In table above, 'acquitted' means person was
tried of offence and found not guilty. 'Dropped' means the charges were discontinued either before or during the trial.
The table covers only prosecutions of persons known to be affiliated with organised, though not necessarily 'registered'
, Hunts. In one case where Hunt itself charged, Hunt treated as a 'person' .
The table above details all known completed Hunting Act prosecutions launched/police cautions issued against persons
affiliated to organised Hunts in England/Wales since the Hunting Act came into effect on 18-2-2005.
that, in those 14 years,:-
- Just 49 completed illegal hunting cases [3.5 per year] have been
brought against 106 persons from 36 different organised Hunts, plus 1 whole Hunt. [Counted as a 'person' in table
and henceforth here]
- 107 'persons' from organised Hunts have been charged with
HA offences [7.6 per year].
- 48 of the 175 charges resulted in conviction or caution [27.4%].
- 44 of the 139 charges that went to court resulted in convictions [316%].
of the 36 Hunts to have members charged [includes cautions] are fox hunts, 2 deer and 2 hare.
persons have been charged twice, two three times.
- 36 persons [including Heythrop FH as body corporate] of the
107 charged [33.3%],
were convicted or accepted police cautions, of a total of 48 proven HA offences.
including cautions, under the Hunting Act, have averaged just 12.7 per year.
- 52 of these charges were re. the big Heythrop
trial. Excluding that case, there have been 123 HA charges against organised hunters [8.8 per year].
Hunt Monitors Association - all volunteers, most POWA Associates - provided evidence for 58 of the 175 HA charges against
organised hunters [33.1%,].
- League Against Cruel Sports monitors [mostly employees] provided evidence for 54 of the 175 HA charges [30.9%].
- 30 people charged
were acquitted of ALL their HA charges after trial/appeal [28% of all charged].
people escaped conviction after ALL their HA charges were dropped, either before court or during trial [39.3% of all charged].
- Thus, 66.4% [two-thirds] of all organised hunters charged with Hunting Act offences have escaped
- 90 of the 175 Hunting Act charges made were
dropped either before or at trial [51.4%]. 40 of these related to the big Heythrop trial.
over half  of all the cases have been brought by the main prosecuting authority, the CPS, and they have lost or dropped
19 of them [65.5%], so their success rate is just 34.5%. They dropped 8 cases before trial [27.6% of total cases]. Given how
very reluctant the CPS has proved to bring Hunting Act cases at all, this is an indication of how very difficult the extremely
high evidential bar set by the Hunting Act is to successfully surmount.
- Just 27.6% of Hunting Act cases brought by the CPS against organised hunters have resulted in
at least one conviction [8 out of 29], compared with 87% for all crime. Also, 54% of such Hunting Act charges have been dropped
by the CPS pre-trial [30 out of 54] compared with just 10% for all crimes. [ 'All crime' figures are based on 2011/12 statistics, the latest we have
been able to find.]
- LACS has brought 12 Hunting Act cases and achieved
at least one conviction in 5 of them [42.5%].
- The League Against Cruel Sports used to prosecute
their own cases, with a little more success, but changed policy a few years ago and decided to pass them to the CPS instead.
It did, since then, entrust one case to the RSPCA, which failed. Subsequent to the policy change, the LACS did bring one case
which the CPS had declined. Charges were dropped at trial after the defence challenged the impartiality of the League's
- The RSPCA has brought 6 HA cases and gained at least one HA conviction in
3 of them [50%].
The RSPCA attracted such vitriolic propaganda from the pro-hunt side after the
very large and expensive Heythrop Hunt case in December 2012 that that they appointed the former Chief Inspector of the CPS
to examine their prosecutions policy. Stephen Wooler reported in September 2014. He said that, among other things, monitoring
evidence showed beyond doubt that Hunts were extensively flouting the ban. But he determined that the rewards of prosecuting
them, partly because of the paltry fines levied, too small to justify the cost to the RSPCA. He urged the CPS to more to bring
Hunts to justice and also said the Society should press for the Hunting Act to be strengthened. Although the RSPCA has decided
since to prosecute one HA case that the CPS declined, the Society's review of its prosecution policies seems likely to
result in a reduction of the total number of prosecutions of organised hunters. The society is yet to clearly call for strengthening
of the Hunting Act, unlike POWA, IFAW, LACS and the HSA.
