Posts Tagged ‘CPS’

I was asked on Twitter recently to write an article on why the CPS dropped a case against the Cotswold Hunt. The incident took place on the 21st October last year. That time of year meant it was a cubbing meet. The incident was filmed by a sab from Three Counties Hunt Sabs.

Before I go over the incident itself I think we should remind ourselves what the difficulties are when attempting a prosecution within the Hunting Act. I’ve mentioned several times before that the level of burden of proof to secure a conviction is set way too high. This is just one of the many problems with the current legislation and of course something which hunts will cynically exploit. Having been through the whole court process several times now and seen how cases are defended and all the tricks the hunts and their legal teams will employ to clear themselves the CPS will have to be fairly confident they’ll have a decent chance of winning. They also have to fulfill all the relevant criteria for it to be considered in the public interest. This doesn’t just mean whether the general public would see this as something they should be pursuing but also, and most importantly, if it’s worth spending the courts time and public money on the prosecution. If they don’t believe they will gain a successful prosecution then it wouldn’t be in the public interest to proceed.

The main point to prove in a court is the “intent“. Most hunts will claim it was an accident or some fox jumped out in front of the hounds because it was feeling depressed and wanted to end it all. Another is to claim it was the presence of sabs or monitors who turned a fox into the hounds while the hunt staff were trying to call them off. All complete nonsense of course but in the Thurlow trial the whip and huntsman both claimed in their statements that there were over 20 sabs in the wood who purposefully formed a “U” shape to head off the fox and turn it into the hounds. Of course our video showed only 3 sabs and them to be complete liars but it perfectly illustrates the depths that they will stoop in order to cover up their dirty little pastime.

Let’s look at what’s needed to prove intent.

1 – The huntsman has to know he is hunting live quarry, that means he’s seen the fox or it be proved that it was impossible for him to not be aware of it.

2 – The huntsman is encouraging the hounds. This is a critical one. You have to show the huntsman making clear encouraging voice calls to the hounds “on . . . on . . . on (or similar)” or doubling of his horn, both well known and accepted hunting calls to push the hounds on to their quarry.

3 – Get all of the above, on video. Hounds, chasing the fox, with the huntsman showing intent.

Anyone who’s spent any time in the field with a hunt will know how hard this is to achieve, purely down to the very fluid nature of hunting and the environment it take place in, not to mention the advantage the hunters have in being able to move over distance far faster than someone on foot.

So let’s get back to the Cotswold Hunt case.

I spoke to the sab involved and have seen the video evidence. It was a very wet day which will make the use of a video camera challenging however I don’t think this will have been a significant factor. Early on you can hear the hounds speaking, the sab is close to the whipper in at the end of a narrow covert on a path between fields. The hounds begin to speak and then a fox appears very close to the whip and runs directly past the sab. The hounds soon appear and the sab does a great job of rating the hounds back and they take off again in a different line.

The whip does nothing.


Fox directly in front of the whip.

Fox runs past sab. Lead hound in the background.

The huntsman then appears and gathers the hounds and takes them off in the direction that the fox went.

A short time time later you can hear the hounds once again in cry, in the far distance you can just about make out the lead hound heading down the hill. You cannot see a fox.

Lead hound is the small white dot on the right of shot.

The rest of the pack can then be seen moments later a short distance behind coming down on the same line.

The sab runs up the hill along the original covert. A holloa is heard coming from a third party. This signifies a fox has been seen and is a direction to the huntsman. The person who made that holloa appears in front of the sab and she notes this in the commentary.

The person responsible for the holloa. Note huntsman in the background.

The hounds and huntsman are now in the bottom of the valley. You can hear several horn calls, these appear to be gathering calls and the sab notes that she thinks they have been called off however another person is seen, it is clear he is carrying the body of a fox.

Removing the dead fox.

It’s fairly evident from the video that this is nothing more than blatant illegal hunting and a fox has been killed. However from the CPS’s point of view there are several issues which they know won’t hold up under scrutiny in court and will be easy enough for any competent defence team to put enough doubt in the judges mind.

First off at the very start of the video the whip is clearly aware of the fox but does nothing to stop the hounds. While this in itself doesn’t not confirm intent it will heavily imply it and any judge seeing this will ask why no action was taken. Secondly the whip is not in control of the hounds, his job is to assist the huntsman so will not have a horn and leave all the commands to the huntsman unless instructed otherwise to do so, this will usually be to gather up lost hounds or to prevent them from straying into areas they don’t want to go.

After the sab rates the hounds the huntsman takes them along the route of the fox, clearly hoping to pick up on it’s line. The sab informs him of the foxes presence. While you’d have to be an idiot to think differently again this could be easily argued in court that the huntsman hadn’t seen any fox and wanted to go in that direction anyway, plus he never believes what sabs say.

