The hunt that got away again, but should it have?

They say there was no evidence.

They say they hunt legally now.

They say they now do “trail hunting” (following a fox’s urine trail rather than the scent of a live fox), and because of that they should not be prosecuted under the Hunting Act.

Ok, let’s see if you buy into this.

On the 18th of March 2015 the RSPCA made the following announcement:

“The RSPCA has decided to discontinue its prosecution before the Weymouth Magistrates Court against Mr William Bryer, huntsman of the Cattistock hunt,  for an alleged offence of hunting a wild mammal with dogs contrary to section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004. The case had been due to come to trial on 29th April 2015. The prosecution related to an incident which occurred on 11 March 2014 which was captured on footage taken by IFAW in the vicinity of Langton Herring, Dorset which was then supplied to the RSPCA (…) Although the Defence accepted that the animal seen in the footage was a fox and that it was chased by the hounds, it is claimed that the huntsman was unaware of this and that the hunt was engaged in lawful trail hunting..”

This is what is called a “trail hunting” defence. In other words, the accused, who happens to also be the Master of the hunt, used trail hunting as his alibi.

Yes, the alibi we often describe as a “false alibi”, since we are yet to see any evidence of hunts actually doing any real trail hunting when they do not know they are being observed.

After the news from the RSPCA was made public Tim Bonner, Director of Campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, tweeted “RSPCA drop last Hunting Act prosecution v Cattistock Master & Huntsman Will Bryer. Tell solicitor @1jamiefoster no evidence to continue #WON

No evidence? You judge. Watch the embedded video where the key evidence in this case from IFAW’s Wildlife Crime Investigators is shown, and you will see the following:

15:47:26. Zooming in. Fox crossing the road towards the North East a few yards from the Red Coat Rider (approximate BNG coordinates SY 60977 82973) who is facing the fox.

Whipper-in now on a white horse galloping towards them, facing the direction the fox was seen. Shouts can be heard.

15:47:36. Hound running towards the fox in the field behind the point the fox crossed the road. Shouts being heard.

15:47:38. Zoom in. Follower by car further up the road, looking towards where the fox is

15:47:42. Fox crossing a field in visual range of a foot follower by car further up the road, looking towards where the fox is. Shouts can be heard

15:47:48. Fox still in field running towards the North East. Staccato horn call heard 4 times. Hounds not stopping and now heard on cry

15:47:57. Zooming in the fox disappearing over the ridge by the stone wall. Staccato plus long undulating horn call can be heard. Hounds do not stop and still on cry

15:48:05. Panning left and zooming out. Terrierman on Quadbike is now by Red Coat Rider. Silver 4 x 4 vehicle parked close to him. Whipper-in is close to him to the right of the frame. Huntsman is now riding on a white horse towards them in the field where the hound was seen (approximate BNG coordinates SY 60963 82928). Pack of hounds on cry are following him, all in the direction the fox went. Another staccato horn call and hounds do not stop.

15:48:10. Zooming in on the Huntsman, who slows down. Whipper-in is facing him. Quadbike is doing a U-turn. Shouts can be heard. Some hounds are following the direct line of the fox towards the point it crossed the road, while others are choosing the parallel route of the road to the West since this does not involve going through the narrow gap in the hedge (through where a trail layer could not have gone)

15:48:13. Huntsman looks at the Whipper-in. Shouts can be heard. Hounds still trying the two routes.

15:48:14. We can see now that the Huntsman has a horn in his right hand.

15:48:15. Huntsman stops looking at the Whipper-in, and heads towards the road as he cannot go through the hedge as some hounds are doing

15:48:17. Huntsman using the horn to produce a staccato and undulating note call with the horn, while heading towards the road. Hounds continue the chase. More shouts heard. Terrierman drives and follows the hounds that chose the road route.

15:48:22. Huntsman's horn call continues, as he is about to reach the road. Whipper-in moves towards the hounds that chose the road route, while some hounds are still trying the direct route through the hedge, some successfully.

