Minehead Harriers duo admit Hunting Act breach

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The Countryside Alliance (CA) and Council of Hunting Associations (CHA) have voiced support for two staff from the Minehead Harriers who broke the law by allowing hounds to pursue a fox with mange.

Appearing at Bridgwater Magistrates Court on 7 January, huntsman William Goffe and whipper-in Gary Bradley admitted breaching the Hunting Act on 7 February 2007.

CHA chairman Stephen Lambert said: “Mange in foxes spreads fast, and causes suffering, baldness and a slow death to infected animals. The prosecution of the Minehead staff demonstrates how the Act fails to protect the welfare of the fox. There is no exemption in the Act for a full pack of hounds to hunt a sick or injured fox or deer.”

Monitors from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) filmed the pair in February encouraging hounds to chase a fox suffering from mange.

The hunt’s solicitor, Tim Hayden, told the court that hounds were following a trail but picked up the scent of a fox. Mr Goffe allowed the chase to continue when he realised the fox had mange.

Mr Goffe and Mr Bradley were each fined £300 for breaching the ban and ordered to pay £500 towards costs incurred by LACS, which brought the prosecution privately. The balance of the costs incurred by LACS (amounting to some £11,000, plus counsel fees) will be met from its own resources. Mr Bradley was also fined £100 for a public order offence — riding his horse towards a LACS monitor.

Further charges of unlawful hunting against William Goffe and master Sidney Wescott in January 2007 were dismissed.

“The judge and LACS accepted the Minehead Harriers were trail hunting, which was crucial,” said Mr Hayden, “and that they set out to hunt legally and something went wrong.”

Tom Gliddon, chairman of the Minehead Harriers, said the hunt has sought to operate within the law since the Hunting Act came into force.

“William Goffe and Gary Bradley have acknowledged that during a trail hunt on 7 February there was one short pursuit of a mammal which was in contravention of the Act,” he said, adding: “There was no suggestion that a fox was killed.”

A LACS spokesman said the organisation was “very pleased” with the guilty pleas.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (17 January, ’08)