Anti-hunt campaigners welcome Fitzwilliam huntsman conviction - but appeal could be on the way
Anti-hunt campaigners have welcomed the conviction of a retired Fitzwilliam Huntsman.
On Wednesday 66-year-old George Adams was fined Â£1,000 after being found guilty of hunting a fox with dogs.
Adams was found guilty at Peterborough Magistrates' Court, following a two day trial.
The court had heard how the fox was killed by the dogs on New Years' Day 2016 in a field near Peterborough.
Adams denied the charge, saying the Fitzwilliam Hunt was using the dogs to flush the fox out of cover to allow a Golden Eagle to catch the fox.
Along with the fine, Adams was ordered to pay a Â£100 victim surcharge and Â£930 costs.
Falconer John Mease was cleared of both hunting a wild mammal with dogs, and causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal, in relation to a different incident in 2013.
Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports director of campaigns, said: "The District Judge said this huntsman was trying to cover up illegal hunting by pretending to use a bird of prey. "Week on week we see examples of hunts trying to cover up illegal hunting by pretending that they are following fake trails rather than actual animals. Slowly but surely the deception of hunts is being exposed and punished.
“We welcome this conviction and hope it will act as a deterrent to prevent fox hunts from illegally hunting with hounds and literally tearing their quarry to pieces.
“This conviction sends a message to hunts across the country that chasing and killing British wildlife will not be tolerated and that you could be successfully prosecuted for persecuting animals and breaking the law.”
He added: " The hunting of foxes, hares and deer was made illegal in 2004 but sadly hunts across the country continue to hunt illegally – we have received 550 reports of illegal hunting since the beginning of the hunting season last autumn, though these figures are merely the tip of the iceberg and many thousands of animals are still being killed every year.
“Polling shows that 85 per cent of people are in favour of keeping the hunting ban so we have the overwhelming support of the British public. Now we need to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring in tougher sentencing including custodial terms for the criminals who are still engaged in barbaric blood sports.”
Lee Moon, Spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, thanked Cambridgeshire police for their investigation.
He said: “To anyone who witnessed the events on the day in question it was abundantly clear that a wild mammal was hunted and killed illegally, in a most gruesome manner. Although a fox had to suffer and die due to the blatant and remorseless actions of the defendants we are pleased that hunt saboteurs were able to bring at least one of them (Huntsman at the time, George Adams) to justice and would like to thank Cambridgeshire police who conducted a robust and unbiased investigation.
The loopholes and exemptions in the current act have always been cynically exploited by hunts in order to operate much as they would have done prior to the ban. The guilty verdict today proves that hunting with a full pack of hounds is not the same as Falconry and the judge in summing up confirmed as much. The outcome today will of course have wider reaching implications for all those hunts around the country who claim to use this exemption.
We will continue to vigorously oppose those who gain enjoyment from the torture and killing of our wildlife and will use all the tools at our disposal to those ends. We have the overwhelming support of the general public who wish to see an end to the barbaric minority pastime.”
Following the conviction Adrian Simpson from the Countryside Alliance said they believed the judge had made the wrong decision.
He said: "We are obviously disappointed. We find it quite strange really - I think everybody does. The judge has found one of the defendants guilty, he's cleared the other defendant of two charges and we think he has got it wrong. The strong advice from our legal team is we will be appealing the judgement."
He added hunts across the country did their best to stay within the law - and the verdict would not have an impact on hunting practice..
He said: "Various hunts around the country use a variety of exemptions such as trail hunting and hound exercising and various exemptions within the act and of course they all endevour to hunt within the law."
The Peterborough Telegraph contacted The Fitzwilliam Hunt regarding the conviction.They sent a statement from The Countryside Alliance’s Chief Executive Tim Bonner, who said: “We were very pleased to see John Mease cleared of all charges, but the verdict in George Adams’ case is completely bizarre. No-one could have done more to work within the law as George had been doing very successfully for 10 years before the incident that led to this case.“We hope George will appeal and he will have our absolute backing. There is a history of Hunting Act convictions where the court has misapplied the law, and been misled over the practice of hunting, being overturned at appeal. It is likely that this case will go the same way.”
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “We take breaches of the Hunting Act very seriously and we will do all we can to bring people to justice who do not comply with the law.”