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Charities' delight at cruelty sentence

PUBLISHED: 10:52 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 14 July 2010

Local equine charities who rescued animals from horrific conditions at a farm have expressed delight at the jailing of the head of the family responsible for their abuse.

Local equine charities who rescued animals from horrific conditions at a farm have expressed delight at the jailing of the head of the family responsible for their abuse.

James Gray, 45, was given 24 weeks imprisonment for the “grotesque” neglect of more than 100 animals in what was described by vets as “the worst case of animal cruelty” they had ever seen.

Gray and four other members of his family were banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys following the neglect which attracted an outpouring of public horror when revealed in January last year.

Roly Owers, chief executive of Snetterton-based World Horse Welfare, which took 11 of the Amersham horses, said he was delighted and relieved.

“Many people will think that no sentence can do justice to the cruelty the Grays inflicted on their horses. But this is the most high profile test of new legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and it sends a clear warning message that neglecting and mistreating horses in this way is totally unacceptable and should always carry a heavy punishment,” he said.

Vets found horses with little bedding and crammed into pens ankle-deep in their own faeces. Dead animals, hooves and body parts were discovered scattered across the site, along with a mound made up of bones and skulls.

The Gray family were sentenced at Aylesbury Magistrates' Court in Buckinghamshire on Friday for causing distress to the animals at Spindle Farm in Amersham.

Gray and his son, James Gray Junior, were convicted at an earlier trial of 11 charges each under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Gray Senior, a horse trader, was ordered to pay costs of £400,000 to cover the expenses of the investigation by the RSPCA and the trial, held at Bicester Magistrates' Court.

His wife, Julie Gray, 42, and daughters, Cordelia, 21, and Jodie, 26, were also convicted of two charges under the Act. Gray Junior, 16, was banned from keeping equines for 10 years and was given an 18-month supervision order. Julie Gray was given a 150-hour community service order and told to pay costs of £750. The two daughters were given the same 150-hour order and ordered to pay £500 costs each.

No member of the family showed any sign of emotion as the judge passed sentence.

District Judge Andrew Vickers told Gray Senior, a traveller: “I know that you have a strong background with horses, equines, and are familiar with their behaviour and therefore it is all the more sad that you stand convicted of offences that your father and grandfather would have been ashamed of.”

Redwings Horse Sanctuary, of Hapton, rescued 29 of the ponies and donkeys which have been nursed back to health, and has offered a home to 10 more currently in the care of the RSPCA.

The charity said it is “relieved beyond words” that the animals are one step nearer being finally secure, pending the outcome of the defendants' appeal against their sentences.

Nicholas De Brauwere, head of welfare at Redwings who gave veterinary evidence during the trial, said: “This has been a landmark case which shows what the new Animal Welfare Act can deliver to protect all the animals in need of help and not just the most extreme cases. We are delighted with this result.”

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