On 21 March 1997, R Hill & Co's cattle were stolen by Sheriff Michael Fletcher and Procurator Fiscal David Howdle. David Howdle orchestrated and Sheriff Fletcher sanctioned, the removal and unbelievably the sale and destruction of R Hill & Co's entire herd prior to any criminal proceedings. In so doing both men disregarded with total disdain an 85 year old statute and the rule of law.
David Howdle libelled a charge of cruelty to animals at common law in a petition that sought warrant permitting the entire herd of cattle from Powhillon farm to be removed and either sold, slaughtered or destroyed. Cruelty to animals is not a common law crime as recorded in Shepherd v. Menzies, 1900 2 F 443. As per Lord Kyllachy's judgement, which was an opinion held by Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Trayner and Lord Moncreiff: “It has of course to be assumed that cruelty to animals is an offence,—that is to say, a crime. It is not so at common law, but it is made so by the Statute 13 and 14 Vict. cap. 92”.