Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 13:46 UK

Judge steps down from hunt case

A High Court judge has removed himself from a case involving a hunt because he had expressed anti-hunting views in his previous career as an MP.

Mr Justice Cranston was due to hear an application by the Sussex-based Crawley and Horsham Hunt for an injunction against a group of hunt monitors.

It emerged in court on that he had backed the hunt ban as a Labour MP.

Hunt lawyers applied for Mr Justice Cranston - Dudley North MP until 2005 - not to hear the case. The judge agreed.

'No passionate belief'

The court heard Sir Ross Cranston said in a press release in 2000 he welcomed the chance to vote in favour of the Hunting Bill and "consign this brutal practice to the dustbin of history".

On Monday, the judge said he had no recollection of the press release, but added an MP's vote in favour of a bill did not necessarily amount to an expression of a passionate personal belief.

He also said he had taken the Judicial Oath to "do right to all manner of people ... without fear or favour, affection or ill will".

But he agreed to "recuse" himself from hearing the case because the public might take the view that he was biased in favour of one side in the case.

The legal bid will be heard by another judge at a later date.

The legal costs amounting to several thousand pounds of the hearing, which was the first day of a scheduled four-day case, will be met from public funds.

Crawley and Horsham Hunt went to the High Court to seek an injunction to ban hunt monitors entering acres of private estate and farmland before the hunting season begins.

Lawyers for the hunt said they were seeking a ruling by 1 September, but because of the summer law recess the case is now unlikely to be heard until October.



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