Hospital dash brings Brierley Hill horse cruelty trial to bizarre end

Dudley News: Walter, Kevin and Amanda Hickman at a previous hearing Walter, Kevin and Amanda Hickman at a previous hearing

THE trial of three Pensnett people for animal cruelty came to a bizarre end after a solicitor's dash to hospital.

Amanda Hickman, aged 49, her husband Walter, 52, and their son Kevin, 23, all of Wallows Road, denied multiple charges under the 2003 Animal Welfare Act and were set to face a three-day trial at Dudley Magistrates Court this week.

The alleged offences related to four horses which were recovered from Fens Pool Nature Reserve in Brierley Hill in 2011 suffering from starvation, illness, severe neglect and injuries caused by incorrect tethering.

However as proceedings got underway Amanda Hickman dramatically changed her plea to guilty on all 16 charges while Kevin admitted 18 charges which he previously denied. He continued to deny a further four charges in relation to a mare which was so seriously ill it had to be put down. These charges were subsequently dropped.

The court was then informed Walter Hickman was in hospital and defence solicitor Stephen Hamblett could not contact him by phone to confirm his plea.

District judge Michael Wheeler adjourned the case while Mr Hamblett made the short journey to Russells Hall Hospital to speak to his client in person.

The case resumed when Mr Hamblett returned to enter guilty pleas from Walter Hickman on 20 charges.

RSPCA equine inspector Jackie Hickman, said: "The RSPCA is pleased that guilty pleas have been entered regarding this case and we would like to thank the members of the public who came forward to offer evidence.

"This case was very distressing, these animals' needs were not being met."

Tethering an animal on council-owned land is not illegal however, according to the RSPCA, government guidelines say horse owners should get written permission to do so.

The number of tethered horses on the Fens Pool Nature Reserve can be more than 100 and investigators often have difficulty identifying owners of neglected animals.

Insp Hickman added: "Horses being tethered at the location of Fens Pool has been a huge problem for this area over the years.

"We are satisfied that some of those who have been responsible for causing a problem in the area have admitted their guilt and we now await their sentencing."

The Hickmans were released on unconditional bail until Wednesday March 20 when they will be sentenced.

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