Hunt master cleared of fox hunting charge

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A hunt master was this afternoon cleared of a fox hunting charge after a prosecution prompted by the League Against Cruel Sports ‎collapsed.

Tom Holt, a joint master with the Middleton Hunt, had been accused of chasing a fox with a pack of hounds.

But the case was thrown out by after a one-day trial at Scarborough Magistrates Court after a district judge ruled there was not enough evidence.

The Countryside Alliance fired a broadside at animal rights campaigners after the verdict, accusing activists of targeting the hunting community with “spurious” allegations.

The trial heard claims that ‎Mr Holt, 28, was caught on a camera as he chased a fox with a pack of hounds as bugles blared.

He was arrested but claimed he was legally following a trail when he was filmed by the League Against Cruel Sports, the court heard.

Prosecutor Martin Hawes claimed that the blasts of a horn had been heard when the fox was sighted.

He continued: “The suggestion is this was effectively a call to hunt.

“The fox was seen running with hunting dogs in full pursuit.

“Rather than have their noses to the ground, their heads were up.”

He continued that just after 2.40 ‎that afternoon Holt was seen “following the same line taken by the fox and hounds” - though Holt denied this.

The court heard Holt was arrested and claimed he was “trail hunting” rather than hunting a live fox as the prosecution claimed.

‎Mr Hawes added: ‎ “The Crown would say it is a deliberate action rather than a cynical attempt to mask what was going on.”

But hunt joint master Holt, of Leavening, Malton, denied hunting a wild mammal with dogs at Knapton Lodge, West Knapton, near Malton, last February 19.

After being found not guilty, he left court saying he was “very pleased” at the result.

But Adrian Simpson, of the Countryside Alliance, stormed: “‎These were spurious allegations of illegal hunting made by the League.

“Mr Holt had to suffer for more than 12 months before this came to court.”

He underlined it was the second failed prosecution under the anti-hunting legislation in recent weeks, a similar case having collapsed in York.

‎He added: “The Crown Prosecution Service need to give serious consideration to how it deals with information provided by animal rights organisations and the League Against Cruel Sports against individuals and the hunting community.”

‎A League spokesman Paul Tillsley said: “We are disappointed with the result.”