The Law Enforcement Effort
It takes very little imagination to realise that the detection of the crime of cockfighting is extremely difficult. The reasons are perhaps too obvious. The Oxford Club take advantage of the fact that some members often have their own private estates with suitable buildings miles from anywhere. A member who is connected with the horse racing industry told me:
Our pits are constructed in stables and outbuildings, generally out of straw bales. They have to be at least ten feet across, so you need a biggish space. The floor is made of a mixture of dirt and sand, which is kept damp and pressed down so that as little dust as possible flies around when the birds are fighting. We don’t take any particular security measures to prevent us being detected. Only the people who are actually involved know that the event is on, and the buildings are all out of the way on private land.
Catching gypsies at anything illegal has since time immemorial been generally beyond the powers of the authorities, and it is not really surprising:
The matches that I go to take place on a gypsy site on a Sunday morning. The pit is made of sheets of corrugated iron. There are about thirty people present, about half of whom live on the site. We park a car across the access lane, with someone in it to keep watch. If anyone uninvited turned up, he would just sound the horn and everything would vanish in seconds.
A Cambridgeshire gypsy cocker told me the following story about an incident in which his family were involved. As it seems to me that every gypsy in the county is related in some way or another to every other one, that was easy to believe; it went as follows:
At the end of 1990 the police and RSPCA arrived to raid a match at a gypsy site near Soham, Cambridgeshire, which they knew on good information was to take place. The cockers, who were in mid-match saw them coming down the lane. One man picked up his bird and ran away with it. The resident gypsy who owned the other one picked it up out of the pit and tossed it into the midst of all the other various fowls scratching in the yard. The pit, which was made of four plywood doors fixed at the corners was knocked down and thrown into a heap in the yard. All those present just turned away and wandered off. In less then thirty seconds there was no trace that anything had ever been taking place. The raid was a complete failure.
It is not only gypsies who are prepared to take certain risks. The prize for sheer audacity must go to a group of lads from the other side of the same county. Their leader told me about the day they nearly pushed their luck too far
In July 1991 a cock fight was arranged to take place in the cellar of a house in a market town in East Anglia. The owner of the property is not a cockfighting enthusiast, but is happy to let the local group use his cellar, which is of the Victorian brick-lined variety, and underneath a two storey house which is converted into two flats. This structure very effectively dampens any noise from below ground level. On the day of the match, the participants arrived to find a note from the lower flat owner saying that they were free to carry on as arranged, but that the police were in the top flat! By coincidence the local police had arranged to use the top flat as an observation post to keep an eye on a band of suspected drug-dealers who were occupying a first floor flat above a fast-food outlet immediately across the road. They had brought in video cameras and infra-red night sighting equipment, and were keeping watch all night. The participants crept into the cellar down the back stairs, and the match took place as arranged. With one of the cockers keeping watch in the street, the policemen comfortably ensconced on the first floor were totally oblivious of the offence taking place less than twenty feet below them.
The Law Enforcement on Blood Sports
The descriptions which follows relate to the underhand methods used to obtain convictions without regard for the truth.The RSPCA and the News of the World have been involved on a number of occasions. Although dogfighting is covered this is included to demonstrate the methods used which it appears would apply irrespective of the blood sport being covered. We do not condone or wish to encourage any illegal sports, but equally neither do we expect lies to be told and perjury committed by those who purport to enforce the law.
Due to the difficulties of securing convictions in cockfighting cases it is unfortunately only too tempting for those involved in law enforcement to do things ranging from the dubious to the downright illegal. This was the experience of Mr Bill Sargent, a man from Suffolk. All of the matters mentioned in relation to this case have been given as sworn evidence in various court proceedings, particularly in RSPCA V Craven-Lancaster & Others, which was heard at Haywards Heath Magistrates Court, Sussex between 4th and 8th November 1991.
The full story of Graham Curtis Hall, his friend Anthony Reynolds, their lengthy and appalling criminal records and their involvement with the News of the World newspaper was told in a feature article in the Shooting News & Country Weekly of 13th December 1991, entitled “Scandal of News of the World ‘criminal’ investigators and the RSPCA”. For the sake of completeness and in the interests of fairness to all concerned the text of this article now follows in full.
It is without doubt a terrible indictment of our criminal justice system that this sort of thing can lead to the conviction of people in the courts, by the use of witnesses who are equally guilty of the crime in question, and of far worse crimes than those they seek to prosecute.
This was the first in a series of articles devoted to the activities of two undercover animal investigators, and their relationship with the News of the World, and the RSPCA. All of the information contained in this series was given as sworn evidence by witnesses in the case of RSPCA V Craven-Lancaster & Others, heard at Haywards Heath Magistrates Court, from 4th to 8th November, 1992, before Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr Geoffrey L.S. Noel. The subject matter of this case was dog-fighting, and as such it is of little interest in itself What makes it so is the web of deceit and intrigue which was revealed, and much evidence to the effect that evidence given by certain people in previous cases against terrier men has to be treated with the greatest suspicion.
