A prominent West huntsman has been charged by police for breaking the controversial hunting ban – just weeks before the General Election that could see the law scrapped.
Richard Down, the huntsman of the Quantock Staghounds, is facing one charge under the 2004 Act in a prosecution brought by Avon and Somerset police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The alleged offence took place on what is understood to be National Trust land on the Quantocks in Somerset, next to a sanctuary owned by the League Against Cruel Sports.
The prosecution is understood to have been mounted based on video evidence gathered by League monitors at a hunting meet in September last year.
Mr Down is still one of the few hunters in Britain with a successful conviction against him – he and his whipper-in were fined Pounds 500 three years ago for breaking the ban.
The prosecution – and that of a hunter in Cumbria – were welcomed by the League, which has suffered a number of legal blows in the past year.
“We are delighted to see the police taking allegations of Hunting Act offences seriously,” said chief executive Douglas Batchelor.
“Avon and Somerset currently have two cases and there is one each in North Yorkshire and the East Midlands.
We have a further five cases at the preparation stage.
“The suggestion from the pro-bloodsports lobby that the Hunting Act is unenforceable is clearly nonsense.
“Our covert observers are visiting the length and breadth of the country to keep tabs on the activities of hunts. We are delighted with the cases so far this season and will continue our work to bring those who abuse our wildlife to justice,” he added.
Mr Down will next month ride in a Countryside Alliance fund- raising horse race at Ascot, and is being supported by the alliance.
Spokesman Tim Bonner said: “No one from a hunt has been convicted of any Hunting Act offence since January 2008 and we would expect this case to fail as the last five Hunting Act cases have.
“Avon and Somerset police have been put in an impossible situation – asked to enforce an unworkable law – and it is a great shame they have to waste their time and taxpayers’ money on cases like this,” he added.
“There may well be a government elected with a manifesto commitment to repeal the Act before this case gets to court,” he added.
Based on video evidence