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Kirstin McBride tells Alistair
Alistair McConnachie writes:
Of the hundreds of stories of personal loss and tragedy, only a few, however, have been able to break into national view. One of the more widely publicised cases was the killing of Kirstin McBride's pet goat "Misty" on the 5th of April. In many ways, this incident seemed to sum up much of the senselessness and sheer cruelty inherent in the slaughter policy.
People were shocked to hear that MAFF, and the police, had deliberately used deception to kill a family's healthy pet goat by breaking into a locked shed, without any written or verbal permission whatsoever, while police kept Elizabeth Walls, Kirstin's mother, speaking in the kitchen.
When Kirstin returned home from her work at Lockerbie Railway Station, she found Misty lying dead in the driveway. The incident was to make the front page of the Daily Telegraph on 9th April. In her shock and anguish, she was consequently arrested after an incident in which she allegedly bit a policewoman.
The trial date has now been set for December 18th 2001, and we caught up with Kirstin and Elizabeth recently to get an update on their story.
Alistair:Please tell us the latest on your case ...
Kirstin: Well, the latest is that we recently received a "Form B" from DEFRA which it claimed was to withdraw the "Form A" which had been served on our home on the 5 April, the day of the killing. A "Form A" designates your place as an "infected premises" and the authorities have to serve one before they can kill your animals. However, the reality is that a Form A has never been served on our home.
Elizabeth: The vet who killed Misty did so without presenting any documents to us at all. We didn't sign any forms and he didn't sign any either, Form A, or otherwise. He had no paperwork whatsoever. He just kept threatening that he would "get the police to arrest you." We were not even asked who owned Misty. And we gave no verbal permission whatsoever for Misty to be killed.
Kirstin: We think that DEFRA has served the Form B deliberately to cover its back, and pretend that it served a Form A, even though it knows full well that a Form A has never been served on our home in the first place. It is bad enough that Misty was killed with trickery and deception. But this means her slaughter was also technically illegal because we were not even served with a Form A.
Elizabeth: Of course, when we received the Form B we refused to accept it, and we told them we had never had a Form A, which this Form B was meant to be rescinding.
Kirstin: Throughout the country vets were signing Form As, in the full knowledge that they were signing a false document, because the premises on the contiguous cull needed a Form A before the stock could be killed, and all the contiguous farms were healthy. Local vet Roger Windsor pointed this out.
Alistair: Can you give us a brief run-down of what has happened since you were arrested.
Kirstin: Well, April 5th was when it happened. I was arrested and locked up for 4 hours.
One thing that was really good was that I received well over 100 letters from sympathisers after it happened. That gave me strength and showed me that many people were opposed to the slaughter policy.
I had to appear in court on the 10 April, but it was only a short hearing because the Procurator was waiting on further police reports.
The police then served a citation for me to appear in court on Wednesday 11 July. At the hearing I made "no plea" and it was put off for 3 weeks so I could speak to a solicitor.
The next hearing was Wednesday 1 August, where I asked for a 3-week adjournment, and was granted it.
On the day before my next hearing, scheduled for 22 August, we served them with a devolution minute and a human rights argument. The Procurator asked for an adjournment so he could have time to study it.
The next hearing was scheduled for 28 September, but I wrote to them explaining that if I was to attend Court that day then we would have to close Lockerbie Rail Station because I was the only person on duty that day. They wrote back to say that I would have to appear in Court, on that day, to ask for it to be adjourned! Well, what was the point of that?
Anyway, I attended and unfortunately, I didn't have any representation. My own solicitor had been unable to attend and had presumed that the hearing would simply be adjourned because I would have no legal representation.
However, the Procurator said they would have to have a legal debate, there and then, on the aspects of the case which we'd served them on the 22 August. I couldn't believe it.
It was an absolute nightmare. The Procurator planted a huge pile of legal papers in front of me, 15 different cases, which I was meant to read and argue against, there and then! How was I meant to do that? Half of it was full of obscure Latin phrases and everything.
The Sheriff and the Procurator had all the arguments written out. They gave me 2 minutes to look them over.
Elizabeth: Alistair, you have no idea the nightmare. I was sitting in the public gallery, and I was so angry.
Kirstin: They claimed I was making the situation worse for myself because I wasn't using a Dumfries solicitor. They were going on about other cases which were way above me, using Latin phrases, and discussing custodial sentences in front of me. I just burst into tears.
I said to them, "If I were a druggie on the dole I wouldn't be in this situation." That seemed to embarrass them.
I said, "Perhaps SERAD [Scottish Environmental and Rural Affairs Department] should pay for my legal fees" but then the Sheriff said "Who's SERAD?" I thought he should have known that.
Elizabeth: At that point, I just said, "This is a farce". I had to leave in tears.
Kirstin: We're now appealing the fact that I was left with no legal representation at that hearing, and that they went ahead with this legal debate when they knew I couldn't argue against it. We've entered something called a Petition to the Nobile Officium at the Scottish High Court in Edinburgh. This is something you use when there is no statutory right to appeal.
Again, we were back in court on the 16 October, at something called an Intermediate Diet, and again on the 19 November. The 19 November hearing set a date for trial on the 18 December, but also another Intermediate Diet on 11 December.
We're just hoping that the 11 December hearing will throw the whole thing out and drop the case.
However, if it does go ahead, on the 18 December then Lockerbie Railway Station will have to close again, because I'm the only staff member on duty that day.
Alistair: How would you sum all this up, Kirstin?
Kirstin: Firstly, the authorities had no legal right to kill Misty in the first place because a Form A was never served, they received no written or verbal permission from us, whatsoever, and they broke and entered our locked shed.
Therefore, it's not me who should be on trial.
Secondly, the only crime I've committed was to love my pet. It's ridiculous that it has even come so far. I feel I've been put in a really unjust situation and it all seems such a ridiculous waste of taxpayers money. Sometimes I wonder what is happening to this country?
Alistair: Well, thank you both very much for the update. Let's hold out for the charges being dropped on 11 December. If not, is there a protest we can join outside the court on the 18th? Where can people send messages of support?
Kirstin: We're hoping to have people outside the court in Dumfries on the 18th if it goes ahead. The Procurator can drop the case at any time.