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 13 years,:-
- Just 48 completed illegal hunting cases [3.4 per year] have been
brought against 104 persons from 33 different organised Hunts, plus 1 whole Hunt. [Counted as a 'person' in table
and henceforth here]
- 104 'persons' from organised Hunts have been charged with
HA offences [7.9 per year].
- 47 of the 173 charges resulted in conviction or caution [27.2%].
of the 137 charges that went to court resulted in convictions [30.7%].
- 31 of the 35 Hunts to have
members charged [includes cautions] are fox hunts, 2 deer and 2 hare.
- 3 persons have been charged
twice, two three times.
- 35 persons [including Heythrop FH as body corporate] of the 105 charged [33.3%], were convicted or accepted police cautions,
of a total of 47 proven HA offences.
- Charges, 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 121 HA charges against organised hunters [8.8 per year].
- The Hunt
Monitors Association - all volunteers, most POWA Associates - provided evidence for 58 of the 173 HA charges against organised
- League Against Cruel Sports monitors [mostly employees] provided evidence for 54 of the 173 HA charges [31.2%].
people charged were acquitted of ALL their HA charges after trial/appeal [26.7% of all charged].
people escaped conviction after ALL their HA charges were dropped, either before court or during trial [40% of all charged].
66.7% [two thirds] of all organised hunters charged with Hunting Act offences have escaped conviction.
- 90 of the 173 Hunting Act charges made were dropped either before or at trial [52%]. 40 of these
related to the big Heythrop trial.
- Just 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 [67.9%], so their success rate is just 32.1%.
They dropped 8 cases before trial [28.6% 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
- Just 28.6% of Hunting Act cases brought by
the CPS against organised hunters have resulted in at least one conviction [8 out of 28], compared with 87% for all crime.
Also, 57.7% of such Hunting Act charges have been dropped by the CPS pre-trial [30 out of 52] compared with just 10% for all
crimes. [ 'All crime' figures are based on 2011/12 statistics, the latest we have been able to find.]
has brought 12 Hunting Act cases and achieved at least one conviction in 5 of them [42.5%].
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 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 DEVFRA 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].
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 £546 [11.5% 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 11.5% of this - and six offenders have escaped with
just a caution or a Conditional Discharge.
The Act 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.
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
2008 - 4
2009 - 3 4
2010 - 4 6 3
- 2 4 2
4 67 20 [big Heythrop and Crawley &
Horsham cases this year – 63 of the 67 charges]
2013 - 10
2014 - 4 13
2015 - 9 18 4
- 0 3 0
- 3 10 0
2018 - 4 8
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 face trial ion illegal hunting charges.
the Labour Party announced that they would strengthen the Hunting Act 2004 [England & Wales], if elected.