HUNTING ACT 2004 PROSECUTIONS OF ORGANISED HUNT MEMBERS
Cautions are treated as charges and convictions for purposes of these figures
Where a whole Hunt has been prosecuted as a body corporate charges are treated as if against one person
Asterisk against Date indicates that charges under other animal protection Acts were also made. See separate table for details
Table last updated 23-02-17 – Alan Kirby MSc
In table above, 'acquitted' means person was tried of offence and found not quilty. 'Dropped' means the charges were discontinued either before or during the trial.
The table covers only prosecutions of persons known to be affiliated with organised, though not necessarily 'registered', Hunts. In one case where Hunt itself charged, Hunt treated as a 'person'.
The table above details all known completed Hunting Act prosecutions launched/police cautions issued against persons affiliated to organised Hunts in England/Wales since the Hunting Act came into effect on 18-2-2005.
It shows that, in those 10 years,:-
- Just 40 completed illegal hunting cases [3.3 per year] have been brought against 87 persons from 31 different organised Hunts, plus 1 whole Hunt.
- 87 'persons' from organised Hunts have been charged with HA offences [7.25 per year].
- 46 of the 154 charges resulted in conviction or caution [29.8%].
- 41 of the 121 charges that went to court resulted in convictions [34%].
- 27 of the 31 Hunts to have members charged [includes cautions] are fox hunts, 2 deer and 2 hare.
- 4 persons have been charged twice, one three times.
- 35 persons [including Heythrop FH as body corporate] of the 87 charged [40.2%], were convicted or accepted police cautions, of a total of 46 proven HA offences.
- Charges, including cautions, have averaged just 12.8 per year.
- 52 of these charges were re. the big Heythrop trial.
Excluding that case, there have been just 96 HA charges against organised hunters [8 per year].
- The Hunt Monitors Association - all volunteers, most POWA Associates - provided evidence for 58 of the 154 HA charges against organised hunters [37.7%,].
- League Against Cruel Sports monitors [mostly employees] provided evidence for 51 of the 154 HA charges [33.1%].
- 19 people charged were acquitted of ALL their HA charges after trial/appeal.
- 35 people escaped conviction after their ALL their HA charges were dropped, either before court or during trial.
- 86 of the 154 Hunting Act charges made were dropped either before or at trial [55.9%]. 40 of these related to the big Heythrop trial.
Under half  of all the cases have been brought [or referred to by police] by the main prosecuting authority, the CPS, and they have lost or dropped 68% of them. Given how very reluctant the CPS has proved to bring Hunting Act cases at all, this is an indication of how very difficult the extremely high evidential bar set by the Hunting Act is to successfully surmount. The League Against Cruel Sports sometimes prosecute their own cases, with somewhat more success, but usually passes them to the CPS, though it did entrust one to the RSPCA, which failed.
The RSPCA attracted such vitriolic propaganda from the pro-hunt side after the very large and expensive Heythrop Hunt case that that they appointed the former Chief Inspector of the CPS to examine their prosecutions policy. Stephen Wooler reported in September 2014. He said that, among other things, monitoring evidence showed beyond doubt that Hunts were extensively flouting the ban. But he determined that the rewards of prosecuting them, partly because of the paltry fines levied, too small to justify the cost to the RSPCA. He urged the CPS to more to bring Hunts to justice and also said the Society should press for the Hunting Act to be strengthened. Although the RSPCA has decided since to prosecute one HA case that the CPS declined, the Society is reviewing its prosecution policies and it seems likely that the overall effect will be to reduce the total number of prosecutions of organised hunters.
The great majority of cases have relied on evidence from hunt monitors, but only a very small proportion of those reported by them, with video evidence, have resulted in prosecutions, even though monitors understand that their evidence needs to be very robust to make it even worth reporting. Their experience is that to obtain evidence sufficient to convict, even when hunting is conducted pretty blatantly in front of them, is extraordinarily difficult, partly because what the Hunting Act allows Hunts to do looks, at least to those not steeped in the ways of their practices, so like the actual hunting of live quarry that it is very hard to convince police, prosecutors or courts that this is precisely what they are doing. And it is very easy for Hunts to trot out seemingly feasible, and by now well-rehearsed, excuses. See 'Reform not repeal' for an explanation of why this is so and the manifold ways Hunts have found to evade prosecution or conviction whilst continuing to hunt wild mammals.
Only one person has successfully appealed a Hunting Act conviction [the Huntsman of the Exmoor FH, in 2009].but the hunt side got a huge benefit from it. 'Searching' was declared not to be 'hunting' within the meaning of the Act and the judge emphasised that illegal hunting must be proved to be intentional. He also stresssed that, if the accused claims to have been 'Exempt Hunting' the onus is on the prosecution to prove it was not exempt.
Disposals for those convicted of Hunting Act offences have been as follows;- Fines - 40 Conditional Discharges - 2 Cautions - 5 .
The maximum fine allowed for any one offence is £5000. The average levied on conviction where a fine was imposed has been £546 [11.5% of maximum]. The highest levied has been £3000 [offender was a billionaire], the lowest £100 [2% of the maximum].
Even on the rare occasions organised hunters are convicted the sanctions imposed are generally pretty slight and, because they are not recordable, do not result in offenders acquiring a criminal record. This also means that police do not keep specific records of alleged Hunting Act offences reported to them, though records of prosecutions are kept by the court service. The Hunting Act, unlike other animal protection legislation, and unlike the equivalent Act in Scotland,has no provision for prison sentences. The maximum fine is £5,000, but the average one, where imposed, has been just 11% of this - and six offenders have escaped with just a caution or a Conditional Discharge.
The Act has provisions for confiscation of animals and equipment used in the commission of Hunting Act offences, but these have never been used against organised hunters, though a number of 'lurcher brigade' offenders have had their dogs taken from them and even their vehicles seized and crushed.
The numbers of - cases completed [A], charges made [B] and offences convictied/cautioned [C] per year are as follows:-
A B C
2005 - 0 0 0
2006 - 0 0 0
2007 - 2 4 3
2008 - 4 12 2
2009 - 3 4 0
2010 - 4 6 3
2011 - 2 4 2
2012- 4 67 20 [big Heythrop and Crawley & Horsham cases this year – 63 of the 67 charges]
2013 - 10 23 11
2014 - 4 13 3
2015 - 9 18 4
2016 - 0 3 0
At 10-2-17, 2 Fitzwilliam FH servants await trial on offences allegedly committed 1-1-16. Trial due to start 26-4-17. 5 people have been arrested under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but not yet charged, in relation to alleged incidents involving the South Herefordshire FH early last summer.
In March 2016, 2 staff members of the Jedforest FH were charged with illegal hunting under the Scottish Act . This is only the third time that Act has been used against organised hunters. There have been no convictions of organised hunters.
ORGANISED HUNT MEMBER PROSECUTIONS UNDER OTHER ANIMAL PROTECTION ACTS
Known charges since Hunting Act 2004 listed below.
Asterisk against Date indicates Hunting Act charges also made.
See table below for details Table last updated 23-02-17 – Alan Kirby MSc