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At a Glance Guide

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Hunting (Amendment) Bill - At a Glance Guide
 

Priority
Current problem
Current Effect
Necessary Solution

1


No 'reckless' clause. This is particularly critical because, in 2009, the High Court determined that 'searching' for a wild mammal with dogs was not part of the definition of 'hunting' within the Act and emphasised that, as written, the Act required the prosecution to prove intent to hunt a wild mammal on the part of the accused. 

Hunts can send their dogs anywhere, including into areas where wild mammals are very likely to be found. The inevitable subsequent chases can be, and are, excused by Hunts as 'accidents'. They will deny any of them intended to hunt a wild mammal and it is very hard for the prosecution to prove they did. The 'reckless clause' is intended to ensure that Hunts are effectively made responsible for the behaviour of the dogs they take out with them.

Add a 'reckless' clause which will make it an offence for anyone to ‘cause or permit' one or more dogs to seek out, chase, injure or kill a wild mammal. To protect innocent dog-walkers, add a further clause saying an offence will not be committed if the dog was a household pet, was being normally exercised, had never been used for hunting and the walker made reasonable attempts to stop the dog pursuing the wild mammal.

2

 
No limit on the number of dogs that can be used to flush wild animals to a bird of prey

 
Fox hunters can enter a whole pack of hounds into a wood or covert, an essential part of cub hunting, but avoid attempts at prosecution by claiming to be flushing to a bird of prey

 
Restrict the number of dogs to two

3


The penalties in the Act are inadequate to deter offending or to make police and courts treat illegal hunting with the seriousness it deserves.


Hunts know that, not only have they little chance of being investigated and arrested, even if they are convicted the penalty is unlikely to be no more than a relatively small fine.


Add provision for a prison sentence of up to six months for illegal hunting.

4

The use of terriers underground against foxes is still allowed via the "Gamekeepers' Exemption". 
The ‘Code of Conduct’  is not adequate to restrict activities
of terrier men who accompany hunts, leading to considerable suffering being caused by them to foxes.
 

Terrier men hide behind the "Gamekeeper’s exemption" when found digging to foxes which have gone to earth during hunts where full packs of hounds are in use. The cruelty to foxes involved cannot be justified by the often pretended need to protect game birds.. 

Preferably, delete the "Gamekeeper's Exemption" completely or, failing that, amend either the Act itself or the ‘Code of Conduct’ to clarify that terrier-work cannot be used in conjunction with any sport simulating live quarry hunting and that digging should not be permitted save where it can be shown to be necessary to rescue a trapped terrier.

5

 
No limit on the number of dogs which can be used to hunt rats and rabbits

 
Mink/Hare hunters can allow an entire pack of beagles/hounds to chase/hunt a mink/hare but avoid attempts at prosecution by claiming they were hunting rats and rabbits

 
Restrict the number of dogs to two

6

No limit on the number of dogs that can be used to retreive a hare wounded by shooting.

Hare hunters are allowed to use an entire pack to chase a hare which has allegedly been wounded by shooting.


Restrict the number of dogs to two.

7


The 'Research and Observation' Exemption [Schedule 1.9] allows two dogs to be used to hunt an animal for no better reason than that the hunters want to 'observe' the animal.

The Exemption is being misused, currently just by deer hunts, to use two dogs, or relays of pairs, to stage protracted hunts.



Insist that any dogs used under the exemption be kept leashed at all times. This will allow legitimate tracking for research purposes but the Exemption will then be of little or no value to 'sport' hunters.

8


The level of sanctions available to courts under the Act are inadequate. ACPO has stated that this low level of seriousness accorded to offences is a reason why the investigation and enforcement of this law is given such a low degree of priority by police.


Organised Hunts and their members clearly do not regard the fines currently being imposed on them - on the rare occasions when they are convicted - as a deterrent. These are typically just a small fraction of the maximum allowed. Other legislation to protect wild animals carries a potential prison sentence. So should the Hunting Act.


Add provision for a term of imprisonment of up to six months. This would also automatically make Hunting Act offences 'recordable', meaning that the offender would acquire a criminal record. This is not the case at present.

9


The Act contains powers for courts to order forfeiture of dogs used in committing offences. These have been used against trespassing 'lurcher brigade' offenders, but not against organised Hunts.


It would be extraordinarily difficult to prove which of a Hunt's hounds were involved in committing any given offence, and the Act only allows for those dogs to be forfeited. So they don't really need to worry about this power being used against them.


Add a power to allow forfeiture of all dogs belonging to a Hunt if a Hunting Act offence is committed by the Hunt as a body corporate or by any of that Hunt's officers or staff whilst operating on behalf of that Hunt.

10

The Act makes it very hard to prove an offence against a Hunt as a body corporate. Nor does it really impose any responsibility on a Hunt for the behaviour of their officers or staff.

Hunts as bodies corporate have very little fear of being successfully prosecuted, knowing that, if any charges are made they will rarely be against more than one or two hunt servants or Masters, and the punishment is unlikely to be more than a relatively small fine.

Amend Section 10 of the Act to make Hunts hunt responsible for the behaviour of their servants and officers, so that the Hunt can be held culpable for any offence on their part whilst acting on the Hunt's behalf. 

11

The Act allows a wild mammal to be flushed from cover with up to two dogs for it to be shot. The conditions attached just require than an assertion on the hunters' part that it is for one of the several reasons given.

Hunters can use the 'flushing' exemption to chase wild mammals in cover whenever the like and for as long as they like.

The burden of showing that it was necessary and there was no satisfactory alternative should be placed on anyone wishing to use the 'flushing' exemption, as in the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

12


Similarly, the 'Gamekeepers' Exemption' in practice allows terriermen to flush foxes from their underground refuge whenever they want, so long as they have landowner's consent.

This is very often done in conjunction with purported 'trail hunts'. If they are really just 'trail hunting', there is no good reason for them to always go out with fully equipped terrier men.

Delete the "Gamekeeper's Exemption" or, failing that, place the burden of showing that it was necessary, and that there was no satisfactory alternative, on anyone wishing to use it.

       
Print

Summary of Amendments in Order of Priority

N.b. Although we've prioritised below the amendments we seek, all of our more detailed proposals are designed to work in tandem with each other and should preferably be enacted in toto.

1

Section 1 - add clause defining 'hunting', to make it an offence to cause OR permit one or more dogs to search out, chase, injure or kill wild mammals, with a further clause designed to protect innocent dog walkers from prosecution.

2

Amend Section 6 of the Act to allow anyone convicted of illegal hunting to be sentenced to up to six months in prison.

3

Preferably, delete the "Gamekeeper's Exemption' [Schedule 1.2] or, failing that, amend the Act or Code of Conduct so that the Exemption cannot be used in conjunction with any 'sport' using dogs and that did-outs only be permitted where it can be shown to be necessary to rescue a terrier.

4

Schedule 1.6 - restrict to two the number of dogs involved in flushing wild mammals for the purpose of falconry.

5

Amend Schedules 1.3,1.4 and 1.5 to restrict to two the number of dogs involved in hunting rats or rabbits and retreiving hares wounded by shooting, and 1.9 to insist any dogs used be leashed at all times.

Section 2
 
 

 
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