15:48:28. More calls being heard. Huntsman is now on the road following the hounds. Red Coat Rider is now also following them. The quadbike has now disappeared up the road. Hounds on cry

15:48:32. Zoom in on the Huntsman, Whipper-in and Red Coat Rider close together following the hounds up the road where the Quadbike disappeared.

15:48:38. Zoom out. Hounds are on cry on line in the field where the fox ran, going towards where it went. Riders on the road going North.

15:48:41. Zoom in on the hounds on cry on line in the field heading towards the stone wall

15:49:03. Hounds reach the stone wall at the point the fox reached it, and some are jumping over it

15:49:36. Zooming in on one rider on a white horse  galloping past another rider on a white horse, both going East (approximate BNG coordinates SY 61086 83179)

15:49:50. Red Coat Rider followed by a Field rider on a white horse are now following the same route the other two riders took

This is not the only evidence supplied.

The Wildlife Crime Investigators had been monitoring the hunt from before the meet started, and they did not see any evidence of any trail being laid, or any pretence of one being laid (as usual when they investigate hunts). On the contrary, in the morning, just 10 minutes after the meet started and the hunt was supposed to go out looking for the supposed “laid” scent, this is what they recorded:

11:17:00. At least 19 riders stationary on the left at another smaller copse (approximate BNG coordinates SY 64978 87206). Several hounds are in the middle of the copse around a particular spot. Others are joining them from the left

11:17:10. Zooming in on the hounds. At least 13 hounds marking the ground at a particular spot in the copse (approximate BNG coordinates SY 64961 87223). Riders stationary

11:18:30. Two riders on horses with patches move a few yards to the right. Hounds still marking the ground.

11:19:11. Three riders moving South West, towards the ridge

11:19:21. The rest of riders follow them, all getting closer to the copse

11:19:33. Zoom in. Hounds in a more compact group around the spot on the ground they are still marking

11:19:45. Riders stop at the very edge of the copse

11:21:11. Whipper-in joining the hounds on foot from the left

11:21:34. Whipper-in bending over looking at the spot

11:22:39. Whipper-in bending over again looking at the spot

11:22:46. Panning left. Quadbike with two people on it travelling towards the field (approximate BNG coordinates SY 65081 87238)

11:23:16. Quadbike stopping by the copse where the Field is. Whipper-in still at the spot in the copse with hounds marking the ground

11:23:30. Some hounds by the Quadbike now. The hounds in the copse are moving more, some going towards the Field

11:23:55. All hounds now moving towards the Field. Whipper-in walks a few steps towards it too.

11:24:00. Terriermen on the Quadbike dismount. Whipper-in stops still close to the spot. No hounds around the spot anymore

11:24:10. All riders now moving South West, terrierman walking in the copse towards the Whipper-in who is still standing.

11:24:23. Terrierman joins Whipper-in, who points to the ground

11:24:36. Second terrierman joins the Whipper-in. Field still moving

11:24:51. Whipper-in pointing again. The two terriermen are close to him inspecting the ground

11:25:00. Riders gradually disappearing over the ridge. Red Coat Rider appears over the ridge riding in the opposite direction to them, pulling a horse without rider with him

11:25:24. Whipper-in and two terriermen still inspecting the ground.

11:25:27. Whipper-in and two terriermen walking towards the Quadbike, Red Coat Rider with empty horse still going towards where the Quadbike is. Rest of Field still in motion heading South

11:26:05. Red Coat Rider with horse waiting by Quadbike. No more riders visible

11:26:22. Terriermen and Whipper-in emerging from the copse by the Quadbike.

11:26:47. Whipper-in holding his horse while talking to the two terriermen by the Quadbike

11:26:54. Whipper-in mounting his horse, and he and Red Coat Rider following the other riders

11:27:10. Whipper-in riding standing, moving faster

11:27:32. Two riders no longer in sight

After the afternoon event, the investigators continued recording the hunt’s behaviour (and continued seeing no evidence of anyone laying any trail), and they got close-up shots that helped to ID the suspects.

No evidence?

You judge.

--JC

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