Chapter 7: The Trial
'This is the closest we can get to calling the dolphin as a witness,' he said. 'He doesn't speak English.'
Tony Jennings; referring to video.
In one sentence Tony highlighted the absurdity of the trial.
Obscene Behaviour; You Did Commit a Lewd, Obscene and Disgusting Act and Outraged Public Decency.
The trial; The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
On Monday the 9th of December 1991, the prosecution opened its case. The first of its kind in legal history, a man alleged to have sexually abused a dolphin. The wording of the charge was apparently first drafted in the 19th century by church courts and was used to prosecute a man who sold his wife. At the outset of the trial the Crown had five witnesses prepared to testify that I had committed an indecent offence on one day in September 1990. Then another two witnesses Hope and Waber, were allowed, after the judge's consideration, to give evidence that they had witnessed the same offence at other times too.
The prosecution witnesses were Alan Air, Phil Rigsby , Fiona Huntingdon, Peter Bloom and William Prickett, Neil Hope and Paul Waber.
Air was the journalist and Rigsby a professional photographer, they were on Easton's boat to record a feature on Huntington's swimming with Freddy. Whether it was coincidence or not that Bloom and Prickett were there with them is not known.
I had been worried that mature journalists, 'pillars of society', were being lined up against me. I needn't have worried. Whilst giving evidence Air had a smirk on his face, not even removing it when stating that he had been gob smacked when witnessing my alleged indecency with Freddy. Yet on their written police statements the jouirnalists were outraged by it. Rigsby was an equally unimpressive witness, when asked by Jennings why as a professional photographer, he didn't have any photos of the indecent act, when clearly as Jennings put it, he had the scoop of the century. He replied "I was too embarrassed to take any" ... even the judge smiled at that! The thing to stress here is this, the fact that not only were no photographs taken of the alleged incident but no one on Easton's boat spoke to me, despite the boat being at a close proximity. The prosecution charge was that I had outraged public decency. IF I had outraged anyone on the boat or their decency then would it not have been perfectly natural of them to have be so incensed to have made that perfectly clear to me in no uncertain terms to me?
Huntingdon was entirely different in the witness box. At first when questioned by the prosecution she came across as a shy witness. However during cross-examination certain inconsistencies appeared in her police statement compared to her answers in court. She claimed at being outraged by my behaviour. From a distance of six to twenty feet, she had stated in her police statement that my wet-suit was red, when the actual colours were blue and yellow. There were other inconsistencies between her answers in court and her original statement given to the police. She said this was because she was so taken aback to have a policeman rather than the policewoman take her statement, and she didn't change her statement at the time even though she knew some of her answers to be incorrect. This fitted in with her apparent shy disposition. However Jennings exposed this as not being entirely her personality, when he paused during a question to her, and she took the bait and interrupted him. "Thank-you Ms. Huntingdon, it seems you are quite capable of correcting me in court, but incapable of correcting a police officer in the comfort of your own home"! He said. When questioning Waber later the court learned that some of the prosecution witnesses had had lunch together, one of whom was Huntingdon who had been told by the judge not to speak to other witnesses during the break in her evidence. Jennings was brilliant, every time he spoke, not only was I hanging off the edge of my dock seat, but so too were the jurors off theirs. Bloom appeared confident as he gave evidence as did his side-kick assistant Prickett.
Bloom was asked: "What are your qualifications for keeping dolphins captive?"
Bloom: "I am a marine biologist"
QC: "No, what are you specific qualifications for keeping dolphins captive?"
Bloom: "I don't have any, but there are none"
Bloom also told the court that in the film "The Fruit Machine" he allowed naked men to swim with his dolphins, and trained the dolphins to remove women’s clothing in the same film.
Bill Prickett admitted that it was possible that in captivity dolphins were masturbated by humans to obtain semen, I assume for artificial insemination.
Quoted in the national press before the court case, Peter Bloom said "Dolphins bring out the best and worst in people". How prophetically true and was being shown in court by the evidence.
Hope and Waber were the last to take the stand. Jennings tore them apart. Both acted like dimwits and after a few questions they admitted being friendly with Bloom, despite denying that at first. Hope admitted he was on first names terms with Bloom.
