Exeter Magistrates’ Court this week heard the verdict in the trial of two terriermen of the Eggesford Hunt. Nathan Bowes and Seward Folland stood trial on 5 and 6 July 2021 for unlawfully interfering with a badger sett. Exeter court today found the pair guilty on all counts.
The incident took place on 23 November 2019 in the area of Bridge Reeve near Ashreigney in Devon.
Witnesses for the prosecution alleged that they had seen the Eggesford Hunt in the area around the time of the incident, and that they had heard the hounds hunting a fox to ground. On reaching the scene, they found Bowes and Folland with nets covering several holes to the entrance to the badger sett, and with others having been blocked in. It was accepted by the pair that their intention was to dig out a fox from underground.
Badgers are a protected species, and as such it is a criminal offence to “interfere with” a badger sett which shows signs of current use by badgers. Exeter Magistrates’ Court found the pair guilty on all counts.
Fox hunting was banned in 2005, however Bowes and Folland claimed that their intention was to dig out and “humanely dispatch” the fox to protect local game birds, which is exempt under the Hunting Act. Bowes was an employee of the Eggesford Hunt at the time, and is now an employee of the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt in Northamptonshire. Folland is a member of Eggesford Hunt staff.
Sentencing the pair, Deputy District Judge Roderick Hine stated that the two men were “in a hurry to get the fox out” and that they “should have been more careful” when they inspected the sett for signs of current use by a badger. Judge Hine also took into account the fact that Bowes has been cautioned by the police on a previous occasion in relation to the same offence.
A spokesperson for Devon County Hunt Saboteurs, the group which captured the footage of the incident, stated: “We are delighted with today’s verdict, however this conviction is just the tip of the iceberg. This trial centred on the issue of whether a badger sett showed signs of current use, which goes to show the many loopholes that exist in the foxhunting ban. Bowes and Folland admitted to digging out foxes 2-3 times a week for the Eggesford Hunt, and it’s clear for all to see that the foxhunting ban is inadequate, and not properly policed. We are pleased to see the truth exposed in this case and justice being done, and we are calling on the police to take heed of this conviction and take allegations of hunting crimes seriously.”