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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Huntsman 'cynically' defied ban
Tony Wright
Tony Wright denies the charge
A court has heard how a Devon huntsman defied the hunting ban by allowing hunters to chase foxes.

The League Against Cruel Sports, which is bringing the prosecution, said Tony Wright ignored demands in the ban for foxes to be shot as soon as possible.

Mr Wright, 51, denies breaching section one of the Hunting Act while leading Exmoor Foxhounds at Drybridge, Devon.

He is the first huntsman to be summoned to court for allegedly defying the ban on hunting foxes with hounds.

Scent trail

The ban came into force on 18 February last year in England and Wales, making hunting with dogs a criminal offence.

Exercising hounds, chasing a scent trail and flushing out foxes to be shot is still legal.

But the League alleged the hunt on 29 April went further than that by allowing hounds a "prolonged period of pursuit" of a fox on two occasions.

Richard Furlong, prosecuting for the League, said no reasonable steps had been taken to have the foxes shot dead as soon as possible by a competent person, which was really the whole basis of exempt hunting.

"Exempt hunting is not hunting at all - it is finding, flushing and shooting," said Mr Furlong at Barnstaple Magistrates Court.

Gun bag

He told the court there was a man on a quad bike with a gun bag slung over his back, but he never produced a gun.

Mr Furlong said it did "violence to common sense" to argue that Mr Wright and his followers were engaged in a shooting exercise.

And he accused Mr Wright of "a cynical attempt to pay lip service to the legislation".

Mr Wright is expected to give his defence on Tuesday. He denies the charge against him.

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