The prestigious Heythrop Hunt, based in the Cotswolds, has been found guilty of illegal hunting. Heythrop Hunt Ltd, the Huntsman Julian Barnfield, and the Master Richard Sumner all admitted four counts of illegal hunting during a hearing at Oxford Magistrates Court. This is the first occasion since hunting was made illegal in 2005 that there has been enough evidence to take an entire hunt to court rather than specific individuals. The case was brought by the RSPCA using evidence filmed by Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) and both organisations should be congratulated for their hard work and dedication in bringing such a watertight case against a powerful and influential adversary.
The hunting community will now try and confuse the issue by talking about this as a politically motivated case and complaining about how much it has cost the RSPCA. And they’re right, it shouldn’t have cost the RSPCA a penny. This case should’ve been brought to court by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service but it is their reluctance to take action against these well connected hunts that forces charities to act. The Heythrop have repeated broken the law of the land, and happily admitted to doing so, because they think they are above the law and that their powerful friends in Westminster, the police and the judiciary will protect them.
How dare Tim Pattinson, the District Judge who ruled on the case, feel it is his place to comment on how much the RSPCA chose to spend on enforcing the law. He should be using his position to call on the police to enforce the Hunting Act not to pass comment on those who dare challenge his cronies.
As the Heythrop Hunt has pleaded guilty to these charges we would like to see their hounds confiscated and re-homed and the hunt forced to close down as a lesson to all the other hunts that obeying the law is not optional, however well connected you may be.