Sheffield judge snarled and lunged at me during fracas, anti-hunt protester tells court
A Sheffield judge has been accused of assaulting two anti-fox-hunt campaigners through “snarling gritted teeth” after they had crossed paths at a New Year’s Day event.
Mark Davies, 67, the chairman of Barlow Hunt in Derbyshire, denied assaulting Austin Jordan and William Robinson in a field on private land at Highlightley Farm, during the event in Barlow.
Chesterfield magistrates’ court heard how Mr Davies, a first-tier immigration tribunal judge from Lumb Lane, Bradfield, and his wife Joan Williams, a former South Yorkshire Police Superintendant, were watching the Barlow Hunt while campaigners were monitoring the area to ensure no foxes were harmed.
According to prosecuting solicitor Ian Shaw, Mr Jordan and Mr Robinson were accused of trespassing before they were allegedly attacked by the judge.
Mr Shaw said: “When they reach Mr Davies and his wife they are told they are trespassing and they should go away and the difference in accounts comes into play.
“Mr Davies says he was attacked by Mr Jordan and he acted in self defence. Mr Jordan said he was grabbed first by the throat and pushed back and Mr Davies went to the floor. Then Mr Davies is seen to push Mr Robinson into a bush.”
Mr Jordan, who is a member of the Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs, told the court he and five others were present to ensure Barlow Hunt did not kill any foxes, a practice which is illegal.
He added some of the campaigners, including himself and Mr Robinson, had driven to where the Barlow Hunt was meeting earlier that day, and both Mr Jordan and Mr Robinson claimed Mr Davies had initially followed them and blocked them in with a vehicle.
Mr Jordan claimed that later when the campaigners had been walking across a field at Highlightley Farm, Mr Davies made a “beeline” for him and started grabbing the upper part of his jacket near his neck.
Mr Jordan said he was forced to push Mr Davies in the face as he fell.
He also claimed Mr Davies got off the ground “completely enraged” and tackled Mr Robinson to the ground in some bushes.
Mr Jordan added that he was then grabbed from behind by someone he believed to be Mr Davies’s wife and he claimed she would not let go and as he turned she fell to the ground.
The court was shown footage from two of the anti-hunt campaigners’ cameras and from Joan Williams’ camera which had both captured parts of the fracas.
Mr Robinson told the court: “Mr Davies came lunging towards Mr Jordan out of the blue. He was shouting at Mr Jordan as he grabbed him and he put his hand towards his neck and he was shouting and Mr Jordan shouted back.”
He added that Mr Davies had been saying something about private land as he got hold of Mr Jordan and before he was pushed away Mr Davies fell to the ground.
“Mr Davies got up off the ground snarling with gritted teeth and made a lunge for me,” Mr Robinson said. “I backed away with my hands out showing I meant no physical threat whatsoever but he kept coming and he got hold of the top of my collar.
“He got his hands on my collar and was pushing his fists into my neck and he was squeezing and hanging on to my collar. I was on my back on the floor.”
Mr Robinson said he could hear Mr Davies’ wife “shrieking and swearing” before Mr Davies allegedly let him go.
Defence solicitor Stephen Welford confirmed at the time of the hunt both Mr Jordan, Mr Robinson and others in their group were members of the Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs and Mr Jordan was equipped with citronella spray and Mr Robinson had a horn to distract the hounds.
He argued Mr Jordan, Mr Robinson and others had been committing aggravated trespassing by being on private land without permission while interfering with a lawful activity.
Mr Welford also said that the anti-hunt campaigners had looked intimidating, appearing in the field masked.
He stressed that despite sightings of a fox neither Mr Jordan or Mr Robinson saw a fox being pursued.
It is illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs in the UK but they can be used to simulate hunting with drag or trail hunting which involves laying a scent for a pack of hounds to pursue.
The court heard how Barlow Hunt is allowed to use the private land at Highlightley Farm with permission from the landowner.
Mr Welford claimed Mr Davies had suffered a bloody nose during the incident on January 1, 2019.
Some animal rights campaigners had also invaded Mr Davies’ privacy prior to the trial, according to Mr Welford, by publishing pictures of him nude on Facebook from a charity calendar which he had been involved with to raise money for the Pennine Foxhounds.
Mark Davies has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault by beating.
The trial - which attracted interest from animal rights campaigners who stood outside court during the hearing - is set to continue.