HUNTING ENTHUSIASTS should not be worried about falling foul of the law by attending the opening meet of their local hunt, according to the Countryside Alliance.
The Alliance (CA) is urging hunt supporters — both mounted and foot-followers — to turn out in force at opening meets around the country at the start of the hunting season this weekend, reiterating that they can do so without fear of running foul of the law.
The Crown Prosecution Service has indicated to the CA that only masters and whippers-in could technically be ‘hunting’ as the field is classed as spectators.
CPS advice states: "The sense of 'engage' or 'participate' is to take an active and direct part in the hunting of the mammal, as distinct from observing. It would seem that those who follow a hunt for the sake of observing are not technically hunting under the Act."
A CA spokesman said: "Since hunts have been stating unequivocally that they intend to hunt within the law — using a variety of different methods — it would, in all likelihood, be extremely difficult to prove a follower had the intention of and was aware that he/she was breaking the law."
Meanwhile, a document circulated by Nigel Yeo, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers to assistant chief constables, advised police that anyone convicted under the Hunting Act "will not secure a criminal record".
The National Policing Strategic Considerations outlined such offences were neither notifiable or recordable.
However, Robert Rhodes QC warned hunters not to be too brazen in their approach to openly hunting: "Clever-dick ways of trying to circumvent the Act ... will not help those who wish to see the Act repealed. It is essential that those who wish to see repeal ... do so by staying firmly on the right side of the law."