Three members of the Grove and Rufford have been acquitted of hunting convictions on appeal.

The trio were convicted of hunting a wild mammal with dogs last year, but were acquitted on appeal at Nottingham Crown Court on 15 March.

The case collapsed after it was revealed the prosecution failed to show 50 photographs containing clear evidence supporting the defendants’ case that they were all hunting legally.

Paul Larby, 58, Peter White, 57, and Jane Wright, 63, of the Grove and Rufford Hunt denied alleged offences made under the Hunting Act 2004 at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court in March 2017.

They were found guilty by magistrates at the time and fined — but have now been acquitted.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said the organisation is “very pleased” about the acquittals.

“But this has been a long, stressful and expensive process which should never have happened,” he added.

“If all the evidence had been available from the start it is unlikely that there would have even been a prosecution, and there would certainly never have been convictions in the magistrates’ court.

“The police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) need to be extremely careful in hunting cases that the views of witnesses and others involved in investigations do not unduly influence prosecutions and decisions to prosecute.”

In a separate case, a Portman huntsman was found not guilty of offences under the Hunting Act at Poole Magistrates’ Court on 14 March.

Joint-master Evo Shirley faced charges of illegal hunting brought by the CPS relating to hunting activity on 8 March 2017.

The case was heard on 12 and 13 February, with magistrates’ delivering their verdict on 14 March.
“This is another case in which there was ample evidence that the hunt was operating legally,” said Mr Bonner.

“The police and CPS need to consider very carefully any ‘evidence’ supplied by anti-hunting activists who have a vested interest in vilifying members of the hunting community.

“This is another example of thousands of pounds being wasted in court and police time.”

Data from the Ministry of Justice from 2005 to 2016 shows 454 people have been convicted of offences under the Hunting Act.

Of these, only 27 were involved with registered hunts and more than 94% of Hunting Act convictions did not involve hunts.

There have been 35 completed cases under the Hunting Act involving hunts registered with the Council of Hunting Associations until October 2017. A total of 20 of these failed, with seven being dropped before trial and 13 resulting in the acquittal of all defendants.

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