The story starts some six years ago, shortly after a man called Graham Curtis Hall was released from H.M Prison. He was sent there in August 1985 by Worcester Crown Court, after admitting one offence of Taking a Motor Vehicle, and four offences of burglary, and having asked for 11 other offences of burglary to be taken into consideration. This was by no means his first appearance in court. Even at that stage he had 12 previous convictions behind him, a record of criminality that the Magistrate in Sussex described as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shocking’. In addition Hall had a lengthy ban for drunken driving, and cross examination from barrister Mr. Thomas Derbyshire revealed that Hall was an habitual disqualified driver.
Graham Hall has a friend called Anthony Reynolds, and these two individuals were the primary prosecution witnesses in the Sussex case. Reynolds has a criminal history very like that of Hall. He was asked by a barrister if he remembered appearing at Maidstone Crown Court in 1982. He replied that he did not. It was put to him that he had been given 18 months imprisonment. for theft and deception. His reply was that he had been sentenced several times. It was put to him by the Magistrate “are you saying that you’ve been to prison so many times that you can’t remember them all?” His reply was ‘Yes, Sir”.
Reynolds then received a question on the subject of his driving motor vehicles during the conduct of the trial. He refused to answer on the grounds that he might incriminate himself He did say that he had spent his entire life since he was fifteen years old in and out of institutions and prisons.
Graham Hall is the organiser and proprietor of United Kingdom Animal Watch of 111, Holymount Road, Tollerdine, Worcester. He is employed by the News of the World as an Investigative Journalist. He told the court that he is a Staff Journalist, paid a regular salary, and supervised by Maureen Lawless, who is responsible for receiving all his information and video-tapes, and writing up the stories arising therefrom. Reynolds is not employed by the News of the World but is paid expenses by Hall. Reynolds told the court that lie has massive debts with bankruptcy pending. He was not prepared to tell the court what lie lived on, but said that he worked for Hall regularly on a voluntary basis. Hall said that he had met Maureen Lawless before his 1985 jail sentence. He and Reynolds knew her very well. Reynolds said that she lived close to them, and that they were good personal friends of hers.
Both Maureen Lawless, and the Editor of the News of the World, Patricia Chapman, were fully aware of their criminal histories, and knew about them in detail right from the outset. Reynolds said that the object of the exercise was to provide stories of a scandalous nature for the News of the World. The interest in crime detection was only a by-product.
Graham Hall was asked if he ever received money from the RSPCA. He replied that he had on one occasion. The RSPCA paid for results in his case. As the RSPCA have specifically denied on oath on previous occasions that they pay money to anyone for information or evidence this was a revelation. In May 1991 Inspector Terrence Spamer of the RSPCA Special Investigations & Operations Department gave evidence in the case of RSPCA-v-Clifton & Butcher at Newport Magistrates Court on the Isle of Wight. He was asked by barrister Mr Barry Gilbert in cross-examination:
“Is it not correct that the RSPCA offer people money to act as undercover agents?”
Spamer replied “Not to my knowledge”.
This was a curious reply in the light of his evidence in Sussex where he was forced to admit that he and other members of his team did offer money for information. He had no choice but to admit it, because the defence were in possession of any audio-tape recorded on 23rd October 1991 near Newmarket, Suffolk. A transcript of parts of the tape were given in evidence. The tape was of a conversation between Spamer and another man who Spamer was trying to cultivate as an informant, and was recorded without Spamer’s knowledge.
"If something like this job, six a side, turns up it’s worth a grand to you, no problems."
"And if you get dogs, banged up and that, well, there wont be a grand, but there’ll be a few hundred quid for anything like that."
It was put to Spamer by Mr. Derbyshire that he had lied at Newport court. Spamer denied it saying that there was a difference between paying for information and paying for undercover work
The matter was finally clarified when the prosecution called Mr. Donald Balfour, currently deputy head of the RSPCA Special Investigations & Operations Department, to give evidence, he told the court that the RSPCA had a large fund provided by donations out of which informants were paid. This fact was not widely known to the public or even within the RSPCA, but all of his staff in Special Operations knew about it because they were responsible for administering it. This is believed to be the first time that the RSPCA has put on public record the fact that they pay substantial sums of money to informants.
Having put in their context various of the people involved with Hall and Reynolds, it is necessary to examine in more detail their method of operation of behalf of the News of the World. This was examined in court by reference to a case which was reported in the News of the World of 3rd March 1991, under the heading ‘Badger Killers in Away-day Butchery’ by Maureen Lawless. The court was shown a video tape of Graham Curtis Hall at the scene of the alleged offences.
The article by Lawless alleged that their investigators had accompanied four Essex baiters on a three day trip to Eire, where badgers were killed by having their ‘insides ripped out’. After ingratiating themselves with an Irish farmer Hall and his associate had accompanied the men concerned on a fox digging expedition. Hall had a video-camera, and right from the outset the men involved realised that Hall was not genuine. They too had a video-camera. After videoing the days expedition, during which two badgers were dug up incidental to a fox dig, the party returned to the farm where they were staying. The diggers went to the pub, leaving Hall at the farm. When they returned they found that Hall had disappeared. Before going he had burgled their accommodation and stolen a film from a camera, a video-tape out of the diggers video-camera, and a gold signet ring.
