A BRIERLEY Hill family who kept horses in conditions the RSPCA called medieval have been jailed for animal cruelty.

Amanda and Walter Hickman and their son Kevin, all of Wallows Road, were told by a judge they showed no remorse and were in denial bordering on arrogance.

The trio, who appeared at Dudley Magistrates Court today (March 20), had pleaded guilty to a total of 44 charges under the Animal Welfare Act in connection with four horses recovered from Fens Pool Nature Reserve.

RSPCA prosecutor Nick Sutton said: "These horses were treated in a way which displayed a total lack of knowledge of horse care, they were in an appalling state - close to death.

"They were tethered and suffering with parasites, their hooves needed to be attended to.

"These people should not be near horses or any other animals."

The case began when RSCPA inspectors were called to the Hickmans' home in June 2011 to find a foal collapsed in a horse box on the property.

The animal, which was just weeks old and unable to reach its mother to feed, could not be saved and was later destroyed.

Due to its age the foal's plight could not form part of the case against the Hickman family however evidence was gathered involving four other animals which were seized by animal welfare workers at the Brierley Hill nature reserve.

The Hickmans' solicitor, Stephanie Brownlees, told the court her clients' level of care fell short but they loved the horses and were "shell shocked" by their loss.

She added 23-year-old Kevin, who suffered with cancer as a child and had a long-term memory condition, "went there several times a day to feed them, he did feel he was doing all he could".

Miss Brownlees said: "The defendants appear to have bitten off more than they could chew, they were ignorant of appropriate levels of care, with the issue of horses being thin they felt they could deal with it by feeding them more."

District judge Michael Wheeler banned all three from keeping horses for life and jailed Amanda, aged 49, for 16 weeks and Kevin for 18 weeks.

He also jailed wheelchair-bound Walter, aged 52, who suffers from diabetes, kidney failure and has one leg, for 18 weeks.

The judge told the trio: "You intended to plead not guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence and ran up a huge legal bill, we allowed for a three day trial and you waited until the first morning to plead guilty.

"I have been told as a family you kept horses and knew what you were doing, I find that impossible to believe. It is a miracle these animals survived."

Speaking after the case, RSPCA inspector Paul Seddon said: "These horses were kept in medieval conditions. We have had numerous dealings with this family, you come to a point where you offer advice to them and they seem incapable or unwilling to take it."