Beds, Herts & Bucks

Runaway Buckinghamshire horse trader jailed

James Gray
Image caption James Gray was sentenced to 34 weeks in jail.

A horse trader convicted of animal cruelty offences has been jailed for a further eight weeks after absconding during a court hearing.

James Gray, 46, of Amersham, Buckinghamshire, fled Aylesbury Crown Court on 12 May after losing his appeal against a 26-week jail term.

He was arrested on the M5 near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, on Wednesday.

Gray was convicted of breaking his bail conditions by fleeing.

The court was told the RSPCA found more than 100 neglected animals at Gray's farm in January 2008.

He was found guilty of animal welfare offences alongside his wife and three of his children.

'Final betrayal'

Judge Christopher Tyrer said that the cruelty at Spindle Farm was "on a scale that beggars belief".

Gray's barrister, Michael Fullerton, told the court that his client had been "overcome with a set of nerves" after his appeal against his conviction had been unsuccessful.

He said he had left the court on the spur of the moment.

Sentencing Gray to 34 weeks in prison, Judge Tyrer said he had trusted him to remain at the court during the hearing two weeks ago.

"This is a final act of betrayal of yourself, by yourself," he said.

Image caption One of the horses rescued from Spindle Farm

Gray and his teenage son, James Gray Jnr, were found guilty of 11 charges each under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 after a trial last year.

Two of the charges were dropped when they launched an appeal following sentencing last June.

James Gray Jnr, 17, was acquitted on two further charges following the appeal, but all other convictions against him and his relatives were upheld.

Gray's wife, Julie, 42, and daughters, Jodie, 27, and Cordelia, 21, had each been found guilty of two animal welfare offences.

All of them were banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys following the neglect.

Gray was banned for life, with his wife, son and daughters each banned for 10 years.

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