A huntsman has been found not guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to a hunt saboteur.
Mark Doggrell appeared at Taunton Crown Court in a three-day trial that ended on 21 September.
He was accused of deliberately knocking down Nicola Rawson with his horse during a meet of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt near Charlton Horethorne, Somerset, in August 2014.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “We are very pleased Mr Doggrell has been found not guilty and that Miss Rawson, who was injured in this incident, has recovered.
“There are, however, some serious questions to be asked about how this case ever got to court.
“The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) initially decided, correctly, that there were not grounds for a prosecution, but its decision was challenged under the ‘victim’s right to review’.
“The CPS sought the advice of an expert witness who cast serious doubt whether Mr Doggrell could ever be considered responsible for this accident.
“Faced with a noisy animal rights campaign, however, the CPS changed its mind and took the decision to prosecute a case in which it had little or no chance of securing a conviction.
Following an initial decision made by the CPS in February 2015 not to prosecute, Miss Rawson — a member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association — challenged the decision and started a petition which gained more than 12,000 signatures.
In July 2015 it was reported: “After careful consideration of all the evidence in this case, including additional new evidence, I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to charge Mark Doggrell with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm,” said Rachael Scott of the CPS.
“The decision to prosecute Mr Doggrell has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds and put him through a long, stressful and unnecessary process. It simply cannot be right that charging decisions are made on the basis of who can shout the loudest,” Mr Bonner said.
- Anti-hunt activists ‘bullied’ business which shared picture of foxhound
- 12 thrilling shots to get you in the mood for autumn hunting
- Quorn to launch hunting safety helmet
Mr Doggrell’s solicitor Jamie Foster told H&H: “Mark is obviously delighted that a jury has acquitted him so swiftly, clearly he was innocent of the charge brought against him.
“However Mark remains sympathetic to the injuries of the victim. The Hunt Saboteurs Association have really got to learn a lesson from this.
“They need to take far better care of the people they send out into the field.”
HAS spokesman Lee Moon said: “The verdict is depressing but unsurprising. We advise all our supporters to take all reasonable precautions as the hunts have the law courts on their side.