D_SA District Judge in Yeovil yesterday awarded full costs to three members of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds (DSSH) who had charges brought against them based on allegations made by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). The Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges against DSSH’s huntsmanDonald Summersgill and joint-masters Rupert Andrews and David Greenwood in November when it became clear that there was no prospect of a successful prosecution. 

At the costs hearing the DSSH’s lawyer, Jamie Foster of Foster and Griffin, argued that LACS was responsible for the costs of the failed prosecution. LACS knew that the DSSH were taking part in a study of deer in the area including on LACS’s own land as it had been invited to participate in the study and its own stalker had taken part.

However, the judge found that LACS’s misconduct could not reach the standard of the test of ‘serious misconduct’ as the court could not make a finding of fact because of failings of the CPS. The defendants costs were therefore awarded from public funds rather than against LACS.

The Judge also found that the defendants were in no way responsible for any any of the costs incurred in the case saying that: “there was clearly no ambush by the defence. The defendants outlined their case as early as the police station”.

Tim Bonner, Director of Campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “It is quite right that the three innocent men who were charged in this case should have their costs met but it is disgraceful that taxpayers should be picking up the bill. The League Against Cruel Sports made allegations which it knew would not stand up in court and withheld important evidence from the CPS.

“What is even more disgraceful is that when the charges were dropped its Chief Executive, Joe Duckworth, continued to claim that there was no scientific justification when he knew perfectly well both that the DSSH was involved in carrying out research. This is not the behaviour of a responsible organisation or a credible charity”.