The footage of the hounds coming down the hill isn’t clear, you can just about make them out however there is no fox visible. It could be argued that they had pre laid a trail here and the hounds were simply following that. The holloa is the next giveaway however once again that in itself is not something that would provide conclusive evidence that a fox is there. Unless the person was identified by the police and called as witness it’s nothing more than circumstantial at best, plus they could easily lie and say they were shouting for something completely different.

Another issue is there is no film of the hounds chasing the fox or indeed the kill. The next we see is the huntsman gathering the hounds, the sab believes they’ve been called off however she quickly realises they’ve killed with the long distance shot of someone walking away with what appears to be the body of the fox. Again, unless this person is identified all of this is circumstantial. There’s nothing to tie that person with the hounds of the fact that the hounds has in fact killed it.

Going back to my original points with regard to proving intent.

Does the huntsman know he is hunting live quarry, or more importantly does the evidence prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is? Very simply – no.

Can the huntsman be proved beyond reasonable doubt to be showing intent? Again no.

Does the evidence have all of the previously mentioned criteria in the same shot – fox, hounds and huntsman showing intent? No it doesn’t.

The legislation needs to be changed.

In any other case the evidence would no doubt have been enough to gain a conviction and this is why it’s so hard to gain a successful prosecution under the Hunting Act. It could be a very good bit of legislation with a few simple changes and much stiffer penalties. If it was easier to prosecute and there was a real risk of doing time it would be a real deterrent to those who enjoy killing animals for fun. That could also be made to apply to the masters of hunts and not just the staff as it’s the masters who are ultimately responsible for the hunt and their activities on any given day. A paltry fine is easily paid.

Will the leaked webinars from the Hunting Office play a part in future cases?

The whole smokescreen revelations which only went on to confirm what we’ve know all along cannot be ignored by the courts regardless of the outcome of the investigation currently under way. If any hunt can’t prove their hounds were on a trail they are likely to come in for some very stiff questioning if they find themselves in court and most prosecutors will no doubt be able to bring into question their claims of following a trail. Personally I think this is something they will never completely recover from.



We have a guest blog this week, an opinion piece written by someone only known as Scorpiovulpes, a monitor with a vast experience of hunting in England and the often pathetic response of the police and CPS in dealing with this illegal minority pastime. It’s a good read so grab a cuppa and settle in.

I have monitored hunts for twenty five years, and I can honestly say my shock and disgust have not abated one bit during all that time. It seems that the world of hunting is a strange alternative universe existing here among us. All the rules are reversed, all the standard codes are turned on their head.  Accepted norms of behaviour are ignored, and punishment is meted out to the innocent, not the guilty.

The most innocent of the victims of this sinister world are the hunted animals.  There are laws in place in England,  Wales and Scotland which purport to ban hunting and thus protect the hunted animal.  Do they?  Of course they don’t!

These weak laws were drawn up by people who did not understand the true nature of the hunter.  They failed to listen to the people who had the measure of hunters – i.e. the monitors and the sabs.  They totally underestimated the ruthlessness of the hunters, and failed to grasp how determinedly they would continue their cruel pastime no matter what the law said.  They failed to understand that hunters fundamentally believe they are above the law and they can do as they please, that they believe nobody – nobody – can tell them what they may and may not do.


Openly flouting the law.

And so we have a situation, 14 years after the ban was instituted in England and Wales, where hunting continues unabated, covered by the smokescreen of “trail” hunting.  I will state without hesitation my opinion that trail hunting does not exist, and never has.

It is an illusion – well, basically, it’s a con.

So the monitors still have to go out to hunts and do the best they can to film what is really happening, collecting evidence which, in very rare cases, will actually get to court, but more realistically will form part of the library of shocking evidence which will lead to the strengthening of the Hunting Act and the creation of a real ban on hunting, a true death knell for this vile and barbaric practice.  The sabs still go and risk their safety in order to protect the hunted animals and save the lives of as many as they can.

The hunts are absolutely infuriated by the presence of sabs or monitors, whose safety is at real risk every time they go out.  It is common practice for hunts to call in so called “hunt stewards” – typically a particularly nasty species of inadequate and thuggish person who, given a baseball cap with “hunt steward” on the front, think they’re somebody and start throwing their weight around.  They behave in an unbelievably obnoxious way.  They constantly harass and impede the monitors, surrounding them, continuously trying in every possibly way to wind up the monitor they are victimising (usually a female and/or elderly person) to try and make them lose their cool.  I could write a whole book on this subject, but instead I suggest you view the film of this type of behaviour that you will find on all the monitor and sab Facebook pages, and also on You Tube.  These films speak for themselves, and make grim viewing.


Hunt Steward hat but dead behind the eyes and delusions of adequacy.

So we have an orchestrated conspiracy to hunt illegally being conducted between the hunts and their lackeys, the whole scenario being  protected from scrutiny by obstructive, menacing and threatening behaviour .

Well, you might say, the police must be very concerned about this.  They must be shocked to see the film.  The CPS must be very willing to act on the clear filmed evidence presented to them.  This is where you need to grasp the extent of the alternative universe we are talking about,  as the very opposite is the case.  Police scrutinise the film to try to pin something on the innocent monitors (or sabs),  They downplay the seriousness of the behaviour of the stewards.  They churn out the old chestnut “six of one and half a dozen of the other” when it would be obvious to a five year old that this is categorically not the case.

Time and again the monitors and sabs are left shocked and disgusted by the lack of action by the law enforcement agencies over the whole scandal of illegal hunting and its attendant intimidation and violence.

So they turn to Facebook.  For all its faults, Facebook has provided a lifeline for campaigners, and has led to a turning point in the general public’s understanding of the sheer and utter horror of illegal hunting, the cruelty, the deviousness, the thuggery  –  the lengths gone to to protect this abomination from scrutiny.  Sometimes when the absolutely disgusting behaviour of a hunt steward is exposed on Facebook or another arena, the subject of the film uses devious means to have the film taken down.  Fortunately this only works short term as their reasons are bogus and the films are usually reinstated.  But this again shows how secretive and how absolutely without morals are the people involved in hunting.

It is not  only the stewards who behave in a revolting way.  People who no doubt consider themselves to be the cream of society will barge you with their horses, swear at you, persistently drive at very low speeds in front  of you to prevent you keeping up with the hunt, even assault you.


Terrier men – Lowest of the low. What purpose do they have on a “trail” hunt?

So there you have the alternative universe of illegal hunting for your edification.  The hunters throw a threadbare cloak of respectability over themselves with a claim of “trail hunting”.  They lie.  They bully.  They abuse.  They bring in their hunt thugs to protect themselves from scrutiny.  The law enforcers of the land, who are paid by the taxpayer and whom we are told to respect, more often than not support them, sometimes hunt with them.  I have seen a high court judge out hunting, a meet held at a magistrate’s house, ex police officers hunting, uniformed police officers laughing and joking with obnoxious hunt heavies, while a woman monitor was held captive in her car and the police refused to help her.  I have heard a female police officer tell a hunt master she would try and get me to leave the hunt so the hunt could carry on as they wished.  The list goes on and on and on.  You may think that, if the police fail in their duty, there is a robust police complaints system.  All I can say to that is, you try it – and good luck.  Very recently a District Judge found a hunt not guilty of illegal hunting, giving one of the reasons for his decision that he did not believe a hunt master would lie and perjure himself.  This kind of thing leaves those of us at the sharp end of this situation in absolute despair.

I have given you my opinion as a seasoned and long term hunt monitor.  You are free to disbelieve me if you choose, but if so, I ask you to look at the plethora of filmed evidence that unequivocally illuminates the situation.  And ask yourself why all these people would go to such lengths to stop a non-violent individual from legally filming their activities.

We know the public are overwhelmingly against hunting. We know they are absolutely shocked when they see the evidence of what is happening in our countryside on a daily basis during the hunting season.  Between us all we can drag this alternative universe out of the dark ages and expose it to the light.  That way we will see it finally abolished.

That day cannot come soon enough.


The main hunting season may be over in my part of the world but elsewhere animals continue to be pursued by hounds for hours and then when finally exhausted, killed.

Stag and Hind hunting in the south west of England has made the news recently with the footage and evidence being released by my good friends over at Hounds Off which clearly illustrates that it is very much business as usual for the wildlife abusers who are killing with impunity.

For a better understanding of how this type of hunting is being allowed to continue you have to understand how they operate and how they are circumnavigating the law.


Pre-ban image of a stag being shot after a long chase.

Prior to the ban, stags and hinds would have been selected from wild animals in the herd and singled out, then chased by a the pack of hounds over many miles until exhausted where the hounds would have been held at bay. At this point the huntsman would have approached and shot the animal. Sometimes these animals would have been captured before the hunt and then released into the hunting country, often a reserve animal would have been held in a horse box locally should the first escape, thus giving these psychopaths the maximum chance of a kill.

With the Hunting Act coming in to play in 2005 the hunts had to figure out a way to circumnavigate the legislation so they could continue to hunt, much like fox hunts did with the creation of “trail hunting”. There are several exemptions within the hunting act which will allow stalking and flushing out under certain conditions but all of these restrict the number of hounds to 2. This was clearly an issue for the deer hunters so they invented “relay hunting” where several pairs of hounds were used in relays to chase the quarry animal to exhaustion before being killed.

