In the mid to late 1990s the Enfield Reptile Centre had many Sunday afternoon visits made by Mr Steve Divers and his then girl friend, who lived locally.
Spring 1999 the Enfield Reptile Centre had a visit by RSPCA officer Vivian Jones who claimed the 6 week old bearded dragons were not weaned. After much discussion and my continued claim that bearded dragons did not need to be weaned before I offered them for sale she left still very unhappy with me.
Early May my largest wholesale customer for reptiles contacted me to ask that I bring in an Egyptian shipment for them. I told them that it would be too late in the year to import from Egypt as it was now too hot there. Despite my arguments they insisted that I import the shipment or they would return to importing themselves (I would then loose my biggest spending customer). Reluctantly I did import the shipment. On the Friday after the shipment arrived the wholesaler cancelled the order leaving me with 3000 plus animals in stock rather than the 1500 plus animals I should have been left with.
The following, I think it was, Tuesday I had a meeting at my shop with someone I considered to be knowledgably about the trade to discuss the situation regards my now surplus stock. During this meeting I came to the conclusion that it would be best if I no longer wholesaled reptiles and concentrated on the retail side of my business this would probably mean that I would no longer import animals.
The following Thursday 03/06/99 at 15.00 and 15.10 the Enfield Reptile Centre had two inspections one by the RSPCA officer Vivian Jones and one by an officer from London Borough of Enfield Environmental Health Services who was accompanied by the vet Steve Divers. I did not consider this to be anything to worry over duly about and spent the next 50 minits answering their questions and serving customers. At 16.00 a group of police officers rushed in to the shop and instructed me to remain behind my counter the lead police officers positioned themselves so that it would have been impossible for me to go anywhere. Despite my insistences that the RSPCA had no right to be in my shop and that I wanted them to leave I was told if you interfere with the RSPCA you will be arrested and the RSPCA will do what they want with your animals in your absence Many more people pored into my shop so that within one hour of the first person arriving I now had one vet, two officers from the London Borough of Enfield, seven RSPCA officers and eight police officers (yes EIGHT police officers) present.
At this stage the police told the customers to leave my shop and my friends/staff were only allowed to observe from the outside the doorway of my shop. Still trapped behind my counter and after answering some silly questions, like Mr Divers holding up an eyed skink and asking me what it was (he was the alleged expert) and watching RSPCA officers and Mr Divers chase a water dragon around the shop I made up some dumb excuse so that I could leave my shop.
Once outside I made a phone call to Enfield police station and insisted that a superior officer attend. I also phoned the person who I had had the meeting with on Tuesday and asked him to attend with some urgency as an independent observer. I also called a solicitor but was told she was not available but that she would call me back.
On arrival of the duty sergeant from Enfield police station I told him that I considered that the RSPCA removing my animals was not legal and that I considered that they were stealing them, I also told him that I wanted the RSPCA to leave (yes that was the word I used lol) When I asked why the police were present the duty sergeant told me that Vivien Jones had called the saying that I had threatened her, although he accepted that I had not threatened anyone the duty sergeant claimed that although the RSPCA did not have a warrant the RSPCA did have the right to do what they were doing and said that some of his officers would stay to prevent a breach of the peace.
On the arrival of the independent observer I had called, RSPCA officer Vivian Jones insisted that the police arrest the observer if he entered my shop, it was obvious Vivian Jones was in charge of the raid (sorry coincidental inspection by the RSPCA and London Borough of Enfield as later claimed), the police did as they were told. While much discussion ensued with the police insisting that the observer would be arrested my phone rang thankfully it was the solicitor I had called after she had spoken the one of the police officers for a while it was agreed that the police would allow the raid to be observed, I was still being kept away from all that was going on, but the observer was allowed to view what followed and to make his own notes (it had been decided between the RSPCA and London Borough of Enfield that only one person would take notes and that they would copy those notes later (the phrase they used was we can make up our notes later)
Near the end of the raid there was some discussion between the RSPCA officers and the police officers, this led to the police insisting that I sign a receipt written out by the RSPCA. I had no intention of signing this document but the police officer kept insisting that it was only to prove what animals were removed by the RSPCA eventually after much persuasion by the police and the observer I did sign the document. Later it was claimed that this document was my written permission allowing the RSPCA to take my animals. Despite this claim I was also convicted for species that were not included on the receipt.
Six months after the raid an RSPCA officer arrived at my shop and handed me some papers this was the last day that they could take action against me. Another twenty-four hours and they would not have been able to take me to court.
When I received the paper work relating to the case against me I could not believe how damming it looked (Mr Divers had done a very through job with the paper work)
I gave a copy of the papers I had received to the observer after due consideration and much discussion we decided that he would ask Peter Heathcoat to view the evidence and possibly act as an independent expert for the court. This was done despite my knowing that this could work against me. The observer then sent all the paper work he had to Peter Heathcoat I later found out that he sent much original paper work without first taking copies including the notes he had taken during the raid.
After I had requested the case be put off so that Mr Heathcoat could get married and go on honeymoon my solicitor received a fax from Mr Heathcoat stating that he had never agreed to help me and that if he was to get involved he would best serve the prosecution Why could he not have looked at the papers and told me this before he requested the case be put off so that he could go on honeymoon (if you are as cynical as me you might think that he saw a future nice little earner in his actions) after this he was never available to take phone calls and refused requests to return the papers that had been sent to him. He made many excuses one being they would be too costly to post. This all resulted with me having no time to find help for the trial.
I found myself in court with only a solicitor on my side
The written evidence provided by Mr Divers stated a man he now knows as Colin Farndell giving the impression to the court that he had not met me before the raid. Mr Divers was also employed as the in house vet for the wholesaler that had so abruptly without warning cancelled the order for reptiles resulting in my shop being in the state it was in. During the trial my solicitor started to question the impartiality of Mr Divers but the magistrate was having none of this and adjourned the court for fifteen minits while my solicitor discussed with me the way Mr Divers was being questioned.
Although I was charged under the cruelty to animals act I was actually convicted of Omitting to give to give the animals any form of proper care which was proved by Mr Divers stating that there were animals that in his opinion should have been seen by a vet any thing I had done did not constitute any form of proper care because I had not employed a vet and because I did not hold any veterinary qualifications.
"The court heard how one box removed from the shop contained around 100 Lacertid lizards. Several bodies were almost totally decomposed and covered in maggots, while others were still alive."
Sounds much better than, and here I quote from EXPERT WITNESS REPORT Compiled by STEPHEN J. DIVERS
A total of 23 live lizards were boarded before being discharged back into the care of RSPCA inspector Jones on 7th June 1999. Ten of these lizards from the live group subsequently died and were presented for post mortem examination. However, no exact cause of death could be determined, as the lizards were partially autolysed at the time of presentation.
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