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Cockfighting father and son avoid jail after Brighton court conviction
The father and son at the heart of one of the country’s largest cockfighting set ups have avoided an immediate jail term.
Mark Giles senior, 48, and Mark Giles junior, 26, ran a breeding operation from their Sussex home and travelled abroad to participate in cockfighting, a court was told yesterday (October 18).
Brighton Magistrates Court heard the pair were snared by authorities after they were spotted in France attending a “France versus England cockfight”.
Handing them both 20 week prison sentences suspended for two years, district judge Peter Crabtree, called their sport “abhorrent”.
Prosecuting, Iain O’Donnell, told how Giles senior first came to the attention of the RSPCA when he was caught attending a cockfight in south London in the nineties.
In 2010 it came to light that the pair was making regular trips to northern France to attend matches.
Following their attendance at the France versus England cockfight, search warrants were obtained for their properties.
At Giles Senior’s farm in Linfold Road, Billingshurst, officers discovered dozens of fighting cocks with injuries, grazes, infections, as well as birds with “thousands of mites” crawling over them.
They also came across a caravan which appeared to have been used as the breeder’s office.
Mr O’Donnell told how the walls were adorned with pictures and paintings of cockfighting along with cupboards full of “Grit and Steel” cockfighting magazines and fighting books.
The property was also found to be full of blood stained paraphernalia such as spurs, leg muzzles, bands and beak muzzles.
In one of his barns inspectors came across a table of veterinary equipment which Mr O’Donnell said was used to “sew the birds up before sending them back out to fight.”
Officers found much of the same in Giles junior’s property in Marringdean Road, Billingshurst, along with a blood stained cockfighting ring full of feathers. The court was also shown a video which showed the pair at cockfighting matches in France along with a “training session” at their Billingshurst property.
In total around 500 poultry were found across the two farms including 96 mature fighting cocks.
Mr O’Donnell said: “The evidence shows they are both highly esteemed and significant in the world of cockfighting.
“They have sophisticated set ups and clearly see these birds as commodities.
Colin Witcher, who was defending the pair, told the court that their primary aim was never to harm the birds.
Describing them as “gypsies” he said: “This is an entrenched passion which has been passed down through the family.
“The books, paintings and magazines show that they have a genuine interest in the sport – all be it an illegal one.”
He added that the pair had travelled to France to attend cockfights and that in some areas of the country the activity was still legal.
Summing up, district judge Peter Crabtree, said: “This has been a thorough investigation by the RSPCA.
“There is no doubt that this is an extremely serious offence in which you sold animals for cockfighting abroad.”
He handed each a 20 week prison sentence suspended for two years.
In addition Giles Senior received 120 hours of unpaid work, a 16 week curfew and an order to pay £2,500 costs.
Giles junior was given 100 hours of unpaid work a 12 week curfew and an order to pay £1,000 costs.
The pair were also both banned for life from keeping birds.
Following the hearing, Mike Butcher, from the RSPCA, warned cockfighters that his organisation would catch them.
He said: “This has been a costly investigation but it proves that we are prepared to go to lengths to catch those guilty of cockfighting.
“This is what we do and this is what we will continue to do to make sure that those involved are brought to justice.”
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