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Well cover us in scent and chase us through the woods on horseback - four members of the Crawley and Horsham hunt in West Sussex actually appeared in the dock at Horsham Magistrates Court on Monday (23rd). They were accused of illegally hunting foxes with dogs, in antithesis with the joke that has been the Hunting Act 2004. Eight year's on and this case is the first such hunting prosecution in Sussex.
The obviously completely utterly and repeatedly guilty / accused are Masters Neill Millars (45 - yes, we're putting their ages in brackets like a real newspaper, as if the information was in some way relevant) of Dragons Lane, Shipley, Henry James Hawksfield (59) of Bines Road, Partridge Green, secretary Rachael Holdsworth (47) of Rock Road, Washington, and ex-huntsman, now Master and huntsman of the Dart Vale Harriers - Andrew Phillis (50) of Halwell, Totnes. The charges relate to six alleged offences under the Hunting Act on three days in January and February 2011. All allegations involve section one of the Hunting Act - hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
All four have pleaded not guilty. “It weren’t me guv’, honest.” said Neill Millars (well, words to that effect) whilst turning a beetroot red.
On the opening of the trial the court heard from prosecutor Walton Hornsby. Video evidence has been provided from a local West Sussex Hunt Saboteurs group. The footage dates are from January 18th and 25th and February 15th. The fact that this motley crew could ever face their day in court is testement to the work sabs have done round the country(side) for years, documenting the the hunts in often dangerous circumstances - only for their evidence to usually be somehow strangely ignored by police. But at least not this particular time.
As the case reached day seven on May the 1st, another related charge was thrown out before the final arguments were made. Hawksfield then had all charges dropped against him, District Judge Stephen Nicholls decreeing that there was no case for Hawksfield (great name for a hunter) to answer. The Judge is now considering his final verdict. The case has been adjourned until 14th May at Haywards Heath Magistrates Court.
And Sussex courts were not the only ones seeing hunt action. Two Cumbrian men were found guilty on Wednesday (25th) of hunting foxes and badgers after a 3 day trial. Ryan Lowe (30), of Baird Road, Harraby Carlisle and Brian Sanderson (40) of West Lane, Shap were also found guilty by a local Sheriff of possessing offensive items contrary to the Badgers Protection Act. Sentences will be handed out next month.
While SchNEWS will wait with unbaited breath to find out the severity - or not - of the punishments meted out, in the meantime at least its fun to see the hunters become the hunted, sweating furiously and with red faces rather than red jackets. Yer SchNEWS says: Throw 'Em to the Dogs!
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