A judge has dismissed an appeal by two hunt employees convicted of breaching hunting laws.
Huntsman Derek Hopkins and terrierman Kevin Allen, of the Harborough-based Fernie Hunt, were found guilty earlier this year of hunting a live fox and digging into an active badger sett.
However, the pair had maintained they were hunting an artificial trail when caught on film by hunt monitors.
They also claimed they had dug into a hole to shoot a fox that had gone to ground, not to release it so it could be hunted.
The pair both maintained they had examined the hole and believed it was not a badger sett in current use.
Yesterday, at the end of a five-day appeal into their convictions, Judge Michael Pert QC confirmed the convictions and accused the Fernie Hunt of using the “cover of trail hunting as a cynical subterfuge.”
Judge Pert said: “It is clear to us that the hunt was hunting a live fox.”
He said he and two magistrates were convinced that the hunt had dug into an active badger sett. He added: “We found Hopkins to be an unconvincing witness. We found Allen to be shifty and evasive.”
However, he praised the objectivity of the four investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports, who filmed the hunt on January 27, 2010.
He also said the court found that the evidence given by badger experts Dr Pam Mynott and Professor Stephen Harris convincing.
He said: “It may be the fact that a day will come when the Hunting Act is repealed. But the law is the law.”
The pair’s original sentences were also confirmed by the court. Hopkins (46), of Welham Road, Great Bowden, was fined a total of £850 with a £15 victim surcharge and £1,250 costs.
He was ordered to pay £3,630 additional costs to cover the appeal. Allen (52), of Nether Green, Great Bowden, was fined a total of £650 with a £15 victim surcharge and £900 costs. He was also ordered to pay £2,730 additional costs.
Both Hopkins and Allen refused to comment on the outcome.
Tim Bonner, of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFA), said: “We are extremely disappointed by the verdict on the Protection of Badgers Act convictions. We maintain that it was not a badger sett in current use.”
He said the Fernie Hunt and the other members of the MFA would take on board the issues raised on the hunting charges.
After the decision, Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, described the appeal as “ridiculous”.
He said: “Anyone who sees this film will see the clear actions of a hunt intent on pursuing a fox.”
Mr Duckworth said the hunting community had been asked to contribute to appeal costs which runs into tens of thousands of pounds.