Three members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt found guilty of illegal fox hunting

Three members of the Nottinghamshire based Grove and Rufford Hunt have been fined after being found guilty of hunting a wild mammal with dogs, contrary to S1 of the Hunting Act 2004.  Huntsman Paul Larby, 57, of The Kennels, Kennel Drive, Barnby Moor, terrierman (trail-layer) Peter White, 57, of Leyfields Farm, Redhill Lane, Kneesall and the hunt’s whipper-in Jane Wright, 63, of Town Street, Lound were each found guilty at Mansfield Magsistrates Court on the 14th March.

During the trial the court were shown photographs taken by two members of the public who came across the hunt near Rainham, Letford, on 30th January 2016 while going birdwatching. The  witnesses saw the hunt chase and kill a fox before the body was removed. Birdwatcher Philip Palmer told the court that a fox was chased by a pack of 45 hounds in view of members of the hunt, including Larby and Wright who were in the field but did not witness any attempts to call the hounds off. On the day in question Mr Palmer said: “This is going to be interesting. They must have seen the fox. Clealry they will need to call off the hunt”.

The defendants claimed that they had been following a ‘trail’ and the fox had been caught accidentally. Larby told the court that they had been following an artificial scent trail when a fox jumped out of a hedge in front of them and was chased and killed by  the hounds before they could intervene.

Reaching his conclusion after a three day trial, district judge Tim Spruce said: “It’s an inescapable conclusion that the Grove and Rufford Hunt were hunting foxes and not artificial scent trails.

“They maintained they were engaged in trail laying, but I am not convinced that this was the case.”

An expert witness, who the defence had sought to discredit because of an alleged connection to an anti-hunting organsisation, was “fully tested” and his opinion that foxes were being hunted was “fully supported” by the other evidence. District judge Spruce said the three defendants, of previous good character, had given no comment interviews or prepared statements when they were interviewed by the police. “There are a plethora of questions which received no comment responses,” said the judge. “There was evidence of hostility and suspicion towards Phillip Palmer and his partner Pauline Hogg.”

Larby was fined £800, White was fined £550 and Wright, who played a lesser role, was fined £180. All three were orded to pay costs of £248 and an £80 victim surcharge each.