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Official figures released today show convictions almost doubled in 2009 compared with 2008.

Fifty-seven people were convicted of offences under the Hunting Act in 2009, according to Ministry of Justice figures released today, bringing to a total of 145 the number of people convicted between the coming into force of the Act in February 2005 an the end of 2009. In 2008, 33 people were convicted.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier this year claimed that the Hunting Act wasn’t working and was difficult to enforce. But the League Against Cruel Sports today said that the new figures make her claim ‘nonsensical’.

“If an Act wasn’t working, there wouldn’t be convictions,” said Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League, which campaigned for 80 years to bring about a ban on hunting and now monitors the activity of hunts up and down the country. “The reality is that the Hunting Act is used more frequently than many other pieces of wildlife legislation, the only difference is that there’s no vociferous and well funded campaign to repeal those laws.”

“Of course the hunters want the law to be repealed. Every criminal would like to see an end to the law that puts a stop to their activity. I’m sure burglars would love to see the back of the Theft Act,” said Mr Batchelor. “But one conviction a week in 2009 shows the law is working, and there is no prospect of the law being repealed in the near future.”

Hunt officials continue to be prosecuted under the legislation. Earlier this year, a terrierman connected with the Ullswater Foxhounds in Cumbria was fined for killing a fox. Prosecutions are ongoing in North Yorkshire, Devon, Leicestershire and Somerset, based on evidence provided by the League.

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