Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Charges against huntsman dropped

The first professional huntsman to be prosecuted for hunting a fox has had all charges against him dropped.

Julian Barnfield, 44, of the Heythrop Hunt, which covers Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, was accused of three counts of hunting a mammal with dogs.

Mr Barnfield, who lives in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was charged under the Hunting Act 2004.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to ensure a realistic prospect of conviction.

The charges against Mr Barnfield were reviewed following a High Court ruling in February which said that "searching" for a mammal was not hunting.

The Director of Public Prosecutions decided last week not to appeal the High Court judgment and Mr Barnfield was told the case against him was to be discontinued.

Mr Barnfield said he felt "extremely relieved" that the charges had been dropped.

He had insisted he had only been trail hunting - an activity designed to replicate a traditional hunt without chasing a fox.

He said: "It was quite a daunting prospect, to think that I was going to be on trial.

"But there was no evidence to prove that I was hunting illegally.

"Having the charges dropped is a great weight off my shoulders. I am truly elated and extremely relieved."

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