The High Court has ruled this morning that prosecutions under the Hunting Act should be handled as “innocent until proven guilty”.

The landmark judgment will affect all prosecutions under the Hunting Act from now on, and some retrospectively, including that of Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright.

Mr Wright won his appeal against a conviction for unlawful hunting but in December the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) asked for clarification of the points of law used to win his case.

Now two top judges have agreed the CPS must prove hunts have broken the law and the Countryside Alliance says the ruling will make the prosecution of many offences brought under the Hunting Act “much more difficult”.

The High Court was asked to decide whether hunts have a right to say they are “innocent until proven guilty” when claiming the defence of hunting under an exemption, and what is meant by “hunting”.

Speaking to H&H this morning Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright said he was hugely relieved a case that had dragged on for three years was now over.

“I’m delighted and hope it will have a positive effect on the cases still to be heard,” he said.

“I don’t know if this is the end of it, but it is a relief that things have turned out this way. It has been a long time to endure, but it has been worth it.”

“It has at least helped to put several nails in the coffin of the Hunting Act.”

  • See next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (12 February) for full reaction to the judgment, what it means for hunts and the future that lies ahead.