The great majority of HA cases have relied on evidence
from hunt monitors, and some from sabs, but only a very small proportion of those reported by them, with video evidence, have
resulted in prosecutions, even though both understand that their evidence needs to be very robust to make it even worth reporting.
Their experience is that to obtain evidence sufficient to convict, even when hunting is conducted pretty blatantly in front
of them, is extraordinarily difficult, partly because what the Hunting Act allows Hunts to do looks, at least to those not
steeped in the ways of their practices, so like the actual hunting of live quarry that it is very hard to convince police,
prosecutors or courts that this is precisely what they are doing. And it is very easy for Hunts to trot out seemingly feasible,
and by now well-rehearsed, excuses. See 'Reform not repeal' for an explanation of why this is so and the manifold
ways Hunts have found to evade prosecution or conviction whilst continuing to hunt wild mammals. See also IFAW's excellent
report 'Trail of Lies' which exposes 'trail hunting' to be a clever, but false, alibi, custom-designed to allow Hunts to carry on live quarry
hunting whilst minimising their chances of being prosecuted.
Four persons have successfully
appealed a Hunting Act conviction [the Huntsman of the Exmoor FH, in 2009, 3 from the Grove & Rufford FH in 2018].but
the hunt side got a huge benefit from it from the first one. 'Searching' was declared not to be 'hunting'
within the meaning of the Act [though DEFRA had previously stated it was] and the judge emphasised that illegal hunting must
be proved to be intentional. He also stressed that, if the accused claims to have been 'Exempt Hunting' the onus is
on the prosecution to prove it was not exempt.
Disposals for those convicted of Hunting Act offences
have been as follows;- Fines - 42 Conditional Discharges - 2 Cautions - 5 [excludes one originally fined but later
acquitted on appeal].
The maximum fine allowed for any one offence was until a couple of years ago £5000.
It has since been made unlimited, as with all Level 5 offences. The average levied on conviction where a fine was imposed
has been £564 [11.3% of maximum when limit was £5000]. The highest levied has been £3000 [offender was a
multi-mllionaire], the lowest £100 [2% of the maximum].
Even on the rare occasions
organised hunters are convicted, the sanctions imposed are generally pretty slight and, because they are not recordable, do
not result in offenders acquiring a criminal record and not added to an existing criminal record. This also means that police
do not keep specific records of alleged Hunting Act offences reported to them, though records of prosecutions are kept by
the court service. The Hunting Act, unlike other animal protection legislation, and unlike the equivalent Act in Scotland,
has no provision for prison sentences. The former maximum fine was £5,000, but the average one, where imposed, has been
just 11.3% of this - and six offenders have escaped with just a caution or a Conditional Discharge.
has provisions for confiscation of animals and equipment used in the commission of Hunting Act offences, but these have never
been used against organised hunters, though a number of 'lurcher brigade' offenders have had their dogs taken from
them and even their vehicles seized and crushed.
The numbers of - cases completed [A], charges made
[B] and offences convicted/cautioned [C] per year are as follows:-
2005 - 0 1 0
- 1 0 0
2007 - 2 4
2008 - 4 12 2
- 3 4 0
2010 - 4 6
2011 - 2 4 2
67 20 [big Heythrop and Crawley & Horsham cases this year –
63 of the 67 charges]
2013 - 10 23 11
2014 - 4
2015 - 9 18 4
- 0 3 0
2017 - 3 10
2018 - 4 8
2019 - 1 2
5 people have been arrested and charged under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in relation to alleged
incidents involving the South Herefordshire FH in April/May 2016. Trial is pending. The Huntsman of the Grafton FH is awaiting
trial on 1 illegal hunting charge.
In March 2016, 2 staff members of the Jedforest FH were charged with illegal hunting
under the Scottish Act . Trial began 16-3-17 and was spread over several weeks. They were both convicted and fined.
This is only the third time that Scottish Act has been used against organised hunters. There had previously been no convictions
of organised hunters in Scotland. The Scottish government, following the Bonomy Review, has announced that it intends to strengthen
the Act there. 2 members of the Buccleuch FH were tried in December 2018 on illegal hunting charges but were acquitted.
the Labour Party announced that they would strengthen the Hunting Act 2004 [England & Wales], if elected.