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High Court delivers blow to Hunting Act

[Wednesday 04 February 2009]

The High Court has today upheld the quashing of a guilty verdict in the case of the first huntsman to be prosecuted under the Hunting Act - rejecting an appeal by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the ruling, saying it will make the prosecution of many Hunting Act offences much more difficult.

The Hunting Act is an increasingly pointless piece of legislation that offered little and has achieved less

Simon Hart - Countryside Alliance

Tony Wright was originally prosecuted for an alleged offence which occurred a few weeks after the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005. He was found guilty in the Magistrates Court, but his conviction was subsequently overturned in Exeter Crown Court.

The CPS appealed that judgment arguing that it should have been for Mr Wright to prove that he was hunting legally, and that ‘hunting a mammal’ includes ‘searching’ for it. The High Court today rejected that appeal.

Tony Wright said: “This prosecution has now dragged on for over three years and during that time I have been living under the threat of a criminal conviction. If this judgment, though, makes it less likely that other people will face the sort of vindictive prosecution that I have been through then it has all been worth it.”

Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Even before today’s judgment only five people connected to hunts have been convicted of any offence since the Act came into force. The CPS argued in court that if it lost this appeal ‘prosecutions under the 2004 Act would rarely be viable’ so there should now be even fewer prosecutions. The Hunting Act is an increasingly pointless piece of legislation that offered little and has achieved less. Politicians of all parties are coming to realise that it has failed and it is now a question of when, not if, the Hunting Act is repealed.”

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