Three hunt members who have had their fines quashed after they were cleared of blame over the death of a fox have said the CPS failed to disclose evidence which they say would have cleared them.
Paul Larby, Peter white and Jane Wright of the Grove and Rufford Hunt made the comments after they won their appeal against their conviction last year of hunting a mammal with dogs.
The CPS deny disclosure of evidence was the reason for not contesting the appeal.
The trio won their appeal having previously been found guilty at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court – they denied a breach of the Hunting Act on January 30, 2016.
They say that 50 pictures which showed them trying to stop their pack of dogs attacking a fox were not disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service during the trial.
The fox’s death was caught on camera by birdwatcher Phillip Palmer. He told the court that he saw a man in green pointing the direction it had run at Laneham, near Retford.
Three Grove and Rufford Hunt members were originally prosecuted and found guilty after a trial at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.
Paul Larby, 59, is quoted as saying in a national newspaper: “They showed the position of the riders and that I was trying to stop them vocally and by using my horn. It was all over in 30 seconds.”
Halfway through their appeal at Nottingham Crown Court, the prosecution decided not to pursue the case and the appeal was granted by Mr Recorder Roger Evans, sitting with a magistrate.
Mr Larby said he and his colleagues being branded criminals was a living nightmare, but the appeal ruling had given them ‘a huge sense of relief’.
Stephen Welford, the lawyer for the huntsmen and woman said it was ‘a glaring failure’.
He said the crucial photographs which had not been handed over to the defence at the original trial had emerged during an appeal hearing last week.
“Unfortunately, when accusations like this are made, certain members of the police and prosecution take the view that your clients are guilty before they’ve been tried,” said Mr Welford.
He added: ‘Those pictures showed members of the hunt trying to get to hounds to stop them after they had chased the fox that had come out of a hedge.”
Mr Welford said this evidence proved the case should have never been brought to court.
However a spokesman for the CPS denied any evidence was withheld at the magistrates’ court or that prosecutors decided to not contest the appeal case because of issues surrounding disclosure.
She said: “Before the trial, in October 2016, 209 photos and a video were disclosed to the defence.
“During that trial, police uncovered further photos and these were also disclosed, however, the defence saw them and did not ask that they were adduced as evidence.
“Part way through the appeal hearing, following a review of our position, we decided we would no longer contest the application.
“This decision was not taken due to disclosure issues.”
A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police said: “This is not a case of failing to disclose.
We complied with disclosure responsibilities and are disappointed with this outcome but respect the decision of the CPS.”