The hunting community is hopeful it’s one step closer to a repeal of the Hunting Act after a case involving organised hunting has been dismissed.

The case against Ullswater foxhounds huntsman John Harrison collapsed on 17 September after district judge Gerald Chalk ruled there was no evidence that he had pursued an “identifiable mammal at any stage”.

This follows a clarification of the Hunting Act made by High Court judges earlier this year (news, 12 February).

Mr Harrison appeared before Penrith magistrates accused of hunting with dogs on two counts on 19 November 2008, but denied the allegations.

“It’s a huge relief for me and the whole hunting community in Cumbria,” said Mr Harrison.

“The Ullswater will be hunting within the law again this season and we are looking forward to the repeal of the Act so that we can resume hunting free from this terrible legislation.”

Six “hunt monitors” from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) gave evidence against Mr Harrison, with video footage of the two alleged incidents.

An IFAW witness claimed footage showed a fox being dug out then pursued by hounds. But this could not be proved.

Stephen Welford, Mr Harrison’s solicitor, told H&H: “It is a great shame so much time, effort and expense has gone into prosecuting when evidence clearly doesn’t exist.”

Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner said there have only been three successful prosecutions against hunting in the four years since the Hunting Act and that there are no more prosecutions pending.

He added:“LACS and the antis are on their knees, it’s a real body blow for them. They have failed again — and in spectacular style.”

But the Hunting Office believes that monitors may be trying to create a high-profile public order incident to destabilise the chances of repeal, so it has sent a memo to hunts.

Tim Easby from the Hunting Office said: “What monitors would love is a reaction, so we are urging hunts not to be intimidated or aggravated. We must keep one step ahead and maintain the excellent discipline demonstrated so far.”

A LACS spokesman said: “We are disappointed with the decision, but obviously we have to respect what the judge says.”

This news story was first published in H&H (24 September, ’09)