A hunt master of the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt and a member of his staff were found guilty at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court of illegally hunting fox cubs with dogs. Hunt master the Honourable John Edward Greenall, brother of the Baron of Daresbury, was fined £3,000 and was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Glen Morris from Tutbury, currently off work with depression, was fined £250 and ordered to pay £250 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
The incident took place last October at Sutton Farm in Sutton on the Hill, Derbyshire and was filmed by two anti-hunt campaigners Roger Swain and Robin Ellison. The footage was played to the court and showed members of the hunt lined up along the outside of a wood. The hounds had been seen going into the wood and the sounds of hounds could be heard coming from it. The footage showed the hunt riders hitting their boots and saddles with riding crops to make loud noises to scare a fox back into the wood from where it had tried to escape and Morris was seen clapping his hands and waving his arms. Then a second fox escaped out of the wood and ran towards the two witnesses followed by the riders. Greenall was not clearly seen on the footage but was recognised by the two witnesses.
The expert witness for the prosecution Professor Stephen Harris of Bristol University, one of the world’s leading experts on foxes and their behaviour, told the court that the excited squeals of the foxhounds could be heard inside the wood and that the sound indicated that they had found a fox. He also told the court that cub hunting is the training of young hounds to hunt foxes and that the footage showed that fox cubs were being hunted.
Bertie Woodcock QC defending told the court that the footage did not show that Greenall was clearly involved but Sarah Lloyd prosecuting said that one of the witnesses was certain that one of the riders chasing the fox was Greenall. Neither defendant gave evidence. Woodcock made an application to the district judge that the case against the two defendants should be thrown out as there was “no case to answer”. This was turned down by Judge Caroline Goulborn.
In summing up the Judge said: “I am satisfied so that I am sure that Mr Swain and Mr Ellison identified the defendant John Greenall as being present at the scene… Mr Greenall, in his interview, gave an innocent explanation for the activities of the Meynall and South Staffordshire Hunt on 22nd October 2011. He has chosen not to give evidence before me today. I draw the inference that his innocent explanation would not bear scrutiny”. The Judge went on to say: “I am certain so that I am sure that both defendants were engaged in illegal cubbing on the 22nd October, last. I am satisfied so that I am sure that the prey was identified and I am satisfied so that I am sure that the defendants were active participants in the unlawful hunting with the clear intention of doing so”.