Hare hunt trial highlights police and prosecution failures
The League Against Cruel Sports will be writing to the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service for Wildlife Crime highlighting its concerns in a bid to ensure that future prosecutions are taken more seriously and better resourced.
Stuart Harrison, ‘Huntsman’* for the Claro Beagles, appeared in a court case at York Magistrates on Monday January 21 but was acquitted of hunting a hare with a pack of hounds near Wetherby in North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Police pressed charges under the incorrect section of the using Section 3 rather than Section 1. Although this was rectified at the start of the trial, it led to much of the evidence becoming inadmissible.
The police investigation was conducted by North Yorkshire Police based on video footage obtained by three professional Investigators employed by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports.
However, it appeared there was no case conference before the trial and the barrister was poorly briefed and unable to counter the defence arguments that it was a rabbit and not a hare being hunted, which would be legal under current legislation.
The League is looking for more video evidence which shows that hares, rather than rabbits, were being targeted by this hunt.
Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:
“There were a catalogue of errors with this case that should have been resolved before trial – sadly this is not an isolated case and there have been too many cases where the police and Crown Prosecution Service have failed to successfully prosecute wildlife crimes.
“We look forward to working more closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and police forces, to ensure we can operate more effectively in future court cases.
“We need to strengthen the hunting ban to remove the loopholes that exist and ensure we have stronger sentences for those convicted of wildlife crime.”
The case comes 14 years after hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales with the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, which came into force in February 2005.
The League has established that 81 separate packs of beagles, harriers and bassett hounds are still targeting hares in 2019. Of these, 62 are beagle packs
* A ‘Huntsman’ is employed by the hunt and is responsible for directing the pack during the day’s hunting.
A League petition called ‘Stop the killing of animals by hunts in the UK’ attracted over 100,000 signatures and was handed into Downing Street in December.
League Against Cruel Sports President and naturalist and TV presenter Bill Oddie joined League CEO Andy Knott MBE for the hand-in.
Details of the League’s petition which is still open here: