Following a question by former minister for farming Jim Fitzpatrick on 26 June the Ministry of Justice has released figures that show 110 people were charged under the Hunting Act in 2013 and 56 were found guilty.
However this figure is misleading, as the very great majority of cases heard under the Hunting Act do not involve hunts.
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “The Ministry of Justice figures show that 56 people were found guilty of offences under the Hunting Act in 2013, but just six of those people were in reality allied to a registered hunt.
“Our records show that eight cases were brought under the Hunting Act that involved registered hunts last year – three ended in a conviction and five of those cases were dropped because of insufficient evidence. This shows a large number of cases brought against hunts should never have made it to court.
“These figures are also further evidence that the Hunting Act is flawed as so many of the cases brought under the Hunting Act do not actually involve hunts and could have been prosecuted under other legislation.”
For more information, contact Countryside Alliance head of media Charlotte Cooper on 0207 840 9220 or [email protected]
Information for journalists:
The eight cases heard under the Hunting Act were –
Case heard 13 August 2013 – Middleton hunt, East Yorkshire
Huntsman Tom Holt, whipper-in Shaun Marles and hunt supporters Lee Martin and Brian Cuthbertson were each charged with two offences under The Hunting Act and one under The Animal Welfare Act 2006. The incident took place in December 2012 at Full Sutton, East Yorkshire where LACS filmed the men flushing a fox from a stack of hay bales into hounds. On 13 August 2013 the men appeared at York Magistrates Court where they all pleaded guilty to one offence under The Hunting Act, but two further charges were dropped. Mr Holt was fined £200 plus costs, Mr Marles and Mr Martin were fined £100 each plus costs and Mr Cuthbertson was given a conditional discharge.
22/23 August 2013 – Holderness hunt, East Yorkshire
Joint-master Charles Clarke, huntsman David Elliot and amateur whip Philip Walker were charged with one count each of illegal hunting on 21 January 2012 near the village of Aike . A trial went ahead on 21-22 August and resulted in the case collapsing with the district judge Curtis stating that there was “no case to answer” and that the Hunting Act 2004 is “difficult to interpret and apply and difficult for the CPS to prosecute.”
8 April 2013 – Weston and Banwell Harriers, Somerset
Joint-master George Milton was charged in relation to one allegation of illegal hunting in February 2012. On 8th April 2013 in Taunton Magistrates’ Court the case collapsed when the court ruled that he had ‘no case to answer.’
The prosecution had relied on the evidence of an employee of the League Against Cruel Sports, Graham Floyd. However, after the prosecution case was complete Mr Milton’s lawyer, Jamie Foster, argued that there was no case to answer as Mr Floyd admitted discussing the evidence with colleagues before making a statement; had been a kilometre away at a time when he claimed to have identified Mr Milton; and saw no fox until 25 minutes after he claimed to have seen the defendant.
The magistrates agreed that no jury could reasonably convict on the evidence presented to the court and therefore found that Mr Milton had no case to answer.
7 May 2013 – Avon Vale hunt, Wiltshire
Five members of the Avon Vale Hunt were summonsed by the RSPCA in a private prosecution under the Hunting Act. Masters Stuart Radbourne and Jonathon Seed, and supporters Joshua Charlesworth, Benjamin Pethers and Paul Tylee-Hinder all pleaded not guilty when they appeared before magistrates in Chippenham on 25 September. The trial was scheduled for seven days, starting on 7 May at Chippenham Magistrates Court but was consequently abandoned on the first day with District judge Simon Cooper describing it as “not a strong case.”
The RSPCA spent £50,000 bringing this private prosecution to court
17 September 2013 – Crawley and Horsham, West Sussex
Nick Bycroft, huntsman with the Crawley and Horsham Hunt appeared before Worthing magistrates on 17 September 2013 charged with a Hunting Act offence dating from January 2013.
The incident occurred during a meet at Angmering Park, near Arundel, West Sussex on land owned by the trustees of the Angmering Park Trust. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge, £150 costs and a £15 victim surcharge by magistrates.
12 September 2013 – Seavington hunt, Dorset
Seavington huntsman David Parker pleaded guilty to one charge under the Hunting Act on 12 September 2013.
The case, at Yeovil Magistrates Court, was the culmination of a season of surveillance by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who undertook covert surveillance on hunts in Dorset last season and the RSPCA chose to prosecute the case.
Mr Parker, of Seavington St Mary, Ilminster, was ordered to pay a fine of £500 relating to an incident in Winsham, Dorset last January. The RSPCA asked the court for £4,900 in costs but the judge ordered that just £500 should be paid.
12 November 2013 – Royal Agricultural College Beagles, Cirencester
A charge of hunting a wild mammal with dogs has been dropped against former master of the Royal Agricultural College beagles, Libby Gilbert. Libby, a US citizen, was not in the UK when the charge was laid nor at Swindon Magistrates Court on 12 November 2013 when the CPS dropped the charge, which had been brought under the Hunting Act on evidence supplied by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).
7 November 2013 – Ledbury hunt, Herefordshire
At a hearing at Worcester Magistrates’ Court on 7 November 2013 the charity dropped a Hunting Act charge against Ledbury huntsman Will Goffe, for hunting a fox at Castlemorton Common near Malvern on 4 March this year.
The prosecution was based on covert surveillance evidence collected by a second charity, the League Against Cruel Sports.