The High Court has upheld the Parliament Act, despite a challenge to its validity brought on behalf of the Countryside Alliance. Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Collins, hearing the case at the High Court, rejected the Alliance’s submission that use of the 1911 Parliament Act to amend itself was not legal.
Sir Sydney Kentridge, acting for three members of the hunting community, had been arguing that the Parliament Act passed in 1949 was not passed lawfully, and therefore it is invalid. If the High Court had accepted this argument, the Hunting Act as passed in November using the Parliament Act, would no longer have been law.
However the judges ruled in favour of the Attorney General’s argument that the act had been passed in good faith, and that the Parliament Act, and all laws subsequently passed using it, was adequate law.
CA Chief Executive Simon Hart told supporters this morning: “We have always expected that this case would eventually be heard in the House of Lords. It is a hugely significant constitutional case and consequently a difficult decision for the divisional courts to make. We remain confident in the merits of our case.
“The Court of Appeal will now hear this case before the Hunting Act comes into force on 18th February. The Judges accepted that we had a legitimate case and that the Court has the power to overturn the Act, although on this occasion the Judges disagreed with the legal points made, so today’s judgement suggests that we have strong grounds for appeal. If, however, the Court of Appeal is not prepared to uphold our case we will seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords.
“At that stage we might also apply for an injunction to prevent prosecutions under the Hunting Act pending the outcome of the legal challenges [under the Human Rights Act]. We will only consider this route if an injunction would represent a real benefit for the countryside — and is not just an attempt by the Government to delay commencement until after a General Election.”
Speaking at outside the High Court this morming, Mr Hart reasserted that the hunting community intends to keep hunting when the ban comes into force next month: “Everyone in the hunting community is as solid as it ever was in terms of preparations for the 19 February. We intend to keep hunting until the 18 and to carry on hunting, within the law, from the 19 onwards.”
According to Mr Hart, the Judge implied that the case had good grounds for appeal, and that the Human Rights case, which will be filed next next week, also has a chance of success.
“This is the first of three rounds and everybody in the hunting community was quite clear that they did not expect necessarily to come away with success. We now go to the Court of Appeal confident that we have a good case.”
Responding to rumours this morning that the police have released documents which suggest officers will not crack down on illegal hunts once the ban comes into force, Mr Hart said: “This shows that the ban is low down on their list of priorities and that they know it will be difficult to police. They would rather be off catching real criminals, not chasing around people in red coats, and you can hardly blame them.”
The appeal will be heard on 8 February.