Today Cathy Scott was found not guilty of three counts of causing harassment, alarm or distress under Section 4 and 5 of the Public Order Act at Loughbourgh Magistrates Court. Three senior members of the Atherstone Hunt which included the Huntsman and Joint-master Mike Lane, Joint-master Mark Halford and the hunts only employee Oliver Hope had made allegations claiming Scott had sworn at them and threatened them on the 5th August at the hunts kennels. Scott was peacefully protesting with West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs at the Atherstone Hunts hound racing event which was being held at the kennels. Video footage from the day proved the allegations to be false.
The court heard statements from the three members of the hunt who all claimed Scott had been screaming, swearing and threatening them, however the defence played the court footage of the day in question which completely disproved their allegations. The footage showed a very calm, quiet and low key demonstration outside the hunts kennels.
The Atherstone Hunt are close to financial collapse due to the constant exposure they have had from West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs. If Scott had been found guilty all three members of the Atherstone Hunt could have applied for restraining orders effectively banning Scott from protesting against the Atherstone Hunt.
When summing up the magistrates said the three hunt members where not credible and had changed their statements halfway through once they realised there was video footage.
Scott said “I’m pleased with the result but disappointed that this case was allowed to get as far as it did. Serious questions now need to be asked about Leicestershire Police and why they allowed three members of the Atherstone Hunt to make allegations about me without providing any proper evidence to corroborate their allegations.
I view this as a malicious prosecution by Leicestershire Police. They allowed no proper evidence to be submitted and when the CPS were presented with video footage before the trial showing what actually happened Leicestershire Police and the CPS actually tried to stop the footage from being shown.”
A spokesperson for West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs said:
“As for the Atherstone Hunt and its supporters we are used to their violence and lies that have resulted in over 20 convictions and cautions in the last 4 years. But this is a very serious line they have crossed which could have resulted in an innocent person being sent to prison. Three senior members of the Atherstone Hunt, the Huntsman, Joint-master and their only employee have all in our opinion conspired to bring false charges and they need to be investigated for that. As for the hunt itself I don’t think there is any other option left now apart from the hunts governing body the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) to disband the hunt completely.
The only reason this case got as far as it did is because of the police. We believe members of Leicestershire Police assisted the Atherstone Hunt over these charges or at the very least turned a blind eye to the lack of evidence to back up the false allegations. We are now seeking legal advice”
Lee Moon, Spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said: “It's unbelievable that Leicestershire Police are aiding the Atherstone Hunt, an organised criminal gang, to persecute West Midland Hunt Saboteurs who are ensuring the law of the land is enforced. We ask that Leicestershire Police and the Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner carry out an internal enquiry to find out how this has been allowed to happen. If the public are to have any faith that Leicestershire Police are not totally corrupt then they need to find out who was responsible for this farce and ensure there are severe consequences. Many of our groups in the region have told us that they will have nothing to do with Leicestershire Police until they prove that they're not hand in glove with the hunting community and we fully support their stance.”
Notes for editors:
For more information call 07767620767
Case reference number: 33JJ1808317
In 2016 the wildlife officer for Leicestershire Police was outed as a member of the Belvior fox hunt and was subsequently forced to resign her role as wildlife officer
In October last year the current wildlife officer for Leicestershire Police was recorded in an audio recording taken at a meeting with members and supporters of the Atherstone Hunt. He can be heard advising them on which laws can and can not be used against hunt saboteurs.
This is not the first time Leicestershire Police have targeted this particular member of West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs, they arrested her after she refused a stop and search in 2014 after she told them it was an unlawful stop and search. The case was thrown out of court after the judge agreed with her that it was unlawful. Emails obtained via the Data Protection Act revealed that the CPS had originally wanted to drop the case and had also come to the conclusion that the stop and search was unlawful. However Leicestershire Police put pressure on the CPS to continue with the prosecution as they were worried that it would “expose the force to litigation”.
In 2015 Leicestershire Police issued the same hunt saboteur with a Police Information Notice (harassment notice). This had similarities with the most recent case above in that members of the Atherstone Hunt had made allegations with no actual evidence to collaborate their claims. The harassment notice was eventually overturned and an official apology was made by Leicestershire Police who agreed the harassment notice had been misused.
Unbelievably Leicestershire Police issued a second harassment notice to the same person again based just on an allegation made by a member of the Atherstone hunt with no evidence to collaborate it. After Scott made a formal complaint a senior officer overturned the harassment notice as they were unable to find any evidence for issuing it in the first place. Leicestershire Police stopped using Police Information Notice’s completely after this.