The Prime Minister’s local hunt has been fined after admitting fox hunting.
The Heythrop Hunt, based in Oxfordshire, pleaded guilty to four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds.
Former huntsman Julian Barnfield, 49, and recently retired hunt master Richard Sumner, 68, also pleaded guilty to the same charges during a hearing at Oxford Magistrates’ Court yesterday. Prime Minister David Cameron, MP for Witney, has previously ridden with the hunt.
District Judge Tim Pattinson fined the hunt £4,000, while Sumner was fined £1,800 and Barnfield £1,000. The hunt was told to pay £15,000 towards RSPCA legal costs, with Sumner and Barnfield being ordered to pay £2,500 and £2,000 in costs, respectively. Each defendant was also ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.
The court was told that the case was the first in which a hunt had faced corporate charges.
Jeremy Carter-Manning QC, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said it was not in the public interest to continue proceedings against hunt master Vanessa Lambert, a director of the hunt, and “whipper-in” Duncan Hame, following guilty pleas from the other three defendants.
The court heard that the hunt was filmed on several occasions in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire during November last year, and in February and March this year, by members of the Protect Our Wild Animals group.
The footage was passed to the RSPCA, which, after reviewing it, decided to prosecute.
Mr Carter-Manning told the court: “The court has before it, so far as the RSPCA is aware, the first prosecution of a hunt itself under the legislation which abolished the hunting of foxes with hounds in almost all circumstances and, in particular, traditional fox hunting.”