The film in the camera included a photograph of the owner of the farm. This photograph was printed in the News of the World on 3rd March 1991 thus providing unanswerable proof that the film was stolen and that the News of the World had received it. Notwithstanding Hall’s vast experience as a burglar, he made a serious mistake. The diggers about whom he was determined to create a story had anticipated him. They had realised that he was a liar, and thought that he might try to steal their video-film. That video-film was the one shown to the court at Haywards Heath by the defence. Amongst other things it shows Graham Hall pick up a terrier and physically attach its jaws to a captive but live fox so that he can video it. The film also showed two large badgers being released unharmed into a field. It did not show any badgers being baited. Even if it had, it would not justify burglary, theft receiving stolen property, and inhumane treatment of a fox just for a newspaper story.
Very similar methods of operation were used in the case tried at Hayward Heath. On the day that the defendants were arrested during raids on their homes, 4th November 1990, the News of the World printed a story about the case, including a still picture from a video taken by Hall of an alleged dog fight. The story contained various statements that were totally untrue
1. “Bull terrier pups aged just four months ripped each other to shreds”. At the hearing the RSPCA Veterinary Surgeon, Mr Brian Green said that the pups in that encounter were uninjured, which was hardly surprising because pups of that age do not have the teeth to hurt each other.
2. “The dog was owned by Lancaster and the bitch by Cohn Patterson of Milton Keynes”, the truth was that both pups were dogs. One was owned by Lancaster, but the other was owned by Mr Peter Baldwin who was found not guilty by the court.
3. “Christopher Gallagher of Haywards Heath helped goad the animals”. He didn’t. On the prosecutions own evidence he was not even present at this incident.
4. “The dog bit his sister’s throat. Both were bloody when dragged apart”. No ‘sister’ was involved. The prosecution evidence from Hall himself was that no blood at all was drawn in this incident. This was confirmed by the vet.
Peter Baldwin’s case was that he had bought his pup from Craven-Lancaster originally. When he had it about two months he was telephoned by Craven-Lancaster, who said that he had friends from ‘up north’ who wanted to see the pups from the litter because they wanted to buy the sire, a dog called Tinder. The people from ‘up north’ were of course Hall and Reynolds.
They gave Lancaster £200 deposit with a promise of a further £1000 if they were happy with the dog. Baldwin agreed to take his pup for a walk with Lancaster, Hall and Reynolds. When they got out into the fields, the pups were allowed to mock-fight in the way that pups do. Hall produced a video camera from under his coat which Baldwin had not previously seen and filmed the proceedings. As soon as Baldwin thought his pup was getting fed up he stopped them. The Stipendiary Magistrate accepted that Baldwin had absolutely no intention of fighting his pup, or any other dogs, stopped his case during the defence, and released him from court saying that he could leave with a clean character.
After Peter Baldwin had been found Not Guilty the News of the World printed a further story about the case on 10th November 1991. In utter disregard of the finding of the court, the paper re-printed its original picture of Mr Baldwin with the caption:
“Barbaric: Craven-Lancaster, right, and another handler start a dog fight”.
It would appear that no matter what the courts say, the News of the World are not interested in the judicial process unless the outcome suits them. Again the article contains lie after lie.
1) “We filmed bloody scraps between pups as young as fifteen weeks”. The court found as a fact that the incident referred to was not a dog fight. No blood was drawn at this incident.
2) “We immediately handed our sickening video to the RSPCA”. Graham Hall gave sworn evidence that the videos were not handed over until such time as Maureen Lawless had her story. The first puppy ‘fight’ was not enough for a good story, so Lawless decided that it would not be handed over until Hall and Reynolds could come up with something bloodier. They were quite happy to see more dogs injured to create a good story handing over the tapes to the RSPCA for prosecution later.
3) “Stipendiary Magistrate Geoffrey Noel who watched the videos during the five-day hearing in Haywards Heath, praised the News of the World. He did not. He criticised the News of the World describing their coverage as ‘exaggerated to say the least’, and described their staff investigator, Graham Hall as having a ‘disgraceful and shocking record of crime’. At another point he said ‘You certainly can’t believe what you read in the press, and particularly not in the News of the World.
Nowhere does the article mention that Peter Baldwin was found to be Not Guilty; indeed, he is not mentioned by name at all.
The involvement of Graham Hall in another investigation came to light in evidence given by a defence witness, which was a further demonstration of the method of working employed.
Mr William Sargent gave evidence that he had been approached by Hall, who had offered him a partnership, as Mr Sargent up it “to stitch people up’. He said that Hall had offered him half of a £13,000 fee that Hall would get for a good story for his newspaper. This was a radically different version of events to the one previously given to the court by Hall who said that he was a salaried employee. Mr. Sargent had been spoken to by RSPCA Inspector Terrence Spamer. You may recall that I made earlier mention of a transcript of a clandestine tape-recording with Mr Spamers voice on it. This transcript was given in evidence and makes enlightening reading. Mr Sargent told the court that he was leading Spamer along, and was certainly not any sort of RSPCA informant. He was just dumbfounded at what he was being told by the RSPCA
I could fit those blokes up for you, I could do it but then I could get bubbled up myself
You know we don’t do that surely Bill? We’re not in the same league as Graham Hall.
I don’t know. I mean. I tell you what, who was that bloke you came round here with?
Spamer: He’s one of our Inspectorate.
Sargent: Is he an RSPCA bloke?
Sargent: He said a lot of shit’s going to hit the fan, and I said no one’s going to believe that about me because I’ll get a lot of stick through it. What’s to stop them fitting me up?
