Spindles Farm

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Spindles Farm was a farm in Hyde Heath, near Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England, run by horse dealer James Gray (also known as Jamie Gray).[1] It was the location of a significant animal cruelty case in 2008 where dozens of horses were neglected, some being left to starve to death.[2][3] The incident was described as "the worst case ever experienced by the RSPCA" by the judge at the resulting court trial.[4]

Animal cruelty discovery[edit]

Inspectors from the RSPCA visited the farm on Friday 4 January 2008 to discover more than 125 horses, ponies and donkeys in a state of neglect at the farm,[5] with a further 32 dead equines also found amongst those horses still alive.[6]

A large scale rescue operation was mounted by the RSPCA along with World Horse Welfare and Redwings Horse Sanctuary and took eight days to complete,[5] due to the number of horses involved and their condition. On 12 and 13 January 2008, 115 equines were removed from the property,[7] with others having to be put down on site.

For two days on 12 & 13 January 2008, a nine-year-old girl called Katy Roberts who has hemiplegia held a silent protest outside the gates of Spindles Farm in protest at the cruelty that had, at that time, been alleged to have taken place there, and later protested outside the hearing at Aylesbury Magistrates court and set up a website detailing events. [9][10][11] [12] [13]

Court action[edit]

In June 2009, the owner of the farm, horse trader James John Gray (Jamie Gray) was sentenced to six months imprisonment, fined £400,000 and banned from keeping horses for life, the maximum penalty available to the court for the nine cases of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and two charges of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease.[14]

James Gray's son, James Junior, was also convicted on identical charges to his father, although with a sentence of an 18-month supervision order and a ten-year ban on keeping horses. His wife, Julie, and 2 young daughters Jodie and Cordelia were also found guilty of two counts of failing to protect the animals, all being sentenced to 10-year bans on keeping horses and community service.[14]

The family appealed against their sentences in May 2010, but James Gray, his wife and daughters all had their convictions upheld. James Junior was acquitted of two offences, but was found guilty of all the remaining offences.[6]

James Gray absconded court while awaiting sentencing on 12 May 2010 and went on the run, with a warrant issued for his arrest.[4][15] He was arrested 2 weeks later on 26 May, during a random spot check by police between junctions 4a and 5 on the M5 near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Five guilty of neglecting horses". BBC News. 8 May 2009.
  2. ^ "Animals 'left to starve' at farm". BBC News. 9 December 2008.
  3. ^ Fryer, Jane (10 January 2008). "Spindles Farm rescued ponies must feel they've landed in horse heaven". Daily Mail.
  4. ^ a b "Warrant issued for arrest of Spindles Farm owner James Gray". Bucks Free Press. 12 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Five charged with animal cruelty". BBC News. 17 March 2008.
  6. ^ a b White, Charlotte (6 May 2010). "Gray family found guilty of cruelty to Spindles Farm horses again". Horse and Hound.
  7. ^ Mathieson, Amy (28 April 2010). "Disgraced horse dealer James Gray's Spindles Farm is up for sale". Horse and Hound.
  8. ^ "Amersham update: James Gray goes on the run as family lose appeal". World Horse Welfare. 12 May 2010.
  9. ^ Evans, Oliver (16 January 2008). "Girl makes protest over horse death farm". This is local London.
  10. ^ "Katy 'ecstatic' at Spindles Farm verdict". Bucks Free Press. 13 May 2009.
  11. ^ "Katy's Web site". KatyRoberts.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Spare a thought for brave animal rights youngster". Voice of the paper Bucks Herald.
  13. ^ "Birthday wish comes true for Katy". Andy Carswell Bucks Free Press.
  14. ^ a b Butcher, Abigail (12 June 2009). "James Gray jailed for six months and banned from keeping horses". Horse and Hound.
  15. ^ "Animal cruelty horse man absconds in Buckinghamshire". BBC News. 12 May 2010.