Case dropped against hunting men arrested in dawn raids in 2007

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Charges of illegal hunting have been dropped against four men connected with the Isle of Wight hunt who were arrested in dawn raids two years ago.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) dropped its private prosecution of the Isle of Wight hunt last week, saying its evidence was “no longer of sufficient quality and quantity to support a case”.

The decision comes despite LACS maintaining to H&H for months that it would continue with the case.

In May 2007, Isle of Wight huntsman Stuart Trousdale, falconer Jamie Butcher, amateur whipper-in Liam Thom and field master Malcolm Purcell were all charged with hunting a fox with dogs.

Hampshire Police carried out dawn raids on 3 May 2007, including one on the hunt’s kennels at Gatcombe in Newport, to arrest the men. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) later decided not to prosecute, so the case was taken up privately by LACS.

The prosecution is the last to be dropped following High Court clarification of the Hunting Act earlier this year.

Prosecutions against the Heythrop hunt and Devon and Somerset Staghounds have already been discontinued.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said the news was the “clearest possible evidence that the Hunting Act is on borrowed time”.

“LACS told us that practically every time hounds leave their kennels an offence is being committed. They have told us that the ‘exemptions’ [in the Hunting Act] are so tightly drawn and that hunting with a bird of prey cannot be done,” said Mr Hart.

“Well they made the decision to prosecute this case on the basis that it was the strongest they had and yet it has not even gone to trial.”

He added: “They have admitted what we have known for a long time — the Hunting Act 2004 is unworkable.”