Four men from the Isle of Wight have pleaded not guilty to illegally hunting with dogs in a private prosecution brought by an animal welfare group.
Stuart Trousdale, Jamie Butcher and Liam Thom are charged with hunting a fox with dogs. Malcolm Purcell, of Blackwater, is charged with hunting with dogs.
They are expected to argue they were using an eagle owl, in the case brought by the League Against Cruel Sports.
It is the first time the ‘falconry exemption’ would be tested in the courts since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005.
The League Against Cruel Sports brought the prosecution at Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with the case against the men.
The charges against the four relate to an incident on 29 November, 2006. The case was adjourned for a pre-trial review at the Newport court on 17 September.