Weston and Banwell Harriers huntsman George Milton and whipper-In Toby Lee have both been acquitted of charges of illegally hunting a fox in October 2012. The case before District Judge Davison at Taunton Magistrates court started on Monday 31st March and lasted for 4 days.
The case followed allegations by employees of the League Against Cruel Sports, six of whom had taken over 20 hours of video on the day of the allegation. The Weston and Banwell hounds were seen on the line of a fox for 93 seconds, but the District Judge said that it was clear that Mr Milton and Mr Lee had stopped the hounds.
District Judge Davison said that he was: “Not persuaded at all that the defendants were not trail hunting”. He was also critical of the time the case had taken to reach trial saying that it “did not reflect well on the court”.
Mr Milton and Mr Lee were represented by solicitor advocate Jamie Foster who had acted for Mr Milton in another failed Hunting Act prosecution based on League Against Cruel Sports evidence last year.
Tim Bonner, Director of Campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: “We are very pleased that George Milton and Toby Lee have been acquitted, but the Countryside Alliance is extremely concerned about the role of Avon and Somerset Police and CPS in what amounts to little more than a campaign of harassment against the Weston and Banwell Harriers and it’s huntsman George Milton.
“Individuals working for a charity, the League Against Cruel Sports, have carried out dozens of sophisticated covert surveillance operations over several years targeting Mr Milton and made a series of allegations under the Hunting Act and other legislation. This is the second time he has been cleared of illegal hunting allegations in court, but he has also been charged with other offences which were dropped before they even got to trial.
“By consistently colluding with those individuals who are spying on Mr Milton and, for whatever reason, deciding to bring cases which have always looked unlikely to succeed the police and CPS are both failing in their obligations to Mr Milton and wasting large amounts of taxpayers money and court time.”