Just 10 days after Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright was prosecuted for illegal hunting, a chief police officer has said that hunting is not a top police priority, according to a regional newspaper.
In the Western Morning News, Assistant Chief Constable Richard Stowe, of Devon and Cornwall Police said that Tony Wright’s hearing was not a legislative benchmark and it would take a High Court ruling to change the way the Hunting Act is implemented.
Mr Wright was filmed chasing two foxes across Exmoor along with two hounds. He firmly believes he was hunting within the law and plans to appeal against the magistrate’s court ruling that fined him £500 and £250 costs.
The case was brought to court as a private prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports at a cost of £65,000 after Avon and Somerset Police dismissed it based on the evidence available. During the week-long hearing Mr Wright denied breaching the Hunting Act when he led the Exmoor Foxhounds at Drybridge in Devon on April 29, 2005. Despite evidence that he was trying to comply with the conditions for ‘exempt hunting’ (that he was accompanied by two hounds and a marksman to shoot the fox), the judge found Mr Wright guilty.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said at the time: ‘No right minded person thinks that Tony Wright should have been branded a criminal’.
The paper reports Assistant Chief Constable Stowe as saying that hunting will be treated like all other wildlife crime – the main priority being to protect the people of Devon and Cornwall from more serious crime, indicating that further prosecutions are unlikely.
Avon and Somerset Police Spokesman Dan Mountain said today: ‘The Avon and Somerset Constabulary together with representatives from other
forces in the region meet bi-annually with both pro hunt and anti hunt
groups to discuss issues relating to hunting and we will be taking this
decision forward to our next meeting in September for open discussions and to consider what we can all learn from this case.’