Spamer: The thing is though, he’ll go and lie through his teeth will Graham, but chances are they’ll believe him rather than any body else, that’s what they’re like.
Sargent: C’os he’s a bastard, that Graham. He ain’t like the sort of bloke who’d put a ladder up a tree to rescue a kitten. He aint an animal lover is he.
Inspector Spamer told the court that it was he who was leading Mr Sargent along, and he would have said anything he considered necessary, true or not. The barristers for the defence put it to the court that this incident was firm evidence that even the RSPCA knew that Hall was not to be relied upon, and that any evidence given by him should treated with the greatest suspicion.
At the end of the five days of this trial, four of the five original defendants were found Guilty of being involved in dog fighting. Two were sent to prison, and two received conditional discharges. Neither I nor the Shooting News , nor indeed anyone else in the legitimate animal community would even suggest that dog-fighting was an acceptable activity. That of course, is not the point. The actual subject matter of this particular case was almost secondary to the much wider issues that it raises over the conduct of the News of the World and its employees, and the staff of the RSPCA in general, and the Special Investigations & Operations Department in particular.
There are so many questions to be asked that it is difficult to know precisely where to start, especially as some of the issues are interwoven.
Firstly, we need to consider the position of the News of the World. Is it right that a national newspaper should be paying money to convicted criminals to procure stories? It clearly is not, because it is contrary to the accepted rules of the newspaper industry. The Press Complaints Commission is against such conduct in principle, and yet the Editor of the News of the World, Patricia Chapman, is a member of that body.
Secondly, is it right that staff of the News of the World should burgle and steal to secure their stories. Is an utter disregard for suspects rights and property justified in the pursuit of a newspaper’s commercial ends?
Thirdly, is it acceptable that newspaper staff should be permitted to create offences as agents provocateur which would not otherwise have taken place. That was clearly the situation in the Haywards Heath case. Several of the incidents would not have occurred had they not been generated by Hall and Reynolds. Both Hall and Reynolds accepted this in cross-examination.
The questions facing the RSPCA are similar. Is it acceptable to the vast majority of RSPCA supporters that large sums of money are available to pay criminals for coming forward with pieces of information. Would it not be better spent on some of their capital projects or the finding of a larger and better trained Inspectorate? There are certain further specific allegations which were made during the Sussex case against certain members of the RSPCA Special Investigations & Operations Department. I am not prepared to deal with them in this article because the contents thereof may well come to light elsewhere so as to affect other cases which may yet come to court. Unlike the News of the World, I go out of my way not to say anything which might prejudice or affect the outcome of pending litigation, because it is contrary to the interests of justice to do so.
Last but not least, how much contempt of their functions are the courts of our land prepared to endure? The News of the World publicized a picture of a man who they said was taking part in a dog fight. That man was prosecuted, and appeared before the court appointed by law to judge his case. After a full and proper trial of the matter, that court came to the conclusion that he was not guilty of the offence alleged against him. Just two days later the News of the World again published in picture and caption form a further accusation that the man was taking part in an illegal activity. If that is not contempt I do not know what is. Whilst it is true that it is open to the man concerned to sue the News of the World for libel, it would be much more telling if there were some sort of mechanism that could efficiently deal with the matter from inside the newspaper industry. Of course, there is the Press Complaints Commission, but how much more hopeful of a just determination might one be if one of its members was not the Editor of the News of the World , a paper which employs habitually dishonest persons to assist in the creation and commission of criminal offences?
Just how worrying to the criminal justice system should it be that a number of people have been convicted previously on the evidence of Hall and Reynolds. Can any of these convictions be said to be safe or satisfactory within the meanings ascribed to those expressions by the Court of Appeal? Should they be referred to the Home Secretary for review?
The details given in that article were disturbing enough, but the time has now come to reveal more, and there is a great deal more. I am now able to recount the story of a man from Daventry called Cohn Radford, and a man from Bromsgrove called Simon Bullock. Their stories are closely linked even though until they both met Hall and Reynolds they had never heard of each other. This is Mr Bullock’s story
In October 1990 I placed an advertisement in the Working Terrier and Running Dog magazine offering a litter of Lakeland Terriers pups for sale. I was telephoned by a man who said his name was ‘Dave’ and said that he came from Hereford. I now know that this was Graham Curtis Hall, a News of the World ‘investigator’.
We arranged for him to visit, and one day in mid-November I met him at a motorway junction of the M5 near Wychbold. He arrived with a friend he called Tony, who I now know to be Anthony Reynolds. They were in a white Escort van. We went for a drink in a pub nearby and we spent a lot of time talking about terriers. All the time the two of them kept on about wanting to dig up badgers, but I kept telling them that I only dug foxes, and would not touch badgers. I am an earth-stopper and part-time terrier-man with the Worcestershire Hunt so there is no way I would go near a badger. We went back to my house where he bought a pup for £30. Hall then offered to buy the mother of the litter, and said he would pay £200 for her if she was any good. This sounded too good an offer to miss, so I told him I would think about it.
On the following Sunday morning we went out fox digging. Hall was still on about digging badgers. We dug one fox, which bolted and was run down by a lurcher that Hall and Reynolds had bought with them. During this expedition Hall asked me if I could get him an illegal ‘shooter’. Obviously I told him that there was no way, and I wanted nothing to do with it. They did buy my dog at that stage.
