04:57, January 09 250 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-09 04:57:04
Judge cleared of assaulting hunt saboteurs vows to complain to DPP

An immigration judge has said he will formally complain to the director of public prosecutions over his damaged reputation, after he was acquitted of two charges of assault against hunt saboteurs.

Mark Davies, 67, a tribunal judge of the immigration and asylum chamber for more than 18 years, and chairman of the Barlow Hunt, was cleared on Wednesday of assaulting Austin Jordan and William Robinson, who were members of the anti-hunt organisation Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs.

The district judge Andrew Davison accepted his claims he had acted in self-defence to protect himself and his wife, saying: “Although there was a clearly aggressive reaction to Mr Robinson, Mr Davies did not seek in any shape or form to assault Mr Robinson while he was on top of him.”

The court had heard how during a New Year’s Day hunt in Derbyshire in 2019, Davies and his wife Joan Williams, a former superintendent of South Yorkshire police, sought to disable an electric fence at Highlightely Farm to allow the Barlow Hunt to pass through safely. While switching the fence back on they were approached by four anti-hunt campaigners.

The couple asked the group to leave as they were on private property and could be arrested for aggravated trespassing. An altercation took place which left Davies with a swollen nose, a cut lip, and blood across his face.

Davison said: “An important evidential case is the evidence of [Davies’s] good character. This is a man with no previous convictions, and a practitioner of upholding criminal law. Suffice to say he has demonstrated 67 years of positive character within the community.”

Speaking outside Chesterfield magistrates court Davies said: “The Derbyshire Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service should hold their head down in shame.

“I should make it clear as a victim of assault I will make a formal complaint to the director of public prosecutions about the conduct of Derbyshire Constabulary.”

He said the anti-hunt campaigners were “anarchists” and had “no interest in animals whatsoever”.

The prosecution had claimed the chairman of the Barlow Hunt in Derbyshire came at the activists “snarling with gritted teeth” before grabbing one by the throat and tackling another into a bramble bush.

Davies said that while he did push Robinson, he did so in self-defence after being pushed on to his side.

His lawyer argued the group “looked intimidating” wearing black clothing, dark hoodies, and covering their faces with masks.

“I jumped up in a state of shock. The nearest person to me I decided to tackle, and I believe that was Mr Robinson,” Davies said.

Davies held back tears as he claimed Jordan and Robinson caused “considerable distress” to both himself and his wife.

“I’m a 67-year-old man who hasn’t got any previous conviction. I’m of good and decent character. I don’t go around assaulting people,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs said: “We are disappointed with [Wednesday’s] result but it is unsurprising considering the provocations saboteurs often face in the field whilst trying to defend wildlife.”