Two people formerly connected with the South Herefordshire Hunt have been found guilty of animal cruelty after a trial at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
In May 2016 covert cameras, planted by anti-hunt monitors, recorded joint-master and huntsman Paul Oliver handling foxes at the kennels and later placing the bodies of two foxes in a bin.
Though the film footage does not show what happened inside the kennels, prosecutors claimed Oliver fed the foxes to the hounds, which he denied.
Of the pair, both of Spalding in Lincolnshire, Oliver was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty and his partner, Hannah Rose, who was also employed by the hunt, was convicted of three counts of the same charge. Oliver, 40, received a 16-week suspended prison sentence and Rose, 30, a 12-week suspended sentence.
Nathan Parry was found not guilty of causing suffering to four foxes, which he had brought to the kennels believing they would be released elsewhere in the country.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “The actions of Paul Oliver were completely disgraceful and have no place in hunting. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable in hunt kennels or anywhere else.
‘Those who work in hunting know that their activity attracts more scrutiny than almost any other, and that standards in kennels and the field must therefore be impeccable. The cruelty and stupidity of what went on at the South Herefordshire is plain to see.
“It is incumbent on everyone involved in hunting to ensure that this sort of behaviour never happens again, because one such stupid act reflects on every other hunt in the country however well they are run.”
Two further people connected to the South Herefordshire, Paul Reece, 48, from Chepstow and Julie Elmore, 55, from Abergavenny admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering before the trial began. They were given conditional discharges.
Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), told H&H: “We immediately suspended the entire hunt in 2016 – the first time that the MFHA has ever needed to do this – and the hounds were dispersed to other packs. We were completely horrified by the allegations. Something like this had never happened before and I hope it will never happen again.
“We set up a disciplinary committee, chaired by a senior Appeal Court judge, Sir John Chadwick alongside Bill Andrewes, a former master and hunt chairman, and a vet, Pauline Tolhurst.
“Their investigation was adjourned because of the likelihood of criminal charges being brought in the case, which they were, but they produced an interim report recommending the suspension of the hunt, and Paul Oliver left the hunt’s employment immediately.
“The Crown Prosecution Service took three years to bring this case to court, and now that it has been resolved, the committee will meet again and produce a final report.
“One of the reasons that the MFHA has focused so hard on training recently is because Paul Oliver had clearly not received suitable training.
“We have set up a new assessment panel which anyone wishing to be appointed huntsman or kennel-huntsman and therefore be in charge of a pack of hounds must pass, which will prevent anyone unqualified from being in that position again. We also have much great support and supervision of hunt staff in place now.”
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