A hunt steward in Somerset has been fined for using threatening behaviour towards two hunt saboteurs.

Mervyn Dowell, a steward and chairman of the hunt supporters’ committee for the Cotley Harriers, was last week fined £80 for using threatening behaviour towards self-styled “hunt monitors” Graham Forsythe and Helen Weeks, when they were filming the Harriers near Chard on 26 December.

“The police contacted Mr Dowell to say they had filmed evidence to suggest a breach under section four of the Public Order Act,” said the Cotley Harriers’ secretary Edmund Bailhache,who is also a solicitor.

“We haven’t reviewed the evidence and have no real idea of what happened, but because there was only Mr Dowell on one side versus the three ‘monitors’, we decided the weight of evidence could be against him in court and that we would take what the police are offering.”

Mr Dowell has accepted the fixed penalty ticket and £80 fine offered with no caution, no arrest, no conviction and no court case.

Mr Bailhache added: “The anti brigade, like everyone else, has realised the Hunting Act is completely unworkable and has not stopped people meeting on horseback
with hounds.

“Now the antis are coming out to film people and their objective is to be thoroughly provocative.”

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “Responding to provocation in this way is unhelpful.The question has to be asked, however, which other sections of
society are exposed to this sort of vigilante behaviour?

“The constant filming of individuals engaged in legitimate activity is simply provocation and, unfortunately, in this instance it has managed to achieve the desired result.”

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (8 February, ’07)