Four men connected to the Isle of Wight hunt have pleaded not guilty to charges that they were hunting illegally with dogs.
Huntsman Stuart Trousdale of Gatcombe, falconer Jamie Butcher of Ryde and amateur whipper-in Liam Thom, of Rookley are charged with hunting a fox with dogs. Field master Malcolm Purcell, of Blackwater, is charged with hunting with dogs.
All four appeared at the Isle of Wight Magistrates Court in Newport on Monday to answer the charges, which relate to an incident in Shepherds Chine on the Isle of Wight on 29 November last year, when the hunt was using an Eagle Owl.
The prosecution is being brought privately by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) following a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute. This is the third private prosecution of a hunt by LACS.
Charlotte Fiander of the Countryside Alliance (CA) told H&H: The Isle of Wight case will test the falconry exemption of the Hunting Act for the first time. We remain committed to helping those charged under the Hunting Act to prove that they were legally hunting within the exemptions laid out under the law.
The law itself continues to be bathed in confusion and difficult to follow, and the exemptions are extremely unclear.
The case was adjourned for a pre-trial review at the Newport court on 17 September.