In February 1991 he phoned me again and arranged to go out digging again. He did not keep the appointment. In April 1991 he did exactly the same thing but this time he also offered to sell me some dog travel boxes cheaply which he said he had got from the disbanded Beagle breeding farm at Malvern. This time he was pressing the issue of the illegal gun which he was determined to buy somewhere. I told him I could not help him.
Shortly afterward a ‘Cook Report’ on Central Television carried an exposee on the ease with which one could buy illegal guns. The chief victim of this report was a man called (...) from Bromsgrove. By total coincidence I just happen to know this man socially, and most of what Cook said about him was not really fair. He is not like he was portrayed at all. Hall had obviously set the whole thing up, and if he had got his way with me, it would probably have been me that was Cook’s victim. Presumably this means there is some connection between the News of the World and Central Television because they are both obviously connected with Hall.
One afternoon in mid-September someone stole my two Jack Russell Terrier bitches from the kennel in my garden whilst I was out. They were first class dogs and I was bitterly sorry to lose them. I put the word out on the terriermens’ ‘grapevine’ that they were missing.
Eventually I got a telephone call from a man who I did not know called Colin Radford from Daventry. He described what had happened to him, and the man and dogs concerned. I have absolutely no doubt at all that they were the same dogs that were stolen from me, and that his ‘Tom’ is my ‘Dave’, i.e. Graham Curtis Hall. I have never seen my dogs since.
Mr Colin Radford’s story is even more incredible, and much in the same vein.
In April 1991 I placed an advertisement in the Shooting News magazine offering a Patterdale Terrier for sale. I was telephoned by a man who said his name was ‘Tom’ and said that he came from Bromsgrove. I now know that this man was Graham Curtis Hall, a News of the World ‘investigator’.
We arranged for him to visit, and a few days later, on a Saturday he arrived with a friend he called George. They stayed overnight at my house, and we spent a lot of time talking about terriers. All the time the two of them kept on about wanting to dig up badgers, but I kept telling them that I only dug foxes, and would not touch badgers.
On the Sunday morning we went out fox digging. Hall had a video-camera with him and was still on about digging badgers. We dug one fox, and then had lunch at my house before they left. They did not buy my dog at that stage.Hall said he was not satisfied that he could use it for badger digging.
In the following week he phoned again, but this time said that he would pay me £150 - £200 for my dog. We arranged to meet again on the Sunday to go out fox digging again. This time a fat man called Tony, who I now know to be Anthony Reynolds came with him. We went out foxing again, and afterwards Hall bought the dog and took it away with him. He paid me £80 only, because the dog had not proved that it would tackle a badger. Before they left Hall asked me to keep an eye open for any more terriers he could buy.He then phoned me every few days for the next couple of weeks asking me if I had found him any terriers yet.
Then something really strange happened. I was woken in the middle of the night in mid-September by a noise outside. I went downstairs and found two Jack Russell Terrier bitches abandoned in my garden. No-one was around, but I found a note which said that the writer was in trouble with the law, and needed his dogs looking after. I could treat them as a gift. It was signed ‘Jamie’. Just two days later Hall was on the phone again asking for terriers. I told him about the two that I had found. He said he would buy them if they would work. He and Reynolds visited me again for another dig, after which he bought one of the dogs for £60 He was still constantly carrying on about badgers, and I still would not go anywhere near one. I am not a badger digger.
Shortly afterwards he phoned again and said that he wanted to buy the other dog if she would work. He said that he could not bring any terriers with him because the Jack Russell I had sold him had been mated, and the Patterdale that I had previously sold him had been killed by his Rottweiler dog. On Sunday 6th October 1991 he and Reynolds arrived to go digging. They brought two lurchers with them. A mate of mine called Tony Hathaway came with us.
After looking at a few earths that were all empty Hall insisted on going to an earth that we had visited on a previous expedition. I was sure that it was empty and I told him that there was absolutely no point in going there, but Hall absolutely insisted. I couldn’t understand it. Eventually I agreed, and we went there. The Jack Russell bitch checked two holes which were empty. As she came out for the second time I stepped on the surface of the earth. It suddenly collapsed underneath my weight and I fell through! Below me was a man-made hole covered with sheets of roofing plastic and dirt on top. I couldn’t believe it. As I fell in, the bitch went in the hole at the other side and shot straight out again. The loose earth moved, and a badger emerged.
I was thunderstruck because I knew full well that it was not a badger sett. Hall was beside himself with joy. I saw he had produced a video-camera and was videoing the badger. He produced a sack from somewhere and held it up whilst frantically trying to persuade us to drop the badger in it. Hall manoeuvred the badger into the sack, tied up the neck of the sack with a piece of string and carried it off. He disappeared with the badger and the dogs in his car with Reynolds.
On Sunday 13th October 1991 a report of the matter appeared in the Mail on Sunday newspaper which bore no relationship to the truth.
Shortly afterwards I discovered that the two Jack Russell Terrier bitches had been stolen from Bromsgrove, where Hall had tried to frame another innocent terrierman in the same way that he had tried to frame me.
