The Countryside Alliance (CA) is urging hunt supporters — both mounted and foot-followers — to turn out in force at opening meets around the country this weekend and next, reiterating that they can do so without fear of running foul of the law.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has indicated to the CA that only masters and whippers-in could technically be “hunting”; the field is classed as spectators.
CPS advice states: “The sense of ‘engage’ or ‘participate’ is to take an active and direct part in the hunting of the mammal, as distinct from observing. It would seem that those who follow a hunt for the sake of observing are not technically hunting under the Act.”
A CA spokesman said: “Since hunts have been stating unequivocally that they intend to hunt within the law — using a variety of different methods — it would, in all likelihood, be extremely difficult to prove a follower had the intention of and was aware that he/she was breaking the law.”
Meanwhile, a document circulated by Nigel Yeo of the Association of Chief Police Officers to assistant chief constables, advised police that anyone convicted under the Hunting Act “will not secure a criminal record”.
The National Policing Strategic Considerations outlined such offences were neither notifiable or recordable.
However, Robert Rhodes QC comments: “Clever-dick ways of trying to circumvent the Act … will not help those who wish to see the Act repealed. It is essential that those who wish to see repeal … do so by staying firmly on the right side of the law.”
Publisher George Pearson said: “Baily’s has reflected all sorts of things during its history and, faced by the challenge of the Hunting Act, we felt the directory ought to comment.”
The publishers told all the hunts that it (Baily’s) had to assume they were submitting information on the basis they would be hunting within the law. No hunts refused information on that basis and a similar number will appear in Baily’s 2005-2006 as last year.