In the midst of the looming Statutory Instrument debate on Wednesday, the Hunting Act is still doing the important job of bringing those to justice those who have committed crimes against Britain’s wildlife.
Last Friday saw the successful prosecution of three men who were found to be illegally hunting in Herefordshire. Alan Hill (D.O.B. 06.12.60), James Smith (D.O.B. 02. 04.93) and Jack Hudd (D.O.B. 18.05.94) were stopped by the police last year in the middle of the night whilst driving a car with a trailer which had no lights on. What started as a standard police enquiry into a traffic offence however soon turned into an animal welfare investigation when 54-year-old Hill went round to the trailer, pulled out a sack and ran off into the darkness with it. Police chased Hill and tackled him to the ground only to find what Hill had been trying to keep hidden – a sack containing a live fox. Terrier dogs with scarring around their faces, injuries usually sustained as a result of hunting wild animals, were also found in the vehicle.
The fox, which was still very much alive, had a very lucky escape as police released the animal back into the wild that evening. It is still not known what Mr Hill was intending on doing with the live fox once they had reached their destination.
When later questioned, the three men admitted to hunting but said that they were doing it legally as they had written permission to do so but did not have the paperwork on them. This piece of information was to be the key to their successful prosecution as the Hunting Act 2004 states that those legally hunting in such circumstances must have written permission on their person.
It is this part of the Hunting Act 2004 – schedule one – which will be under threat on Wednesday and that will make prosecuting hunters in cases such as this near impossible.
David Bowles, assistant director of public affairs for the RSPCA, said: “The Hunting Act in its current form clearly does work as only on Friday have we successfully prosecuted three men in Herefordshire for breaking the law.
“This is not just about red coat hunting. The Hunting Act as it stands is there to protect Britain’s wildlife – foxes, deers, hares and so much more – from all different types of illegal hunting practices.
“It is also true that the very people the Government is claiming to try and help by making these unnecessary amendments will also suffer at the hands of any changes as farmers themselves will fall victim to more people trespassing on their land and causing disruption and harm to wildlife – including those valued by farmers as well as those seen as ‘pests’.
“If the law is changed including removing the requirement for hunters to have written permission then it is sadly going to be a near impossible job to prove that individuals like these terrier men have broken the law. It will be a devastating blow to animal welfare in this country.”
The three men were found guilty of committing offences against the Hunting Act 2004 and Mr Hill was found guilty of an offence against section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They were all fined and made to contribute towards costs for the prosecution.