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A father and son from West Sussex have been given a suspended jail sentence and banned for life from keeping birds after the RSPCA uncovered one of the biggest cockfighting operations the animal charity has ever discovered.
Brighton Magistrates' Court was told on Wednesday that Mark Harry Giles and his son Mark Anthony Giles were obsessed with cockfighting, and would travel around the world to watch graphic bouts between birds.
The pair bred and trained hundreds of cockerels at their homes in the West Sussex countryside for fighting, before their injuries would be treated using amateur veterinary kits.
Mark Harry Giles, aged 48, was sentenced to 120 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,500 costs. He had previously admitted seven charges related to cockfighting, the keeping of birds for use in fighting, including being present at a cockfight, and possession of cockfighting paraphernalia. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of causing unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act.
His 26-year-old son Mark Anthony Giles who had also pleaded guilty to seven charges related to cockfighting and keeping birds for fighting, was ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and to pay £1,000 costs. Other counts admitted by Giles junior included two offences of keeping animals in poor conditions and one of causing unnecessary suffering. Both men were also sentenced to 20 weeks custody, suspended for two years.
Inspectors from the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit spotted the pair during an intelligence gathering undercover operation at a cockfight in northern France, where the activity is still legal in some regions.
Both father and son were filmed at the event and a warrant was then carried out at their home addresses near Billingshurst in August 2011 after the French surveillance corroborated with existing information to suggest the pair were involved in breeding and training cockerels for fighting.