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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 04:12 GMT
Hunting: What happens next?
Hunt supporters say they will continue efforts to overturn the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales. BBC News examines what happens next.

Did the hunting ban go ahead as planned on 18 February?

Yes. The Countryside Alliance had its latest legal bid thwarted on 16 February when three Appeal Court judges rejected its argument that the Hunting Act was unlawful.

The Countryside Alliance had claimed that the 1949 Parliament Act, which MPs used to introduce the Hunting Act after House of Lords opposition, is invalid.

It was appealing against a High Court ruling on 28 January that the act was clearly valid.

Three Appeal Court judges described the challenge as "unusual, and in modern times probably unprecedented".

The Countryside Alliance is now taking that appeal on to the House of Lords.

Will prosecutions go ahead?

It is unclear. The attorney general has ruled out a "blanket policy of non-enforcement", which the Countryside Alliance wanted to be put in place until all its legal avenues were exhausted.

In a statement, his office said: "The attorney general will, however, consider with the director of public prosecutions and police what approach to take in relation to such prosecutions, and will be holding a meeting in the near future for that purpose."

Are pro-hunt campaigners mounting any other legal challenges?

The Countryside Alliance has lodged a petition with the High Court for a judicial review of the Hunting Act on human rights grounds.

Ten claimants from England and Wales are cited in the petition and the organisation expects a hearing sometime in the spring.

The government has said it is confident such an action will also fail. Ministers signed statements during the progress of the legislation through parliament confirming the Act was compatible with human rights legislation. For this reason, the challenge will be heard, initially at least, in the British courts. But any appeal could see the issue being resolved in Strasbourg.

Which articles of the European Convention on Human Rights does the Countryside Alliance believe the act contravenes?

There are seven in total. These include the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions, respect for private life, right to association and assembly for a common purpose, freedom of thought and freedom from discrimination on class grounds.

The Alliance also claims that the government has contravened the convention's seizure and forfeiture rules, and that the criminal offences created by the Act are not precise enough for people to know when they are committing an offence.

If the human rights challenge succeeds, will the Hunting Act be suspended?

Not necessarily. The courts only have the power to declare it incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Parliament would then consider how, if at all, to change the Act to make it compatible. That would not affect the continuing legal force of the Act.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why the judges rejected the hunt supporters' case



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