The Crawley and Horsham hunt, together with more than 80 landowners, will go to London’s High Court next month to try to stop saboteurs trespassing and causing harassment and nuisance.
The Crawley and Horsham has employed a leading harassment lawyer to take the ground-breaking civil action which it hopes will put a stop to the tactics used by the Sussex Wildlife Protection group and its two main organisers, Simon and Jaine Wilde (pictured).
“Since the Hunting Act they have been using old sabbing tactics — balaclavas, sprays, whips, hunting horns and tape recorders — to disrupt our legal hunting activities,” said senior master Anthony Sandeman, who is representing the hunt in the action. “But the main thing is the continual trespass. Farmers are getting fed up with it.”
The hunt has logged 269 incidents of trespass and harassment caused by the Wildes and their associates over the past two years.
Mr Sandeman said a report of illegal hunting is made to the police “every time hounds leave the kennels”, but that each one is investigated and found to be untrue.
“It’s very tiresome for us and for the police,” he said.
Leading the action is lawyer Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, who has obtained injunctions against animal rights extremists in a number of high-profile cases including Huntington Life Sciences and the Newchurch guinea pig farm, where family graves were desecrated.
“We’re not trying to stop anyone who wants legitimately to monitor the hunt, but we think that means people are entitled only to photograph the master and huntsman while they are engaged in legal hunting activities,” said Mr Lawson-Cruttenden. “That does not mean constantly photographing and videoing children, farmers and hunt followers, particularly when they’re on roads, having a sandwich outside a pub on a horse or travelling from A to B.”
The case, set for 15 July, calls for a no-trespass injunction on landowners’ property and for regulated movement on highways and public rights of way on private land.
“Public rights of way are for passage and re-passage only, and public roads should not be used to cause a nuisance and interference with the hunt,” explained Mr Lawson-Cruttenden, who is also seeking an exclusion zone to protect the land around the kennels in West Grinstead.
“Hunting activities aren’t carried out at the kennels, but there have been incidents of harassment to people who live there,” he added.
If successful, the Crawley and Horsham hope the injunction will be in place by 1 September, in time for the hunting season. After that time, if the injunction is breached, the violators would be liable to be prosecuted for contempt of court.
The Countryside Alliance (CA) and Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) are helping to pay for the action, which is being funded in the main by the hunt and landowners in West Sussex.
But CA spokesman Tim Bonner urged other hunts across the UK to donate.
“If we can get this, it will be a massive victory for hunting and will set a precedent for other hunts to follow,” he said.
“We’ve been working hard on this case for six months, and we will help anyone else who has problems to collate evidence in a way that will help them.”
He said the CA and MFHA will talk to other hunts in the south-east after the case in July.
“If we win an injunction, it is bound to have a huge impact and we want to make sure hunts are prepared.”
MFHA chairman Stephen Lambert said concern about the impact on other hunts in the area “should never prevent us taking proper action to stop saboteurs”.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (19 June, ’08)