A huntsman in Suffolk has been convicted of illegally hunting a fox for ‘sport’ and assaulting a man attempting to stop him killing the animal.

Christopher Amatt of the Thurlow Hunt was found guilty of the charges following a three-day trail at Ipswich Crown Court which ended yesterday. Another man was convicted for assault.

The trial came about after Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire Saboteurs and the North Cambs Saboteurs attended the Boxing Day hunt at Great Thurlow and heard the chilling sound of a pack of dogs in full cry on the scent of a fox. They then witnessed the Thurlow Hunt dogs chase and kill a fox in woodland.

A saboteur who picked up the dead fox was then wrestled to the ground and assaulted.

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns, at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“Despite fox hunting being banned 14 years ago, the hunts are tragically still out chasing and killing foxes.

We welcome the joint actions of the saboteurs and police in bringing to justice these criminal thugs.”

District judge Nick Watson said he was sure Amatt had taken the dogs into the woods; knowing there was likely to be a fox, encouraging the hounds to hunt, and refusing to intervene when saboteurs arrived.

The judge fined Amatt, of Gaines Hall, Attleton Green, £150 for hunting a fox in breach of the Hunting Act 2004 and fined him £100 for common assault. He also ordered him to pay £600 in prosecution costs.

Another man associated with the hunt – Clifton-Brown, of Little Bradley Hall, Haverhill – was fined £150 for assault by beating and was told to pay £450 prosecution costs. Both men were ordered to pay a statutory £30 victim surcharge.

Sergeant Brian Calver from the Rural Crime Team speaking at the conclusion of the trial said:

 "The Hunting Act came into force in 2005 and as such, there’s no excuse for those involved in this pastime to carry out such acts. The legislation makes it quite clear what can and cannot be done and those involved have a duty to be conversant with the rules.

"The fact that Amatt has been found guilty of these crimes today sends out a clear message to those who actively commit offences against wildlife. Where sufficient credible evidence is available, we will investigate these matters and bring those to justice that feel they can cause harm to our wildlife, with no regards for the welfare of the animals involved.”

Chris Luffingham added:

“This is believed to be the first such conviction in Suffolk and does credit to the integrity, impartiality and perseverance of the Suffolk Constabulary Rural Crime Team and Sergeant Brian Calver in particular.

“The Hunting Act would benefit from amendment to make prosecutions less complex for the police and the CPS, but this conviction shows that the Act is enforceable when trained police officers and prosecutors, who understand the legislation and the issues, are determined to uphold the law.”