However the Quantock Stag Hounds fell foul of the law in 2007 when they were successfully prosecuted for breaching the Hunting Act while attempting to use this exemption and again in 2010 while claiming to “Rescue a Wild Animal (part 8 para 2).

From the point of view of the hunts there was clearly more work to be done in their efforts to avoid prosecution and for this they looked further afield for inspiration.

Commercial Whaling has been banned since 1986 and yet we’re still seeing these wonderful sentient creatures murdered in some numbers by countries who claim to be using the scientific exemption within the moratorium which allows the killing of whales for vaguely defined scientific purposes. Here was something the UK hunts could use as within the Hunting Act there existed a similar exemption, part 8, para 2;

Research and Observation

“The first condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal”.

What has to be questioned here is what could possible be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by chasing a stag or hind for many miles before finally killing the animal and carving it up to be handed out as trophies? I’d argue with some certainty that we already know pretty much all we’re likely to about these native mammals and there can be no scientific justification for the hunts. However the CPS seem reluctant to take on these cases and the they have recently dropped several against the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds.

What is abundantly clear is that hunting continues much as it did before the ban with the only change being the use of  2 hounds in relays. The Research and Observation exemption really needs to be challenged in the courts but for that to happen we need to be able to get it into the courts in the first place and for the CPS to grow some balls. It shouldn’t be too hard to disprove these nonsensical claims. Of course the best and final way to stop this hunting is a strengthening of the Hunting Act but that will probably also require a change in Government. Removal of these daft exemptions might not stop the hunting completely but it will certainly give the police and CPS a clear direction in prosecuting these criminals.


It’s always disappointing when I hear of cases being dropped by the police or CPS due to lack of evidence or their belief that they don’t think they will get a conviction regardless of the evidence. While some cases are clearly less than certain bearing in mind the limitations of the legislation and the need to prove intent, others would appear to be in the public interest to proceed with. The case submitted by the excellent Cheshire Monitors would appear to be a prime example of this (see here). This is blatant cubbing and a prime example of why the law needs to be strengthened. Every rider in the video is guilty of helping to commit a crime and yet the current legislation doesn’t allow for that.

However it’s not all bad news and this brings me to the point of this blog entry.


Fox killed by the Thurlow on Boxing Day

You may remember I wrote about the kill the Thurlow Hunt made on Boxing Day last year (see here). We submitted video evidence of the whole incident and provided statements to Suffolk Police who acted in a professional manner with the investigation. Now the justice system in the UK can’t ever be described as either quick or efficient and as the months drew on I was beginning to wonder when we would get a decision from the CPS as to how this would progress.

However I’m happy to report that the Huntsman and Whipper In will have to appear in court to answer the charges in relation to the Hunting Act and also for Assault.

This is of course great news.

With one prosecution already under our collective belts we’re confident that we can secure another and again highlight the criminality taking place in our countryside and make the perpetrators pay for their crimes. No doubt they will plead not guilty and I’ll get to lock horns with CA go to man Stephen Welford again but we’ve beaten him once so can do it again. As I’ve said before, with solid evidence and truth on your side it makes things a little easier.

It was also pleasing to note that the fox cub killers at the South Herefordshire Hunt will finally face the courts. Huge respect goes to the Hunt Investigation Team for their tireless work on this. The further revelations that came to light shortly after the breaking of the original story that the reason for the delays was the smear campaign against the investigating officer (see here). It is quite frankly a disgrace that this officer had to suffer this treatment while the real criminals were walking free. It also shows the levels in which the hunting community will stoop in an effort to subvert the course of justice and cover their own arses, regardless of the horrors committed in the name of their grubby little hobby. I would hope the person who made these outrageous allegations will be investigated themselves for wasting police time but that’s probably too much to hope for.


It would seem that there will be no appeal of the Fitzwilliam case (see here). The time has now run out to submit an appeal and at the time of writing I haven’t been informed of any further proceedings. Although the CA made lots of noise about it at the time it was very much left in the hands of the huntsman, George Adams. His performance in court left a lot to be desired and came across as a very poor witness. He’s clearly decided he would rather not go through all that again and as he’s now retired would seem somewhat pointless.

Finally a hello to all the hunt types who read this blog. It’s good you read another point of view (you may learn something) and boost my figures. A special nod goes to the lovely chap who recognised me at the weekend after we packed up the Dove Valley Mink (Otter) Hounds meet he was attending. Fame wasn’t really something I sought out but it was nice anyway and made me smile. I guess I must be doing something right.