The RSPCA has withdrawn its prosecution of a Dorset hunt master at the last minute due to a lack of evidence
The RSPCA has dropped its last outstanding prosecution under the 2004 Hunting Act because of a lack of evidence.
The charity had brought a case against Will Bryer, master and huntsman of Dorset’s Cattistock Hunt, alleging that he had been illegally hunting a fox with dogs in 2014. Mr Bryer was charged with an offence under the Hunting Act and was due to appear at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court on 20 March.
But two days before the scheduled hearing, the RSPCA contacted Mr Bryer’s solicitor, Jamie Foster of Foster & Griffin solicitors, to tell him it was withdrawing the case due to a lack of evidence.
Last year, former Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Chief Inspector, Stephen Wooler, told the RSPCA to stop using donations to bring cases against hunts after he reviewed its prosecutions policy.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said it had initially believed there was “sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” and that “a prosecution was required in the public interest”. However, following disclosure of evidence by the defence, the charity reviewed
The spokesperson told Shooting Times: “Having considered all the evidence now available, the RSPCA concluded there no longer remains a realistic prospect of securing a conviction and as such has notified all parties to confirm its intention to discontinue the proceedings.”
The case against the Cattistock master was based on covert video obtained by another animal rights group, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is now calling for changes in the law to make it harder for hunts to rely on trail hunting as a defence in Hunting
Mr Foster, solicitor for the defence, said: “It is excellent that the RSPCA has finally seen sense and is no longer pursuing this hopeless case, but Will Bryer should never have been put through this eight-month ordeal for what was ultimately a political move by the RSPCA.”
Mr Bryer said: “In the 10 years since the Hunting Act came into force no one involved with the Cattistock Hunt has been convicted of breaking the law. I am pleased that the RSPCA has finally seen sense and dropped the case against me, but there was never any justification for it in the first place.”
Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: “This was the only outstanding prosecution of a hunt by the RSPCA and we hope it will be the last time the charity involves itself in such a case. There is a clear conflict of interest in a political campaigning organisation bringing prosecutions of this sort. The RSPCA should take the advice of its own independent reviewer and leave such allegations to be independently considered by the police and CPS.”