We are disappointed today to find out that the CPS have decided not to press charges against the Barlow Hunt after they killed a fox on 17th December 2019. The Barlow hosted a joint meet with the North Shropshire hunt at Sydnope Hall Farm, near Matlock, Derbyshire. The hunt had visited land owned by the Chatsworth Estate and then headed towards the Holymoorside area, where hounds picked up a scent and killed a fox in Cat Hole Wood. Sabs from Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Lincoln groups were present on the day and tried to call hounds out of the woods where the fox was being chased. Unfortunately, their intervention wasn’t enough and the fox was killed by hounds. The incident was caught on film, reached national news and was handed to the police along with a statement. Sabs retrieved the body, which was taken for autopsy, but not before the hunt terrier man, Ste Reynolds, attempted to take it from sabs.
Members of the Barlow, huntsman Aiden Beaney and whipper in Andrew Doran, were interviewed by Derbyshire Police in connection with the incident, as well as North Shropshire huntsman Peter McColgan, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting badger sett interference in 1996 while huntsman of the Cumberland Farmers Foxhounds. Footage of the incident shows hunt staff opening a gate into a field where the hounds proceeded to pick up a scent and pursue a fox, which they killed after a 15 minute chase, during which hunt sabs tried to intervene unsuccessfully. As soon as hounds picked up the scent, hunt staff were notable by their absence, other than terrier man Ste Reynolds who was seen in the corner of the field where the fox was first sighted. Hounds then continued to chase the fox until they caught up and killed it, as shown in the graphic footage, which was published by national media.
The burden of proof for a conviction under the 2004 Hunting Act is high, with the CPS requiring the quarry, hounds in cry and huntsman encouraging the hounds (or other proof of intention) all in the same shot. By allowing a pack of hounds into a field where they continued to chase a fox without being called off, surely hunt staff have shown their intentions? Firing a gun while blindfolded wouldn’t get you off a murder charge; therefore it is ridiculous that the Crown Prosecution Service treat Hunting Act offences any differently. Complaints have been made to the CPS about the outcome of the case, in the hope this may work towards a change in the legislation.
Lee Moon, spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, stated: “Cases like this illustrate perfectly why hunt saboteurs exist. Even in those rare cases where you have a police force willing to prosecute a hunt, the burden of proof is so high that cases will often stumble when they reach the CPS. Until a time when the hunts are forced to disband, or the Hunting Act is improved considerably, hunt saboteurs will continue to be out in the fields directly intervening between the hunted animal and those who wish to pursue and kill them. We’re pleased that members of the Barlow are being treated like any other criminal gang and being issued with Community Protection Notices but the fact is that their main crime is that of fox hunting and that’s what they should be prosecuted for.”
Recently, the Portman Hunt in Dorset escaped conviction, despite shockingly clear footage of hounds chasing a fox and being encouraged by the huntsman, and it is not dissimilar to footage which lead to the conviction of the Thurlow hunt in 2019. With a burden of proof requiring the huntsman to show intent, which almost seems to require telepathy, whilst hounds are allowed to carry on doing what they are trained to do, is it any wonder convictions under the Hunting Act are so rare?
The Barlow hunt has often made the press over the last two years. With Mark Davies, husband of joint master Joan Williams, being prosecuted, but escaped conviction for assaulting sabs in 2019. Joan was also filmed attacking sabs at the Barlow’s 2020 New Year’s Day meet. Another joint master, Chris White, was caught attempting to trap and kill badgers by the Hunt Investigation Team in 2018 and a Barlow supporter was filmed spraying sabs with slurry at a meet near Ashover in 2019. Various members of hunt staff were reported to have assaulted sabs on New Year’s Day 2020, in an incident that is being investigated by the police. Most recently, the police handed eight members of the Barlow Community Protection Notices, for various incidents involving anti-social behaviour such as driving over loaded quads, trespass and assaulting peaceful demonstrators.