The case, at Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court, involved six members of the Devon based Lamerton Hunt who were each being prosecuted by the League for hunting a wild mammal with dogs contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act.

A League Spokesperson said: “The League was advised to withdraw from the trial following a prolonged cross-examination of our expert witness, internationally renowned small mammal expert Professor Steve Harris, which alleged that he wasn’t ‘impartial’.”

We’ve taken legal advice and are withdrawing because without the evidence given by Professor Harris, we would be unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty of an offence. We still strongly believe that the Lamerton Hunt were hunting illegally, and strongly encourage people to look at the video footage and decide for themselves what they are seeing.

The Spokesperson added: “We’re also saddened by the way Professor Harris had his character assassinated by the defence lawyer. He was cross-examined, harangued and hounded for two and a half hours, all in an ultimately successful attempt to make it look as though he was in some way connected inappropriately with the League, which we vigorously deny. Professor Harris is an internationally respected fox expert so to see him pursued and savaged in court was shameful, but unfortunately this is typical of the way fox hunts are defended in a desperate attempt to deflect away from the real details of the case.”

The case revolves around an incident on 26th March 2014 which was filmed by a team of our investigators. The hunt was witnessed encouraging the hounds to find and follow a fox, which led them to an earth containing at least two fox cubs. The hunt was filmed following the hounds to the fox earth, and calling in terriermen who arrived at the scene. A little while later, the terriermen and huntsmen left the scene. One of the terriermen was filmed laughing and joking while he pulled a very young fox cub out of his pocket. He then took the cub away with him.

The spokesperson said: “The hunt are claiming they laid a trail and came across the foxes by accident. They are also claiming that they were carrying out pest control by killing the foxes to protect game birds. We believe that these two excuses contradict each other, and in any case, believe that whatever reason they give, the evidence showed that they were clearly illegally hunting.”

The prosecution was taken by the League on the advice of a Barrister and a QC who both believed there was a case to answer.

“We stand by our decision to take this private prosecution,” said the Spokesperson. “We cannot let hunts get away with what we still believe is a bang to rights case of illegal hunting. We wanted the judicial process to make a decision on this case, and we want the world to know that the League Against Cruel Sports will not stand by and let hunts flout the law. We may have had to withdraw, but anyone with common sense can see what this hunt were doing.”

Regarding claims made by the Countryside Alliance: Professor Harris and Paul Tillsley have a professional relationship, based on the fact that Paul runs the League Against Cruel Sports’ wildlife sanctuary, and Professor Harris occasionally visits to view and study wildlife. Rachel Newman was aware of this. She did not tell Professor Harris to ‘keep it quiet’, and in fact advised him always to be open and honest. Professor Harris also denies that he was told to keep quiet, and rightly says he would have ignored any request to do so!

Professor Harris is internationally recognised as a world expert on fox behaviour, so it is natural that his scientific research is used to demonstrate that hunting has nothing to do with fox control. It is for this reason alone that the pro-hunt lobby want to see the back of him, because he has exposed the true nature of what they do. Professor Harris is a neutral, expert voice on this subject, and any attempt to rubbish him is unwarranted and shameful.