Britain’s leading huntsman, Mark Hankinson, has won his appeal against his conviction for encouraging others to hunt foxes.
The judge accepted that “someone listening to his words might well have taken the view that he was encouraging illegal hunting,” but decided that the criminal threshold for proving intent had not been met. In reaching this judgement, the judge cited the fact that the webinars were attended by “police officers, lawyers and a member of the House of Lords.” The public might be surprised to learn that the presence of a high-ranking politician is seen as a guarantee of legitimacy!
A key outcome of the original trial – in which trail hunting was condemned as “a sham and a fiction” – is that many major landowners have banned the activity from their land. Indeed, the National Trust have already confirmed that they “will not be reviewing” their ban, while United Utilities would “need reassurances from the hunts on how they will comply with licences and the law” before reconsidering theirs. It is difficult to see how the appeal result helps hunts with this process.
A HSA spokesperson commented:
“This outcome is obviously disappointing, but the reputational damage to trail hunting – as a smokescreen for traditional hunting – is already done. Indeed, the Hunting Office, who organised the webinars, was disbanded in disgrace before the appeal hearing. It is also clear that many landowners are not going to change their minds as a result of this judgement. Our advice to landowners and everyone else remains the same: watch the webinars, listen to all the contributors, and decide for yourself what trail hunting is all about.”
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