United Pack steal monitor’s drone

On 24th February 2024, volunteers with Shropshire Wildlife Monitors were monitoring the Bishops Castle-based United Pack (UP), who were holding their last meet of the ‘season’ at Newton Farm. Amongst the volunteers was a drone operator. The day ended with the UP stealing the drone and driving away with it.

The United Pack may not be well-known outside of monitor and sabs groups, but they have a well-founded reputation for intimidating locals who object to the hunt harrassing them, for blocking roads, and for worrying sheep.

Local businessman Robin Morris (pictured above at a different meet) is a regular rider and video footage shows him with the UP the day the drone was stolen (under ‘Mission and Values’ his firm’s website says that “As passionate believers in family values, we strive to nurture a respectful culture with moral courage and integrity“ – which is hilarious). His Hunt Secretary partner, who was also present on the day, is Sophie Dwerryhouse, Midlands Director of the landowners’ lobby group Country Land and Business Association (aka the CLA) and a former solicitor specialising in trespass (which no doubt comes in very handy).

Other regulars include Samantha Boyes (who owns Rorrington Lodge near Chirbury and allows the hunt to use her land), Richard Tyacke (of ‘smokescreen webinar’ fame and a Wynnstay Hunt stalwart), and Ian Jones, the supporter who pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment last year after giving a Nazi salute to a member of the Cheshire Borderland Monitors while following the Wynnstay Hunt. Which seems like a good moment to utilise that old-fashioned but well-known quote, “A man is judged by the company he keeps, and a company is judged by the men it keeps”…indeed.

Ian Jones, a regular follower of the UP, the Wynnstay, and the South Shropshire Hunts


The UP regularly hunt over very hilly terrain in the ‘protected’ Shropshire Hills National Landscape, making it difficult for monitors – who are on foot for much of the day – to watch them. From the air, though, hunts and their hounds can be followed and recorded. Drones have become an essential monitoring and sabbing tool – a fact not lost on any lawbreaking hunt who don’t want to be observed as they ‘trail hunt’ across nature reserves, through hedges, and over main roads.

In the following account, which was written with Shropshire Wildlife Monitors, there is an almost surreal game to be played of ‘Spot which law is being broken in this paragraph’ – everything from traffic offences and assault to flying a drone dangerously and of course theft…so much for those ‘family values and integrity’ eh…

United Pack up to their usual tricks

Monitors report that on February 24th the UP’s usual lawbreaking occurred throughout the day. The hunt blocked the road on numerous occasions (its terriermen holding up traffic on a bend which is illegal) and they illegally used quad bikes, with three on a quad on the A489, near Snead. The hunt also thought it would be a good idea to ride with the pack hounds through a field of ewes – some of which would have been pregnant at this time of the year – spooking them in the process: incidentally, while it’s illegal for most of us to allow a dog to worry sheep, a ‘dog lawfully used to hunt’ is exempt – the legislation is now woefully out of date of course, but at the time it was written presumably reflected the fact that many legislators were also landowners and fox hunters.

United Pack block the road and chat amongst themselves as they ride through a field scattering sheep.


Drone up

Shortly after the meet, monitors launched their drone and filmed the hounds travelling from Lydham Heath and crossing the busy A489. The hunt was not at all happy to see the ‘eye in the sky’. At one point, a member of the field attempted to use his horse as a weapon, assaulting the drone operator by pinning them to a hedge.

The drone was launched again around 3.45 pm. To the surprise of the onlooking monitors, what seems clearly to be a larger drone suddenly appeared and hovered very close to the monitor’s car. If the drone was indeed ‘larger’ than the 249g drones typically used by monitors (and enthusiasts who’ve looked at monitor footage say that is the case), this would be a breach of the Civil Aviation Authority’s drone flying rules which state “Do not fly closer to people than 50m. This includes people in buildings and transport, including cars, lorries, trains, and boats”.

Clearly this rule is there for safety reasons. Even if it was not as large as it appears in footage taken on the day and is under 250g (slightly different rules apply to drones above and below the 250g mark – see our Protectors page Drones and the Law) it is still incredibly dangerous and irresponsible to fly a fast-moving drone close to people – especially when it’s getting dark and in windy conditions. Had there been an accident and someone hurt, the drone pilot would surely have been considered reckless and could be liable for battery, which carries both criminal and civil sanctions.

This second drone was of course deployed by the hunt. They had earlier already tried unsuccessfully to take the monitor’s drone down by flying directly at it. Monitors rightly question the timing:

The hounds were in cry at this time. Was there something they didn’t want us to see?


Hunting animals in the most special landscapes of England.

Image Google Maps

As we’ve reported on Protect the Wild previously, hunts are drawn to nature reserves and protected landscapes because that’s where the wildlife is found (see our report with the Helmsley Monitors on the Derwent Hunt blatantly trespassing on to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve for example). The United Pack are no different. As the day in question was drawing to a close, they headed towards local landmarks The Bog (the site of a former mining village on the edge of the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve), and Shelve.

A Polaris UTV and a quad bike were spotted parked up in a field, so the drone was again launched to keep an eye on the hounds. They were in an adjacent field with whipper-in Fred Morby (aka ‘Freddy Fingers’ because of a reputation for things going missing at meets at his previous Hunt! Morby is leaving the UP at the end of the season).

Shortly before 5pm the hounds were just milling around and not speaking, so the drone operator decided to bring the drone back in. As it was homing, the hunt launched their drone straight at it, this time successfully knocking it down. A couple of monitors ran into the field to retrieve it, but the terrier men were nearer and were witnessed collecting it. They then drove off at speed, joined by another two vehicles.


Monitors suspect this grinning idiot giving them the ‘thumbs up’ as he drives past has their stolen property

In case there is any doubt, this is theft, criminal damage and the illegal use of a drone. Those present must have been aware of that. If hunts are as law-abiding as they routinely tell us all, perhaps the United Pack would like to explain why they did nothing to return the drone on the day it was taken, or why they have done nothing to return it since? After all, as a solicitor will tell you, anyone who “insincerely undertakes or aids in their continued possession, disposal, transferral or realises that it is for the benefit of another” could be charged with handling stolen goods

Police were not present on the day (which is regrettable but understandable – if they were on site every time a hunt broke the law there’d be no one left back at the station), and the case is still with them. As of writing, they have got nowhere in retrieving the monitor’s stolen property though.

What next?

No one will be surprised that hunts are responding to the use of drones by monitors and sabs by flying their own drones too. There was always going to be a mini ‘arms race’ of this sort. What is entirely unacceptable – and illegal – is the deployment of drones as weapons, of reckless behaviour, theft and criminal damage. Again, no one will be surprised by any of that though: some hunt staff (and some hunt supporters) routinely behave as if they are part of an organised crime gang, believing themselves above the law and almost completely unafraid of it.

That will be their undoing though. Hunts will always break the law and evidence will be collected, evidence so strong that even a docile police force won’t be able to ignore it. Insurance claims will start to fly in, and damages will be sought.

In the meantime though, we simply won’t allow the United Pack to think they’ve ‘won’ anything here. Shropshire Wildlife Monitors are fundraising to replace the stolen drone, and Protect the Wild is very pleased to have made a donation towards their costs.

They will be back in the air next season – and hopefully this article will help warn other groups of the illegal tactics that drone operators working with hunts are using.

  • Images from Shropshire Wildlife Monitors.
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