Waber admitted he had swum with the captive dolphins at Flamingo Land with words to the affect that it was an unforgettable experience, but then couldn't remember the date. Jennings suggested to him that perhaps my campaign to close the dolphinarium had a bearing on his attitude to me. Jennings asserted to Waber, that you wouldn't give Mr. Cooper your last toffee would you!
When we opened my defence I took the stand. I realised that I was fighting for my future sanity and even life, and needed to use every brain cell I could muster in the dock to prove my innocence. I had to live up to my statement prior to the trial that I would defend myself with vigour. All seemed to go well, even the prosecuting barrister, perhaps realising he had a lost case, only questioned me for a brief time, about half an hour, much less than I had anticipated.
Dr. Horace Dobbs gave evidence explaining how in his experience of swimming with other wild male dolphins they also had used their penis tactilely and in his opinion in a non sexual way. I can't remember if he stated it in his court evidence, but he privately told me he felt it could have been him in the dock. Doug Cartlidge, my other expert witness, told the court that the dolphinaria industry tactic was to target the leaders of any campaigns they faced.
We then called Gordon Easton, who confirmed he saw nothing unusual in the behaviour of me or the dolphin, and the dolphin was behaving the same as he did with other swimmers. He told the court he "quite often" saw the dolphin's penis when he was taking parties out to see the dolphin
George Guthrie was an Amble local who spent hours on the pier watching Freddy, trying to get the perfect photo to add to the hundreds he had already taken. He knew Freddy's predisposition of hooking and readily agreed to be a witness, something I will always fondly remember him for. George was a real gent and didn't even claim court expenses for his trouble.
We then called a man and woman, Martin Roberts and wife Anne who were on Easton's boat with the other prosecution witnesses.
Roberts told the court he was on the boat with Bloom and others and all he saw was me stroking the dolphin's belly. His wife also described just seeing my hand going up and down Freddy's belly. After this Bloom said that I was sexually abusing Freddy. Asked by Jennings whether she was disgusted by what she saw or by what she heard during this incident, she replied "by what I heard". In reply to further questions from Jennings, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts said they had made statements to the police about the incidents but had not been called by the prosecution to give evidence, I wonder why? I think their evidence in the dock was conclusive to the jury that I was an innocence man.
On December Friday 13th, the judge summed up the case. In summing up he told the jury, my evidence to the police at the time of arrest had been entirely consistent with my evidence under oath. The judge had been entirely fair. The jury were out for less than an hour. When they returned they were asked "have the members of the jury reached a verdict?". "Yes", the foreman replied, "we find the defendant, NOT GUILTY". I looked at the jury and mouthed a "thank you" for their unanimous decision. At the same time a roar of cheering went up from the public gallery. Some animal-rights people had packed into the court. The judge told me I was free to go. I had a quick five minutes alone in an adjoining room. I thought of my mother and how sad it was that she wasn't there to share in my vindication. She had died five months earlier from a heart attack. I left the court to a plethora of press and I gave them a short prepared statement.
After Easton gave his evidence, I came out of the court with Dobbs, who approached Easton and congratulated him on his evidence, he replied "Ay, I'm on no-ones side" which perfectly sums the man up, someone I previously thought of as a dolphin friend. Looking back on this sad episode in my life, as I have done many many times, I had come to the conclusion that, on his boat, Easton could have stopped any police involvement by simply saying to Bloom something like, "Peter this is nonsense, the dolphin exposes his penis to most swimmers, I know you don't like this or Alan because of his anti-captivity views but to say he is wanking off the dolphin is a lie".
Bloom a self-professed "expert" must surely have influenced others on the boat. The journalists probably wouldn't have needed much influencing for, as Jennings put it, they had the scoop of the century, if it could be proven.
In a prepared statement Horace Dobbs said "this was a very, very expensive lesson in dolphin behaviour. It reveals that observations in captivity can be completely misleading and raises the issue of their scientific validity. All future research research should be carried with the co-operation of free dolphins in the open ocean".
Doug Cartlidge stated "it was a sinister plot by the dolphinarium industry to try and discredit a man of great integrity".
I said "I want to continue my friendship with Freddy and continue my mission to see that captive dolphins are returned to their natural home in the open ocean".