Former huntsman loses appeal against illegal hunting conviction

George Adams, former huntsman with the Fitzwilliam Hunt, lost his appeal at Cambridge Crown Court on the 9th May 2019 after the judge rejected his attempts to use what is known as the ‘falconry exemption’ to persuade them to overturn his earlier conviction. Last year Adams, who has now retired from hunting, was convicted at Peterborough Magistrates Court last year of using hounds to kill a fox on New Years Day 2016, near Wansford, Cambridgeshire.

Adams denied the charge, saying the hunt was using dogs to flush the fox out of cover to allow a Golden Eagle to catch the mammal and said the Fitzilliam Hunt always acted within the law.

Evidence for the prosecution came from Beds and Bucks Hunt Sabs and South Cambridgeshire Hunt Sabs. Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs welcomed the decision, and said: “We are clearly very happy with the decision to uphold the conviction of George Adams that we achieved back in April last year. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the prosecution team, in particular the excellent David Matthew QC who performed admirably against the defence who persisted in attempts to discredit the witnesses and ambushing the court with last minute legal claims and the questionable addition of their own so-called expert witness, a computer forensics expert with no background in animal sciences.”

The anti-hunting protesters also said they hoped it would change how hunts continue to operate.

They said: “We hope this finally signals the end of the Bird of Prey or Falconry exemption within the Hunting Act. Other hunts which use this loophole will now have to reconsider their options as they will no longer be considered to be taking part in exempt hunting just by having someone with a bird of prey present. The use of birds of prey alongside hunting with hounds is not, and never was falconry. There are serious welfare issues for the raptors used in this manner alongside the abhorrent cruelty involved in setting 1 or 30 animals against another. Judge Cooper, in summing up stated; “Something significant” must change in the planning and training of the hounds and the characteristics of hunts in the future if they don’t want to be charged with illegal hunting”.

Adams was fined £1,000 and was ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £930 costs following the original conviction. After the appeal, he was ordered to pay £11,332 costs.