer than the one against which he was appealing.

He also received a life ban against owning horses and also must pay £400,000 in costs.

However, it will fall well short of the bills faced by the charities that have been caring for the horses. The RSPCA has spent more than £1 million on the investigation.

James Gray Junior, 17, his son, has to complete a 18-month supervision order and is banned from keeping equines for 10 years.

Gray's wife, Julie, 42, and daughters Jodie, 27, and Cordelia Gray, 21, were also unsuccessful in their appeals. They will each have to complete 150 hours of community service and are banned from keeping equines for 10 years.

Judge Christopher Tyrer said: "The court has listened to a horrendous case of animal cruelty. It is the worst case experienced by the RSPCA on a scale which beggars belief.

"The RSPCA faced a calamity of huge proportions - they were neglected, starved, emaciated and living in squalor and the horses were hungry, thirsty dejected and miserable.

"The business of which you were all party to was concerned only with profit. Animal welfare did not figure at all and you have shown no remorse."

RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton, who was commended by the judge in investigating the case, said: "I'm pleased that the severity of the cruelty suffered by so many horses, ponies and donkeys has been reflected in the sentences the Gray family received.

"This investigation has been one of our biggest ever and has so far cost the RSPCA more than £1 million, including veterinary treatment and care of the rescued horses.

"I would like to thank The Horse Trust, Redwings and World Horse Welfare for caring for many of the horses, ponies and donkeys removed from Spindle Farm."

Last week, the Grays lost their appeals against their animal welfare convictions. James Gray Junior was acquitted on two charges, but convicted of the rest.

The family was prosecuted after RSPCA inspectors discovered more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys and the bodies of a further 32 equines at Spindle Farm, near Amersham, early in 2008.

Hampton described the conditions that the horses were kept in as grotesque.

"When we arrived at the farm we were confronted with an extremely distressing scene. The stench of decomposition and urine was overpowering.

"The sight of horses left in such a miserable state will stay with me forever and I hope I never have to see animals treated with such little care and compassion again."

Officers from World Horse Welfare, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, vets and Thames Valley Police worked alongside the RSPCA in difficult conditions to rescue the surviving animals.

Many had little food or dry bedding and were crammed into pens, ankle deep in dung. Other horses had simply been left to die where they fell and then, surrounded by their companions, decomposed.

Further carcasses were discovered in surrounding fields, some burned on bonfires, and there was a pile of bones and a skull against an outbuilding.

The court had previously heard how, prior to this case, the RSPCA successfully prosecuted Gray in 2006 for causing unnecessary suffering to a horse.

On that occasion he was fined £3500 and ordered to pay £7871 in costs by Hemel Hempstead Magistrates Court.

He was not disqualified from keeping animals.



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