The activities of Hall and Reynolds are not limited to the dog world. Hall has also tried to stimulate some cock-fighting for the amusement of News of the World readers. This time he took with him a man called Ross Slater, who is another News of the World reporter. The story is told by the intended victim, who wishes to remain nameless, and who lives near Newmarket in Suffolk. This is the text of a statement made to his solicitors
About ten days before Sir Mark Prescott’s Gamefowl sale on 26th May 1991, I was in a pub at Newmarket with a couple of mates when we met a couple of blokes who were making a lot of noise about cockfighting and splashing a lot of money around on drinks. One had a West Midlands accent. He was doing all the talking The other was a weedy-looking southern type. He had little to say, but sat in the corner listening and playing with a cannabis cigarette. The noisy one, who I now know to be Graham Hall, kept calling him Ross. I did not know if it was Mr. Ross, or Ross something, but I found out by phoning the News of the World and asking his name. They told me he was Ross Slater. Hall said he wanted to buy birds for fighting and was offering big money. He obviously knew little about birds, and we thought that with a bit of skill we could do a good deal. We told him that we could come by some birds that were of Prescott strains, and he offered us £200 each for them. He said he would only buy if we proved they would fight. I breed some gamefowl, but I do not fight them, so I was very reluctant, but I needed the money.
My friends arranged to get hold of some rotten old dung-hill fowl from Swaffham Market, and we sold Hall one on the pretext that it was a valuable bird. He still insisted that he had to see it fight. Eventually after much argument he persuaded some people to put on a sparring match for him, with tape put over the birds’ spurs so that they could not possibly get hurt.
Out of nowhere Hall produced a video-recorder which he asked to use to make a tape for those present to keep. They agreed. When they got the tape home they found that Hall had swapped it, and theirs was blank.
I had begun to wonder about him when he started keeping on about dog fighting and badger digging. He even showed me a video-tape of badger digging, and tried to get me interested in going badger digging with him. I did not want to know anything about it, and told him so in no uncertain terms.
A few weeks later various people including me were raided by a combined police and RSPCA expedition, presumably on the evidence of Hall. Except for what Hall did there would never have been anything that looked even remotely like a cock fight in the first place. He arranged the whole thing.
I mentioned this matter in the Shooting News article. It is the case involving Mr Bill Sargent who gave evidence at Haywards Heath of the contents of the secret tape recording of himself and RSPCA Inspector Spamer. At Haywards Heath Mr Spamer gave full details in his evidence of his dealings with Spamer, and the time has now come to explain how the tape came to be recorded. This is the evidence that Sargent gave to the court:
I live in temporary accommodation in a caravan at the above address, and work in the area in the building trade. My home is in Plymouth. My hobby is breeding gamefowl, which I have done for a number of years.
At 6.30 am on Wednesday 9th October 1 was aroused from my bed by callers. They were two men from the RSPCA Special Operations Unit. This came as something of a surprise. One of them had a Yorkshire accent, and introduced himself as Terry Spamer. His friend did not give his name specifically. (It turned out to be RSPC.A ‘Chief Inspector’ Michael Butcher).
Mr Spamer accused me of being present at a cock fight that he was investigating. I told him that I did not know what he was talking about. He said that I was one of four men who were at this fight, and the four had been infiltrated by a man called Graham Hall who worked for the News of the World as an investigator. Spamer called Hall a “low down slag”, and said that the RSPCA had problems with him.
They were very worried about Hall because he was a witness in several forthcoming cases including the cockfight that they were accusing me of. One of those cases was a very big dog-fighting case in Sussex in November where Hall had done the same sort of thing. The problem was that the RSPCA knew that the defence had an expert working for them called Dr Barry Peachey, and Peachey knew enough about Hall to demolish the cases in which he was involved. I knew nothing about Hall, dogs, or anything else, and told them so.
Spamer said that he was desperate to drop Hall out of the cock-fighting case because after Peachey’s team had finished with him in Sussex he would never again be credible as a witness for anything. They had to find a new ‘informer’ to take Hall’s place at the cockfight, and they had picked me. Spamer offered me £5,000 in cash to pretend to be the informer
I was horrified, but I thought to ask what would happen if I didn’t. Spamer said that if I did not agree he would get Hall to go to court and say that I had approached his boss at the News of the World offering them a cockfighting story for £5,000. Of course this was a lie, but then Hall was a professional liar for the News of the World , and it would not bother him. He gave false evidence as a matter of course
I said this was blackmail, and Spamer said I could call it whatever I liked, but there it was, take it or leave it. They had no choice because they had to stop Hall appearing in this case. I told them I would think about it, and they left.
I was so frightened that I did not know what to do. I had met the man they had referred to, Dr Peachey, on one previous occasion, but did not really know him. I thought the best thing I could do was to phone him, and tell him what had happened, so I did.
Shortly afterwards Spamer phoned me again and started on about me co-operating, ‘or else’. I told Dr Peachey about this, and then arranged to meet Spamer again at my caravan. In the meantime, on 17th October, 1991, Dr Peachey came to my caravan and installed recording equipment in it.
