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RSPCA’s case against Avon Vale hunt collapses

Another judge has criticised the RSPCA for wasting public time and money prosecuting a hunt, in a case that collapsed at the last moment.

The RSPCA abandoned its Hunting Act prosecution of the Avon Vale on 7 May — in a case the Countryside Alliance (CA)estimates cost £50,000 — after two members of the hunt, Stuart Radbourne and Ben Pethers, pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett while trying to rescue a terrier.

The charity was also prosecuting both men, plus two others, Paul Tylee-Hinder and Joshua Charlesworth, together with former huntsman and master Jonathon Seed, for hunting a fox illegally.

But those charges were dropped and the men were awarded costs of around £40,000 from public funds.

District Judge Simon Cooper told Chippenham Magistrates’ Court he was “disappointed that seven days of valuable court time [had] been set aside for this trial, only for it not to happen”.

He told the RSPCA’s prosecutor he should “explain why you brought the case… as you are going to be criticised”.

Tim Bonner of the CA described the case as “groundless” and a “disgraceful” waste of money.

Jonathon Seed told H&H that, while he was relieved to have been exonerated, he was left “feeling very angry and wondering why it was started”.

Mr Seed, a Conservative councillor, believes the prosecution was politically motivated.

He clashed with the RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant, a Liberal Democrat, when they were involved with their parties’ campaigns for the 2010 General Election in north Wiltshire.

“That was the most unpleasant campaign I’ve been involved with and I find it [the prosecution] more than a coincidence,” he said.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “We would not bring a case unless there was good evidence.”

Last year, the RSPCA was heavily criticised by a judge for its £326,000 private prosecution of the Heythrop.

District Judge Tim Pattinson said at the time that it was a “staggering” figure.

“Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed,”
he added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (16 May 2013)

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