Two others involved in animal fighting ring with Millden gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies escaped jail

Further to the news that Rhys Owen Davies, 28, a gamekeeper employed by Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, has been jailed for sadistic animal cruelty crimes (see here and here), there has been quite a lot of comment about the perceived leniency of his sentence and questions about whether his dog-fighting associates are being prosecuted.

Although an eight-month custodial sentence, plus an £1800 fine for firearms offences and a 15-year ban on keeping or owning dogs does seem quite lenient given the depravity and cruelty of his crimes, Rhys Owen Davies has actually received the most severe punishment, so far, of those involved.

Two of his associates have already been convicted and sentenced:

Antony Holloway, 28, was given a 270-hour community payback order at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in June 2021 and banned from owning dogs for just four years – despite ­prosecutors and the Scottish SPCA seeking a lifetime ban. There’s an article about his conviction here (and no, I don’t know why his identify has been hidden).

Another criminal associate, Liam Taylor, was sentenced in November 2021 for his role in this particular gang with a pathetic 12-month supervision order and 240 hours of unpaid work. He was banned from keeping dogs for ten years.

Prosecutors are apparently considering cases against others identified in the appalling photographs found on Davies’ phone.

It seems that Davies received a custodial sentence principally because he was employed as a gamekeeper and Sheriff Reekie noted this as an “aggravating factor” because Davies would have known that what he was doing was illegal. Crown prosecutor Karon Rollo had made a point of emphasising this when Davies’ barrister tried to suggest that Davies was simply ‘naïve’.

So on balance, a custodial sentence in this case is a significant result, and full credit to the Scottish SPCA and Crown Office for securing it, although for many of us eight months is simply not enough.

The good news is that tougher penalties are now in place in Scotland for animal cruelty and wildlife crime. New legislation enacted in December 2020 (the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020), increased the maximum penalty for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife crimes (including badger baiting) to five years imprisonment and unlimited fines.

15 thoughts on “Two others involved in animal fighting ring with Millden gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies escaped jail”

  1. Was reading alan Stewart’s blog today about the case and his involvement at the millden estate over the years the things that have been investigated there are absolutely disgraceful.

    1. I had a quick look at Mr. Stewarts blog. I lived in Glen Esk too, and took a very different view as to what was going on at the time than Mr. Stewart did. The fact that he was on friendly terms with the Estate owners and factors was not in doubt however. I’m surprised that Mr. Stewart, being an ex-police wildlife officer did not mention in his blog about the Rhys Davies case, that being in possession of protected birds without certification was a crime in itself and thus go on to let us know why he thought no charges were brought in relation to them given the context.

  2. This article seems to suggest that if you don’t know what you are doing is illegal, you get a lesser sentence.
    I find this position bizarre. Unless you have a learning disability surely everyone knows this sort of depraved behaviour is illegal.

    1. Defence solicitors/barristers will argue *anything* to protect their clients. There is no morality involved, just ‘who is paying the bill?’.

  3. Many thanks Ruth for your further comments on this case which fills in some of the holes we thought had not been covered. Lang mae your lum reek..

  4. All three have been treated ridiculously leniently by the courts and should have had far heavier sentences and fines as well as never being allowed to own, or have in their home, any animal for life.
    Just about sums up the UK’s pathetic legal system from top to bottom; all our laws need revising to sit with the world today, not 200-odd years ago or whatever when they were made. Our governments need to start sorting this out soonest.

  5. Here’s a quote from one who refers to himself as a “countryman” on the RPUK twitter page….

    “Leave the kid alone. He’s a young lad and probably made a mistake. There’s plenty young lads his age, selling crack and stabbing people. Go after him instead woke brigade”

    Nuff said.

  6. So 3 people have been banned from keeping dogs for various periods of time. Does anyone actually do follow up checks to ensure they’re not keeping dogs while banned? Could the police or SSPCA carry out random checks to ensure they’re adhering to the ban. Is there anything to stop them using dogs that are housed with mates to commit more appalling crimes? I bet the answer to all these questions is no.

  7. I did wonder if his pals would be brought to court but the penalties they received is a joke all the suffering those animals went through only for the criminals to virtually get away with murder , don’t you just love are uk laws.

    1. ‘the penalties they received is a joke” and “don’t you just love are uk laws.”

      Are you referring to the previous sentencing guidelines, or the current sentencing guidelines?

  8. The legal principle established is the ignorance of the law is no excuse. There seems to be some attempt to say that if you don’t know your action is illegal then you aren’t culpable, or culpability is reduced. They tried this with Boris and his crimes in partygate (and more). Those with influence seem to try to put themselves above the law. Many of them are above it. It wants a legal challenge to avoid this being a precedent.

  9. Commenting on the case of a former gamekeeper, who was jailed for dog fighting, Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, said:

    “Like everyone else reading the details of this case, we find it distressing and abhorrent.

    Although the individual was formerly employed as a gamekeeper, such activities are not in any way a reflection of the gamekeeping profession which we, as an organisation, proudly stand for. Had he been a member of the SGA, that right would have been removed immediately, as per our policy.”

    What he didnt say was….
    “Thank goodness all of the other gamekeepers who worked with the man every day and lived as neighbours 24/7 were so uninterested and unobservant that they :-
    a. Didn’t see anything.
    b. Didn’t hear anything. or
    c. Didn’t say anything.

    “Remember lads, we always stick to the “good practice” code.

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