Spamer came back on 23rd October. This time he was alone, and insisted on meeting me at the end of our lane. We walked with my dog and talked for quite a while, but eventually he came back to the van. I sent him to move his car to give me time to turn the recording device on. When he came back we had a long chat. I told him all sorts of rubbish about things I new nothing about just to see how far he would go, and how corrupt he and his friend Hall were. He again said that Hall was a paid liar, and offered me money to do the same. Eventually I got rid of him when a friend arrived, and I turned the machine off. Whilst we were talking outside he told me that he had been warned by his boss, a man called Milner, (RSPCA Chief Superintendent Frank Milner, head of the RSPCA Special Operations & Investigation Department ) to be very careful of doing this sort of thing in case I had spoken to Peachey, because Milner was really worried about Peachey finding out about Spamer and Hall’s activities. I denied having spoken to Dr Peachey because I wanted him to speak to me on tape so that I could prove his previous visit and what he was trying to do to me.
Mr Sargent certainly had spoken to me, and due to the nature of the circumstances immediate action was required. The following is the text of a statement that I made to Messrs Stephen Fidler & Co, Solicitors, of London. They were representing the group of alleged dog-fighters in a case at Haywards Heath in Sussex who had also been ‘investigated’ by Graham Hall
About l800hrs on Friday 17th October 1991 I went to (..............), Suffolk. Here I spoke to the occupier, Mrs (....), and a man I know as William Ivor Sargent. In the front garden of this address I saw a lightweight touring caravan, the property of Mr Sargent.
Inside this caravan I installed a Sharpe WQ268E(W) audio cassette recording machine with a remote microphone. This equipment was concealed. In the recorder was a new BASF Chrome Extra II 90 Audio Cassette, and the access to the tape holder was sealed. I gave Mr Sargent instructions as to how to switch the equipment on and off. I told him that the equipment must not otherwise be interfered with in any way.
On Thursday 30th October 1991 I returned to the caravan and removed the equipment. It was as I had left it, and the seal on the tape compartment was undamaged. On Friday 31st October 1991 I played the tape at my Office. I heard on the tape a conversation between two men who I know as William Ivor Sargent, and Terrence Spamer. Mr Spamer is an RSPCA Inspector, and a member of the RSPCA Special Operations Unit. I know Mr Spamer quite well. He has a marked Yorkshire accent and speaks in a flat tone. I am quite certain that the voice on the tape is that of Mr Spamer, having heard him speak on a number of previous occasions. I listened to the tape three times, and prepared a transcript of extracts relating to Mr Graham Hall, and to offers of payment for information and evidence.
The contents of the tape were extremely interesting, and appeared in the first article. Sargent told the court at Haywards Heath that in fact he never was, and never had any intention of becoming any sort of informant for the RSPCA or anyone else. He was just so disgusted with the behaviour of the RSPCA that he was content to tell them anything with a view to demonstrating on tape that they really were corrupt.
In cross-examination Spamer flatly denied doing anything corrupt and said that just because he was recorded saying something to Sargent it did not mean he meant it, or that it was true. There is of the course the interpretation which was put to him by the barrister, Mr Thomas Derbyshire, which was that he had been badly caught out by the tape, and was now seeking to wriggle out of something that was just plain dishonest. This was denied.
In due course the case of RSPCA-v-Sargent , Cavey, Palmer & Blows appeared before the Swaffham Magistrates Court in Norfolk. The case was heard on 18th and 19th May 1992, and was originally scheduled to last up to three weeks. The four defendants were each represented by a Barrister, who were Messrs Thomas Derbyshire, Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Doherty, and Barry Gilbert respectively, all from Chambers in London, and all with previous experience of this particularly difficult type of animal case. The case was heard by a Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr Neville White.
Counsel for the defendants made it entirely clear to the court right from the very start that it was their view that the evidence proposed to be given by Graham Curtis Hall could not be relied upon, and it should be excluded. The trial commenced with what is known as a I Voire Dire. This is a trial within a trial, within which the court is called upon to make a decision on the admissibility of certain evidence in the proceedings. This procedure was on the reliability of Graham Hall’s video-tape, which had been arranged in conjunction with the News of the World reporter, Ross Slater. By the date of the trial Slater was no longer in the employ of the News of the World , and gave his occupation as being a student.
The first person to give evidence was Hall. He told the court the sequence of events which he said had lead up to the production of a tape showing cock fighting. He said that the recording was made on 23rd May 1992, which was surprising because the defendants knew full well that on that date they were nowhere near the scene of the alleged fight. Indeed, Mr Sargent was in Plymouth at a family reunion. It was not obvious to the defence why Hall should attempt to change the date of the video , until it was realised during the investigation of the matter prior to trial that the Informations were laid on 30th November 1991. The Information is the formal procedure by which summonses came to be issued, and the prosecution have just six months from the date of the offence in a case such as this in which to carry that procedure out. If what Hall said was true, the case had been started just three days within the time limit. In fact the tape was made on 17th May, just three days outside the time limit. When Hall was cross-examined by Mr Doherty he said something very revealing:
"When I used to work for the League Against Cruel Sports I always knew that I had six months in which to pass information in."
Hall fully appreciated the significance of the date of the tape, which any normal honest witness would not have done. He also said that the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports paid him money to give evidence for them. It was pointed out to him that the actual tape which was played in court started off with a view out of a hotel window with the date 22nd May superimposed over it. There was then a long gap before any gamefowl were seen. His explanation for this was that he had dated the tape in preparation for the events of the following day, but he could not explain the long gap other than by saying he always left one. It was put to him that the tape had been interfered with, which of course he denied. It was put to him that he had added the date sequence on the front of the tape after the main body of it was taken some days earlier. This too was denied. He was asked why there was no date on the main sequences, to which he replied that he had pressed the necessary dating button on the camera, but it had not worked. Mr Doherty put it to Hall that as he had a criminal record for dishonesty which was by any standards appalling, it was entirely probable that he was being untruthful now. That of course, as events turned out, was quite correct.
