There are now no registered hunts with Hunting Act cases outstanding against them after the final case collapsed today (Thursday 3 December).
A case against the Lamerton Hunt collapsed three days into a scheduled 10-day trial at Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court, when private prosecutors, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), withdrew all evidence.
Yesterday (Wednesday, 2 December) the court sought confirmation from absent LACS acting chief executive Rachel Newman, a qualified solicitor, that she had advised expert witness Professor Stephen Harris not to disclose a close personal relationship between himself and LACS head of operations Paul Tillsley.
Professor Harris had also been accused of embellishing his experience of hunting while giving evidence. The LACS this morning withdrew all charges.
In a private prosecution, the LACS had summoned six members of the Lamerton Hunt in West Devon to face allegations of illegal hunting and pursued them through the courts for more than 18 months after Devon and Cornwall Police correctly ruled that they had no case to answer.
“We were confident from the start that we had done nothing wrong and that all our hunting was legal, but our names and the allegations that the LACS were making were all over the local papers,” said David Lewis, huntsman of the Lamerton Hunt.
“The whole thing seemed to go on forever and whilst we are happy it is now all over it was not a pleasant experience.”
The defendants were represented by barrister Peter Glenser and solicitor Jamie Foster.
The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner added: “This appalling case raises a series of fundamental questions about the abuse of the criminal justice system by vindictive private prosecutors. LACS spent more than a £100,000 of charitable funds on a case that the police had correctly judged simply did not stand up. In desperation it has then sought to present as independent an expert witness who was clearly deeply prejudiced against the defendants.
“LACS sought to corrupt the criminal justice system and use it to harass six innocent people over an 18-month period. Questions need to be asked about this abuse at the highest levels.”
This was the last outstanding case from the 2013/14 season, while there were no prosecutions in the 2014/15 season.