Five appear in court on numerous animal cruelty and neglect charges following raid of Redbourn farm

Hemel Hempstead Road

Hemel Hempstead Road - Credit: Archant

Five defendants have appeared in court on animal cruelty charges after a farm in Redbourn was raided by police and the RSPCA in 2014.

Michael Morley, Stephen Parkin, Edward Smith, Patrick Smith, and Julie Smith, all of White House Farm, appeared at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Monday (18) and pleaded not guilty to charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and not ensuring the welfare of a number of animals.

Morley faced 19 individual offences, Parkin 13 offences and the Smiths 32 charges each.

Morley later changed his not guilty plea to guilty on one of his charges relating to the welfare of a number of dogs.

On October 14, eight horses and a goat had to be euthanised at the farm after they were found living in ‘atrocious’ conditions while 50 dogs, three horses, and a cat were rescued by the charity.

While giving evidence, RSPCA inspector Kirsty Withnall described the events that led up to the discovery and removal of the animals.

She told the court that the farm was visited by RSPCA officers following a call from someone concerned about a horse in a barn.

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They visited the premises where they were told by Edward Smith, husband of Julie Smith, that he would show them the horse but then proceeded to point to a barn on the hill and said it was too difficult to get to.

The officers insisted on seeing the horses and were brought a show horse, Jon Boy, but did not see the stables/barns.

Insp Withnall said: “It was quite clear to me that there was a problem and that Edward Smith was hiding something. I asked to see where the horses lived and he eventually agreed.”

After seeing the horses Insp Withnall said that they needed medical attention and wanted to call a vet, but Edward Smith, who was joined by Steve Parkin, ‘begged’ her not to call the vet and said they would ensure the animals would get the care they needed.

Insp Withnall then saw a movement in another barn where they discovered more horses who were unwell. It was at that point that they called a vet and further assistance from the RSPCA and Herts Police.

Video evidence taken by the RSPCA inspectors showed the conditions of some of the barns the horses were living in, and inspector Lauren Bailey, who has still to give evidence, was heard saying: “It absolutely stinks.”

The inspectors often referred to the lack of clean water, food and dry bedding for the horses, and that the conditions were waterlogged and muddy.

Insp Bailey is heard saying: “I’m sinking in this mud, I’m sinking in it. No clean fresh water and the stable is falling apart,” later adding: “It’s atrocious.”

In other video footage horses can be seen struggling to walk properly with suspected overgrown hooves.

They later discovered a number of dogs living in kennels with one room housing one cat and 27 dogs of various breeds in cat cages.

The inspector who had taken over filming from Insp Bailey, can be heard commenting about the strong smell of urine and faeces.

The inspectors then discovered a barn with a large number of goats which also had overgrown hooves. Insp Withnall said in court that the goats, which were very small in size, were living in a waterlogged barn with a ‘dangerous’ and ‘swamp’ like section at the back, although none of the animals were found there.

There is some dispute about who is responsible for which animals, but the defendants have yet to give evidence.

The trial continues.