Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Prosecutors drop huntsman appeal

Tony Wright
Tony Wright said he had been trying to protect livestock

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said it will not contest a High Court ruling in favour of a huntsman filmed apparently chasing a fox with dogs.

Tony Wright, 53, of the Exmoor Foxhounds, was the first person to be prosecuted under the Hunting Act 2004, which bans hunting with hounds.

He successfully appealed against his conviction, saying the dogs were flushing out foxes for a marksman.

The CPS has warned it could still bring other prosecutions under the act.

'Protecting livestock'

Mr Wright was originally fined 500 and ordered to pay 250 costs to the League Against Cruel Sports which brought the prosecution in 2005.

He appealed on the grounds that the dogs were being used to flush out the fox with the intention that it would be shot.

The High Court upheld Mr Wright's appeal last month, ruling that the word "hunt" did not include searching for the purposes of stalking or flushing.

The court said there was an onus on the prosecution to prove the defendant was not covered by such an exemption, although there was also a burden on the defendant to produce evidence of what he or she was doing.

Where there are allegations that the law has been broken, the CPS will continue to work with the police to build cases
Keir Starmer
Director of Public Prosections

Mr Wright had argued he had acted to ensure compliance with the law and had been trying to protect livestock.

Other trials, including one involving men from the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, have been put on hold while the ruling was awaited.

But the Director of Public Prosections, Keir Starmer QC, said: "The fact that the CPS has decided not to take this to the House of Lords does not mean that there will be no more prosecutions under the Hunting Act.

"On the contrary, where there are allegations that the law has been broken, the CPS will continue to work with the police to build cases and decide whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute, as we normally do."

The law is in a mess
Countryside Alliance

He continued: "We have considered the High Court judgement carefully and sought counsel's advice and have decided that the rulings should be accepted and no further appeal be made.

"Having made this decision, we will now be reviewing those cases going through the system which have been waiting on the High Court judgement to see what impact, if any, it may have."

Countryside Alliance chief executive, Simon Hart, said: "The decision not to appeal is an admission that the law is in a mess.

"The only sensible option is to get rid of this badly drafted, unfair and illiberal piece of legislation."



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