The prosecution of Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright will continue into the New Year. Wright is being privately prosecuted by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) for allegedly breaching the Hunting Act. The case has already been rejected by the Crime Prosecution Service, following LACS’s failure to provide evidence on time.
Today Wright entered a formal plea of not guilty for an alleged offence under Section 1 of the Hunting Act at North Devon Magistrates Court in Barnstaple.
However, the League Against Cruel Sports has failed to provide necessary witness statements and has been given an extended deadline of 13 January. If the League is unable to provide all the advance information by this date, the case could be dismissed.
The defense team representing Wright has not seen any reports from LACS and has recommended a pre-trial review before a District judge by the end of January. A provisional date of 16 January has been set depending on availability of judges and solicitors.
Countryside Alliance spokesperson Alison Hawes today reiterated her statement that the League’s case is a publicity stunt. “We look forward to Tony being cleared due to the lack of evidence against him,” she said.
“I was extremely surprised to hear about these allegations,” said Wright. “The Exmoor Foxhounds have been hunting within the law since the ban came into force in February 2005. I cannot think of a single incident on 29 April 2005 which could be accurately described as illegal activity.”
The Countryside Alliance has voiced suspicion about the timing of the LACS prosecution. “We hope that LACS is not using the court system, or pursuing an individual, as part of a cynical PR exercise. LACS lobbied for the Hunting Act for decades. It speaks volumes about the motives of the organisation that they are continuing to pursue hunts, despite the clear commitment to hunt within the new law,” added Hawes.
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