Fox hunt followed by David Cameron BANNED from National Trust land after ‘repeated law breaking’

February 5, 2013 | by | 1 Comment

A posh hunt followed by David Cameron has been banned from operating on National Trust land – after it admitted “repeated and gratuitous” breaches of the law.

The Heythrop Hunt – which the Prime Minister has previously ridden with – admitted four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds.

Former huntsman Julian Barnsfield, 49, and retired hunt master Richard Sumner, 68, also pleaded guilty to the same charges.

Julian Barnfield, right, of the Heythrop Hunt, which has been banned from operating on National Trust land - after it admitted "repeated and gratuitous" breaches of the law

Julian Barnfield, right, of the Heythrop Hunt, which has been banned from operating on National Trust land – after it admitted “repeated and gratuitous” breaches of the law

The RSPCA prosecution, at Oxford Magistrates Court in December, was the first time a hunt had faced corporate charges.

Members of the hunt, which was founded in 1835, had been licensed to trail hunt on National Trust land in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

But the organisation stated that the licence would not be renewed on March 31, when it expires this year, due to the breaches of the law.

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “We are very much aware of the importance of countryside traditions and we allow field sports to take place on our property where they are traditionally practised, providing they are within the law and are compatible with the Trust’s purposes.

“These include public access and the protection of rare animals and birds and fragile habitats.

“Whilst the illegal activity in this case did not take place on land we own, we consider it to be a serious breach of trust.

“The conviction has given us major cause for concern about how the hunt runs its activities, which is why we will not renew the hunt’s license at the end of March.”

Oxford Magistrates Court heard how the hunt was filmed on several occasions in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

The footage was taken by members of the Protect Our Wild Animals group in November 2011, February and March 2012 and passed to the RSPCA, who decided to prosecute.

Legislation that came into force in 2005 abolished hunting foxes with hounds in almost all circumstances and traditional fox hunting in particular.

The films showed the Heythrop “deliberately hunting in a manner which does not comply with the law” on four occasions.

Prosecuting, Jeremy Carter-Manning QC, told the court how the defendants “sought out and then chased live foxes”, deliberately pursuing the animals.

Mr Cameron, MP for Witney, Oxon., rode with the Heythrop Hunt of six occasions before the 2005 change in legislation.

A spokesman for the RSPCA added: “We have spoken to the hunt and also followed up in writing to make it clear that they will need to work closely with our local teams to rebuild our confidence in how they run their activities before we can consider an application to renew their trail hunting license.

“The Trust is a charitable body and does not take a political position either for or against field sports.”

The RSPCA spent £326,000 on legal fees privately prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt last year.

A cross-party group of MPs and peers – including former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine – reported the “staggering” amount to the Charity Commission.

They claimed the RSPCA had breached a “duty of prudence” which governs its actions.

The organisation had asked District Judge Tim Pattinson for the defendants to pay their legal costs but he ordered a contribution of #15,000 from the hunt instead.

Yesterday, the RSPCA said it had launched a “fighting fund” to ring-fence money for prosecutions prior to the Heythrop prosection, collecting #160,000 in just eight weeks.

Chief executive Gavin Grant said supporters were backing the RSPCA policy of prosecuting hunts with their cash.

He said: “It is for those individuals who wish to subscribe to the work of the society in major prosecutions which are likely to be costly, as with the Heythrop Hunt, which are complicated and substantial.”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good for the NT.

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