A trial of three members of the Derwent Hunt was dismissed recently by a magistrate who ruled there was “no case to answer” due to ‘insufficient evidence’ –despite video footage showing the pack of hounds in full pursuit of a fox.

Wildlife protection organisation the League Against Cruel Sports disagrees with the magistrate’s decision, and believes the evidence clearly shows illegal hunting.

The footage, captured by member of the Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs Tommy Woodward, shows riders dressed in red waiting with a full pack of hounds outside a small copse as terriermen are sent in. Shortly after, the footage shows the hound pack in full pursuit of a fox, with no attempt to recall them seen from the hunt staff.

On the description of his video footage as insufficient evidence, Tommy Woodward said:

“I understand that proving intent is difficult, but if footage of three hunt officials and two terrier men waiting for 10 minutes in a wood, followed by the hounds being released in pursuit of a fox doesn’t  prove intent, then what does?

“If the hunt weren’t there to catch foxes, why did they have terrier men with them? These men are only used to dig out foxes that have escaped underground – so why were they there if the hunt was just out for a ride? There are way too many questions that needed to be answered, so the fact this didn’t even make it to court is shocking.”

Traditionally, terrier men are present on a hunt to introduce terriers to a hole in the ground to flush out or force a wild animal to escape, or to dig it out and kill it.

Of the case’s dismissal, Steve Harris, former Police Officer and Head of Enforcement and Legal resources at the League Against Cruel Sports said that the prosecution case simply hadn’t been presented in the right way:

“There can be no justice in this country if the Crown Prosecution Service are going to send lawyers who have had no wildlife crime training and are unfamiliar with the legislation, to prosecute in a criminal trial, having never seen the prosecution evidence before the morning of that trial.

“The prosecuting lawyer in this case was then faced in court with a defence team comprising three experienced solicitors and a specialist barrister. The prosecution lawyer - probably through no fault of his own - stood no chance against such well-prepared, experienced adversaries. We acknowledge the hard work and impartiality of North Yorkshire Police in their investigation of this case; it must be demoralising for the police and for witnesses when they are failed so badly by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Free training and guidance material on the Hunting Act is available for prosecuting lawyers; only when CPS lawyers are properly trained and prepared for trial can there be a realistic prospect of conviction in these cases.”

Hunting was banned in 2004 under the Hunting Act, but the League says it is often hard to catch hunts in the act of chasing and killing a fox, and even if they are caught, it is hard to prove in court.

The latest polling from Ipsos MORI, conducted in 2016 on behalf of the League, shows 84% of people think fox hunting should remain illegal.