Our Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

We were very pleased that Ledbury huntsman Mark Melladay was cleared of assault charges last week after he was prosecuted on the basis of malicious allegations made by a well-known animal rights extremist (read the Telegraph’s report).

Mark should not, however, have even been in court and this case, along with the prosecution of Blackmore and Sparkford Vale huntsman Peter Dogrell last year, has raised significant concerns about the implementation of the ‘Victim’s Right to Review’ which was introduced in 2013.

The right to review makes it easier for victims of crime to challenge prosecutors’ decisions not to bring charges where allegations have been made. In principle this is a perfectly reasonable approach and one which we would support, but in practice it seems clear that prosecutors are being influenced by organised campaigns, rather than just by the evidential and public interest tests on which prosecuting decisions should be made.

In this latest case there was no evidence of any contact between Mark Melladay and the animal rights protestor, yet the original decision not to prosecute him was reversed after a review was requested and a number of animal rights groups campaigned for him to be prosecuted. Mark Dogrell’s case was perhaps even more ridiculous in that as part of the review prosecutors engaged an equine expert, who concluded that no offence had taken place. Yet they reversed the decision not to charge, undoubtedly influenced by a loud campaign, and saw the case collapse when the same expert appeared for the defence.

In both cases charging decisions seem to have been made on the basis of who can shout the loudest, not the quality of the evidence provided by the complainant. It is no surprise either that in both cases the target of the allegations and subsequent campaigns were huntsmen, and that their accusers were animal rights protestors. This sets a worrying precedent for anyone engaged in hunting, shooting or wildlife management of any sort faced with spurious and malicious allegations. Trial by the mob can never be acceptable and we will be raising this issue with the police, the CPS and with ministers.

Tim Bonner
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