Three members of a Nottinghamshire hunt have been found guilty of hunting a fox with dogs.
The members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt said they were trail-hunting around Laneham, near Retford, which remains legal after fox hunting was banned in 2005, and the fox’s death on January 30, 2016, was accidental.
Birdwatchers Phillip Palmer and his partner Pauline Hogg filmed the fox being killed just after 1pm, in a field off Helenship Lane.
Huntsman Paul Larby, 57, of The Kennels, Kennel Drive, Barnby Moor, trail-layer Peter White, 57, of Leyfields Farm, Redhill Lane, Kneesall, and the hunt’s whipper-in Jane Wright, 63, of Town Street, Lound, each pleaded not guilty to offences under the Hunting Act.
Reaching his conclusion after a three day trial, district judge Tim Spruce said: “It’s an inescapable conclusion that the Grove and Rufford Hunt were hunting foxes and not artificial scent trails.
“They maintained they were engaged in trail laying, but I am not convinced that this was the case.
“There were three sightings of foxes in the area and a fox was killed.”
Video footage intended to prove trail laying had taken place was “poor and disturbingly unconvincing.”
The court heard a man was seen in a field who appeared to direct the hunt after a fox, and an eye witness provided evidence of a “terrier man” when none was needed.
No action was taken to call off the hounds from the kill, or to take the hounds in a different direction.
Hunting was an activity which invites derision and attack and false accusations of wrong doing, said district judge Spruce.
Why had White removed the body of the fox, “when in those circumstances you would need to do anything possible to counter these accusations?”
Evidence from expert witness Professor Harris, which the defence had sought to undermine because of an alleged connection to anti-cruel sports groups, was “fully tested” and his opinion that foxes were being hunted was “fully supported” by the other evidence in the case.
District judge Spruce said the three defendants, of previous good character, had given no comment interviews or prepared statements when they were interviewed by the police.
Even when asked - “Is that your trail bike,” White had given a “no comment response”.
“There are a plethora of questions which received no comment responses,” said the judge.
“There was evidence of hostility and suspicion towards Phillip Palmer and his partner Pauline Hogg,” he said.
The couple had asked permission to take pictures of the hunt and their photographs and video enabled a prosecution to be brought.
On the day, Mr Palmer, an accomplished birdwatcher. said : “This is going to be interesting. They must have seen the fox. Clearly they will need to call off the hunt.”
Larby was fined £800, White was fined £550 and Wright, who played a lesser role, was fined £180. All three were orded to pay costs of £248 and an £80 victim surcharge each, at Mansfield Magistrates Court on Tuesday