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Sussex cockfight operation busted
A Sussex father and son are facing jail following the discovery of “one of Britain’s biggest cockfighting operations”.
Mark Giles Senior and his son, also called Mark Giles, could be sentenced to up to six months in prison after pleading guilty to 19 animal cruelty charges between them.
The operation was discovered by an RSPCA investigation which revealed two farms in Billingshurst run by Mark Giles, 48, and his son, aged 26, had been used to train hundreds of cockerels to fight each other.
During the raids at the pair’s homes in Linfold Road in Strood Green, Billingshurst, and Marringdean Road, Billingshurst, RSPCA staff, supported by Sussex Police officers, uncovered a cockfighting pit.
Officers seized mobile phone footage of cockfights taking place on the farm, empty steroid vials and diet supplements and dozens of medievallooking metal spurs designed to be attached to the bird’s feet.
A Portakabin full of cockfighting paraphernalia including magazines from around the world dating back 20 years was also discovered.
RSPCA officers said they are not ruling out the possibility the farmwas used for cockfights in front of crowds of spectators – although no firm evidence was found to prove this.
Officers also said the scale of the operation meant it must have been running for years undetected with neighbours oblivious to what was going on just a few hundred feet away from them.
Many of the 500 animals discovered at the farm, including 97mature fighting cocks, will have to be put down because they are too aggressive to be rehomed with other cockerels.
Up to a dozen officers from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, the animal charity’s equivalent of CID, raided the two farms in Billingshurst in spring last year.
The pair pleaded guilty to charges under the Animal Welfare Offences Act including causing unnecessary suffering to dozens of chickens at Mid SussexMagistrates’ Court last month.
They will be sentenced at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday and an RSPCA spokesman said they could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to £20,000.
Andy Robbins from the RSPCA said: “You don’t come across set-ups like this every day, it’s not a regular occurrence. The type of set-up he had there could not have been established in just six months.”
Animal rights campaigner Sue Baumgardt, of Brighton Animal Action, said we could no longer “kid ourselves” that Britain was a nation of animal lovers if animal abusers were given just short jail sentences for their crimes.
She said: “Until the sentences are really screwed upwards to the point where people like this can go to jail for five years for doing horrendous cases of cruelty, people are just going to continue to take the risk.”
Paul Berry, chairman of Billingshurst Parish Council, said: “It’s horrifying to think that this is going on so locally. I’m very glad to hear that the authorities have got on top of this and have acted.”
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s horrible to think what might be going on at the end of the road.”