Horse trader faces £600,000 legal costs

Posted: 12th March 2013

BarnA horse trader who was jailed after RSPCA investigators uncovered an appalling trail of animal cruelty at his Buckinghamshire farm is facing ruin after the High Court rejected his appeal against a £600,000 legal costs bill. James Gray was prosecuted after the animal welfare charity launched what was its biggest ever clampdown at Spindle Farm, Chalk Lane, Hyde Heath, Amersham, in January 2008.

Witnesses described in graphic terms the shocking condition of large numbers of equines on the farm, some of which had been forced to live amidst the dead and decomposing carcases of others. Police seized 115 animals, three of which were in such poor condition that they had to be destroyed.

After a 52-day trial, Gray was in May 2009 convicted of 11 offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including nine counts of causing unnecessary suffering. He was jailed for 24 weeks and was banned indefinitely from dealing in, keeping or owning horses, ponies or donkeys.

Although two of Gray's convictions were in 2010 overturned at Aylesbury Crown Court - after a 34-day hearing - he was ordered to pay £600,000 towards the legal costs run up by the RSPCA which had ploughed resources into the prosecution and presented a battery of expert evidence.

The High Court rejected Gray’s arguments that his prosecution had been blighted by procedural errors and that he did not get a fair hearing. His plea that the legal costs bill - which had forced him into bankruptcy - was 'grossly disproportionate' was also rejected by the court.