Magistrates have branded the prosecution of two men connected to the Crawley and Horsham as an “abuse of process”.

Animal rights activists had accused Daniel Howick and Jonathan Light, of interfering with a badger sett on 15 January 2013.

The men denied the charges, and on 20 January 2014 Horsham Magistrates Court threw the case out after ruling that unacceptable delays in the prosecution case meant they would not receive a fair trial.

Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance said: “The hunt had been asked to remove a problem fox by a local estate. There was never any doubt that Mr Howick and Mr Light were carrying out pest control perfectly legitimately or any suggestion that the earth was an active badger sett. However totally unacceptable delays in the prosecution case meant that they did not have a fair chance to prove this in court.

“We are very pleased that the trial has been dropped and both men completely exonerated, but it is a great shame that such a groundless case was allowed to hang over these men for more than a year.”

And Antony Sandeman, joint-master of the Crawley and Horsham hunt, added: “It seems that this group of antis has the ear of Sussex Police and any allegations made by them, no matter how spurious, are taken very seriously. I’m delighted that the magistrates saw sense and threw out this allegation.”