LONDON: A gang of six British-Pakistanis involved in vile cockfighting gang faces jail after detectives uncovered a huge blood-stained fighting pit where cockerels armed with sharpened spurs were pitched against each another in a building where the group had designed a ring complete with seats and fake grass.
At the Barkingside Magistrates Court on Thursday, the judge adjourned the sentencing for two weeks as Urdu translator for one of the accused couldn’t be arranged.
The gang was found guilty of animal welfare crimes after detectives uncovered a blood-stained fighting pit in a home in Ilford, East London. Five men and a 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made cockerels fight each other and caused them injuries. The trial lasted for thee days where it was established that the gang was involved in animal cruelty.
Mohamed Arif, 44, Akhtar Hussain, 47, Mehtab Ahmed, 41, Mohammed Asab, 51, Altaf Hussain, 54, and the 16 year old boy were arrested earlier this year in January when the police raided a home on complaint of a neighbour who reported to the police that the gang was causing cruelty to cockerels and noises could be heard far and wide as the fight went on. The gang denied a string of animal cruelty charges but were found guilty based on evidence.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPA) welcomed the conviction and sentencing of the gang. RSPCA inspector Cliff Harrison, who led the investigation, said: “The RSPCA and police received reports of a cockfight taking place in an outbuilding in Ilford on 2 January this year. When officers attended, seven men were found in the outbuilding and a bird was spotted flapping around inside. Officers also saw someone put something into a cat carrier and, when later searched, an injured cockerel was found inside.
An artificial grass square was being used as the cock fighting pit and seats had been arranged around the edge like a viewing area. Fresh blood was splashed across the fake grass and there was blood splattered up the white walls behind. That blood was tested and found to be from a cockerel.”
The court heard that a blood-stained towel was also found at the scene and other cockerels – aseel or asil types which originate from India and Pakistan – were also present at the premises. A total of ten cockerels and two hens were seized by police and animal welfare officers during the raid earlier this year.
Police seized mobile phones from the property, which featured a number of photos and videos of attacks. These were used as ‘vital evidence’ in the trial. Ten cockerels and two hens were seized by police and placed into RSPCA care.
Asab was declared as the gang leader and was charged with additional offences including causing an animal fight involving cockerels, taking part in an animal fight involving cockerels, kept or trained cockerels for use in connection with an animal fight, kept premises for use for an animal fight, and causing unnecessary suffering to a cockerel by failing to provide veterinary care.
Altaf Hussain and Mehtab Ahmad told they had nothing to do with the cock fights and were only visiting Asab as friends.
“I came hundreds of miles from Coventry to pay regards to an ailing relative and when the police raided they found no fight going on. We were eating food,” he said.
Mahtab Ahmed said police didn’t have any video of them watching the alleged fight but charged them for watching the fight. This is wrong and baseless, he said.
Cockfighting was banned in England in 1835 but still goes on in various circles with successful prosecutions in Brighton in 2012 and Bournemouth in 2014.