A Sham, A Mirage, And A Smokescreen: Judgement Day For ‘Trail Hunting’

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Now that the champagne-induced delirium has started to wear off, it’s time to absorb the full scale of the defeat that was inflicted on fox hunting last Friday. Mark Hankinson – Britain’s leading fox hunter – wasn’t just found guilty, he and the whole hunting world had the book thrown at them by Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram.

Judge Ikram found that Hankinson “was clearly encouraging the mirage of trail laying to act as cover for old fashioned illegal hunting. Whilst he didn’t use overt words, he implied it again and again.” Whether it was Hankinson advising that trail laying should be “plausible” or calling the bird of prey exemption a “terribly good wheeze” Judge Ikram saw through it all. In a withering assessment of Hankinson’s attempts to explain away his lies, Judge Ikram “simply did not find him credible in any of his explanations of the words he used.”

Creating a smokescreen

An equally damning aspect of the judgment was the judge’s extensive citation of other webinar speakers which, he said, provided revealing context for Hankinson’s words.

For example, Judge Ikram noted that ex-Chief Inspector and Countryside Alliance ‘Police Liaison Officer’ Philip Davies coached the 103 listening hunt masters on how to “create that smokescreen, or that element of doubt that we haven’t deliberately hunted a fox.”

Another ex-police officer, Paul Jelley, advised the use of ‘burner’ phones for “recording evidence for… Hunting Act trail laying” but cautioned his audience not to “use the same phones or anything where you’ve been using social media and bragging about what you’ve been doing out hunting, because if the police get hold of it you’ll get both sides of it.”

Judge Ikram further noted that similar advice was issued by peer of the realm and Chair of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Lord Mancroft, who urged hunters to “be very careful about what they’re recording and make sure that we only record all the legal things that we do.”

The judge then quoted hunt master and Horse & Hound correspondent Richard Gurney, who finished his best-practice trail hunting ‘case study’ by reassuring his audience that it “wasn’t about turning the Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent into a trail laying pack.” Judge Ikram noted how Gurney’s remarks were “in line with all the other speakers and certainly not consistent with advising or training on legal hunting.”

In his devastating summing up, Judge Ikram left no room for any doubt about Hankinson’s crime: “It was clearly advice and encouragement to commit the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog. I am sure he intended to encourage the commission of that offence.”

As the HSA has been saying for sixteen years: trail hunting is a sham, a mirage and a smokescreen designed to disguise illegal hunting.

We are going to stop it.

Please help us take the fight to the hunters by becoming a HSA member here.

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