Tony Wright, the first huntsman prosecuted under the Hunting Act, has had his conviction overturned on appeal in Exeter Crown Court today, Friday, 30 November.
Mr Wright, of the Exmoor Foxhounds, was found guilty in August last year at Barnstaple Magistrates Court in a private prosecution brought by the League Against Cruel Sports, despite having used two hounds to flush foxes to be shot on 29 February 2005 as he believed was allowed by the Act. The Exmoor is one of only two fox hunts that have been prosecuted successfully under the Act.
Speaking after the judgement was announced, Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “This verdict is an absolute vindication of Tony Wright and the Exmoor Foxhounds and another nail in the coffin of the Hunting Act. While we celebrate this judgment, however, we must not forget why an innocent man faced with a vindictive private prosecution has had to spend over two years and two court cases to clear his name.”
“The Hunting Act is not only a pointless and prejudiced piece of legislation, it is also a very bad law. If the courts cannot be sure what is hunting and what is not how on earth can anyone else? Only by scrapping the Act can we ensure that other innocent people will not be persecuted and today’s result adds to the clear case for its repeal.”
More people have been convicted of hunting rats under the Act than have been found guilty of illegal fox hunting.