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 the Hunt itself was charged, Hunt treated as a 'person'
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.
It shows that, in those 14
- Just 50 completed illegal hunting cases [3.5 per year] have been brought against 107 persons
from 37 different organised Hunts, plus 1 whole Hunt. [Counted as a 'person' in table and henceforth here]
- 108 'persons' from organised Hunts have been charged with a total of 176 charges for
HA offences [7.7 per year].
- 48 of the 176 charges resulted in conviction or caution [27.3%].
- 44 of the 140 charges that went to court resulted in convictions [31.4%].
of the 37 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
108 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 members - provided evidence for 59 of the 176 HA charges against organised
- League Against Cruel Sports monitors [mostly employees] provided evidence for 54 of the 175 HA charges [30.9%].
- 31 people charged
of the 76 whose charges went to court were acquitted of ALL their HA charges after trial/appeal [40.8%].
people escaped conviction after ALL their HA charges were dropped, either before court or during trial [38.9% of all charged].
- Thus, 79.7% of all organised hunters charged with Hunting Act offences have escaped conviction.
- 90 of the 176 Hunting Act charges made were dropped either
before or at trial [51.1%]. 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
20 of them [66.7%], so their success rate is just 33.3%. They dropped 8 cases before trial [26.7% 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 26.7% of Hunting Act cases brought by the CPS against organised hunters have resulted in
at least one conviction [8 out of 30], compared with 87% for all crime. Also, 54.5% of such Hunting Act charges have been
dropped by the CPS pre-trial [30 out of 55] 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 expert witness.
- 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 bring more
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 - 41 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 then 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 are 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 had their vehicles seized and crushed.
The numbers of - cases completed [A], charges made
[B] and offences convictied/cautioned [C] per year are as follows:-
2005 - 0 1 0
- 1 0 0
- 2 4 3
- 4 12 2
- 3 4 0
- 4 6 3
- 2 4 2
4 67 20 [big Heythrop
and Crawley & Horsham cases this year – 63 of the 67 charges]
10 23 11
2014 - 4
2015 - 9
2016 - 0 3
2017 - 3 10
4 8 1
2019 - 2
3 1 to date
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. Six officials
and servants of the Meynell FH were charged with illegal hunting in April 2019.
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.
On 14-2-18 the Labour Party
announced that they would strengthen the Hunting Act 2004 [England & Wales], if elected.