A HUNTSMAN with the Tiverton Staghounds has been charged with raping a woman.
John Norrish, 67, from Mouseberry Farm, East Worlington, is due to appear in front of magistrates in Exeter today. The offence is alleged to have happened on Saturday, July 2, at a property in the Crediton area.
The arrest and investigation, which followed a complaint made to Devon & Cornwall Police, has sent shockwaves through the hunting community.
Mr Norrish is well known in equestrian circles, and has acted in various capacities for several hunts in the Westcountry for nearly 40 years.
Sources told the Gazette that another man had been recruited to undertake some of his duties while an investigation was being carried out.
However, one member of the hunt disputed this and said he was still very much involved in the staghounds.
Another hunt member, who did not want to be named, said the matter was being treated as a private issue and that Mr Norrish still had the support of other Tiverton Staghounds members.
Colin Burnell, the chairman of the hunt, declined to comment.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “I can confirm that a man in his sixties is due to appear at Central Devon Magistrates Court on Tuesday, September 27.
“He has been charged with raping an adult female at an address in Devon on July 2 of this year.”
The force declined to give the age of the alleged victim or the address at which the alleged offence was said to have taken place.
The Tiverton Staghounds have a loyal following in Tiverton and the surrounding countryside, and regularly feature in the main ring at the Mid Devon Show.
Since the hunting ban the hunt has organised drag and trail hunts.
The staghounds also organises a number of social events throughout the year, runs a pony club for junior members and is involved in point to point.