Four members of the Middleton Foxhounds, a registered fox hunt based at Malton, pleaded guilty in respect of the illegal hunting of a fox in December 2012,
Following footage obtained by the League Against Cruel Sports during a hunt meet at Full Sutton, huntsman Tom Holt, of Leavening, whipper-in Shaun Marles, of Titley, Kington, terrierman Lee Martin, of Birdsall, and amateur terrierman Brian Cuthbertson, of Norton, all pleaded guilty in absence in respect of Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004 – the offence of Hunting a Wild Mammal with a Dog.
The four appeared before magistrates in York. Holt was fined £200 plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs, a total £305; Marles was fined £100 plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs, £205 in total; Martin was fined £100 plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs, £205 in total; and Cuthbertson was granted a conditional discharge for 12 months, with £15 victim surcharge and £85 costs, £100 in total.
The case concerned an incident which was video-recorded by members of the League’s Investigations Team, who saw a fox take refuge from the hunt in a stack of hay bales.
The animal was trapped in the bales for over 25 minutes, with hunt staff using terriers, sticks and hounds to force the fox to flee into the open. Eventually it did attempt to escape, and was brought down and torn apart by the waiting pack of hounds.
The huntsman could then clearly be seen, and was filmed, using his hunting horn to blow the traditional call for a kill - used when hunting was legal. He then picked up the fox carcass and held it over the hounds so that they could better attack and ‘rag’ it.
Paul Tillsley, Head of Investigations at the League and one of the team that filmed the incident, said: “While we are pleased with this result, and the admission of guilt from the hunt staff concerned, we doubt it will change their behaviour going forward, or that the hunt themselves will admit illegal hunting and change their ways.
“We know that many hunts are regularly out there breaking the law, and that’s precisely why we have a team of professional Investigators in the field – to capture illegal activity and work with the relevant authorities to bring about prosecutions.”
He continued: “This case is one of several from our work during the last hunting season (2012/13), but a new season is just beginning. We can only hope that successful cases like this will make hunts think twice about continuing to blatantly flout the law, and start adapting their practices to hunt false trails, leaving animals well alone. This was the will of the British public when the Hunting Act 2004 was passed, but sadly it didn’t save this fox. The successful outcome of this case today is a clear example of how the Hunting Act 2004 can, and does, work when enforced.”