The next prosecution witness was the Regional Manager of the Chef & Brewer hotel chain. He gave evidence that Hall had stayed in their hotel at Newmarket on 22nd and 23rd May. This was an attempt to validate Hall’s dating of the events. It might have been more helpful had not Hall already given evidence that he was back at home in the West Midlands on 23rd May! It was undoubtedly Hall who was not telling the truth. He was at the hotel on 22nd and 23rd, but only to receive back the tape taken almost a week earlier from one of the participants who had been holding it as security for his fees for taking part. The Stipendiary Magistrate commented on this blatant contradiction.
The next witness was Dominic Ross Slater of the News of the World. Slater broadly agreed with what Hall said in so far as he knew about it. He had only been around on certain days leading up to the events, but he did confirm that the reason that they were there , was to find a way to accuse Sir Mark Prescott of cock fighting, and were hoping to find evidence by hanging around at his gamefowl sale. The News of the World were prepared to pay up to £10,000 for such a story. After Slater’s evidence the case was adjourned to the following morning.
The second day commenced with the defendant William Sargent giving his version of the events as he saw it. His situation has been explored previously. He said that the tape was made on 17th May, and that Hall was simply not telling the truth. he also made lengthy and detailed allegations against the RSPCA Special Investigations & Operations Department in general, and against their Inspection Terry Spamer in particular, in accordance with the account given previously. The Magistrate commented that these were very serious allegations, as indeed they are, having been given in various forms in at least three court cases.
The defence then called a totally independent witness, a man of unblemished good character, who just happened to have come across Mr Sargent in a pub near Newmarket on 19th May. He was not a friend of any of the defendants, but just knew them casually. He was a keeper of gamefowl for show purposes, and was interested to hear that Mr Sargent had a tape showing a cockfight. He said that he was shown the tape on 19th May, therefore it could not possibly have been taken on 23rd May as Hall said. That clinched it, as this witness had absolutely no motive for lying, and was obviously completely truthful in what he said.
In his submission to the Magistrate Mr Doherty on behalf of the defendant Brian Palmer said that what we were dealing with here was tabloid journalism of the very worst and lowest kind, where a newspaper would pay people money to invent court cases for the amusement of their readers. It had nothing to do with fairness or justice, and indeed if the court believed the defence witnesses rather than Hall the case could not proceed in any event as the Informations were out of time, and thus invalid.
After a few minutes deliberation the Stipendiary Magistrate delivered his decision. He said that he considered the sequencing of the tape to be very strange indeed. No-one would convict anyone of anything on the evidence of Mr Hall unless it was fully corroborated by a person of good character, and he was not satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the Informations were laid in time. He went on to say that he was not even satisfied on the balance of probabilities. This meant that he felt that the chances that Hall was telling the truth was negligible.
All four defendants were formally found ‘Not Guilty' and were discharged, with costs to be paid out of Central Funds
The Future Conduct of the Law Enforcement ?
So, where do we go from here? I suppose we must ask ourselves, and those involved, the following further obvious questions. How is it that the Mail on Sunday , a newspaper of good reputation, has allowed itself to fall into the trap of having anything to do with Hall and Reynolds?
What is the connection between these two habitual criminals and Central Television and Roger Cook?
How is it that Hall and Reynolds appear to be able to get away
How long is the Press Complaints Commission going to sit still and let a mockery be made of its power to control the worst abuses of the press?
How long is the Home Office going to sit still before it starts to look at all the cases of all the people who have been convicted on the evidence of these people?
How long is the Crown Prosecution Service going to wait before an enquiry is raised into all the various prima facie offences of Perjury and Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice that are revealed by this sorry tale?
For the sake of British justice, I hope it is not long, but I fear that we are going to have a long wait.
A Training Battle
The following series of photographs were taken near Manchester in the autumn of 1991. The site is an allotment garden where many chickens apart from these specimens are kept. The photographs show two Old English Game Cockerels X American Game Cockerels, both of which are about a year old. Both are in training for fighting with spurs. This event which was a regular routine was a sparring session to give the young birds some practice. No spurs were fitted, and the natural spurs were not sufficiently developed to do any real harm.
The first photograph shows the birds as they were released from individual pens. Both flap their wings and crow ‘to get the circulation going’. In the next photograph the birds have started to circle around each other, to size each other up and to try to gain a psychological advantage. Each one stops to crow several times. In the third photograph battle is joined and a multi-coloured bundle of feathers hurtles around the yard as each bird tries to strike the other with its beak and spurs. After a few minutes one bird starts to get the upper hand, as shown in the fourth photograph. Its opponent is down, and has had enough of this skirmish. The combatants are then parted by their owner, who declares that in due course both will be good enough to earn him a few pennies in the pit.
These photographs were specifically taken for this work by a photographer who does not wish to be acknowledged.
Two Game Cocks face Each Other.
The Sizing-up Process
To Chapter 7