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Michael Wills, huntsman of the Grafton Hunt, was found not guilty of hunting a fox with dogs in Alithorn Woods, Northamptonshire, in September 2017.

He was cleared of the Hunting Act charge at Northampton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 22nd May after a three day hearing when evidence from expert witness for the prosecution Professor Stephen Harris, was excluded from the trial after an incident had been reported to District Judge Tim Daber.

Michael Wills’ defence counsel Stephen Welford claimed that as a result of Professor Harris greeting Judy Gilbert, a veteran anti-hunting campaigner, with a kiss as they arrived at court, he could no longer be regarded as an independent witness, given his apparently close relationship with her.

In his ruling Judge Daber told Wellingborough Magistrates Court: “The defence submission rests on the admitted fact that Professor Harris and Judy Gilbert greeted one another warmly with the witness kissing the Professor.

“If a relationship exists between a proposed expert and the party calling that expert which a reasonable observer might think is evidence of bias, then he must be excluded on the grounds of public policy. Justice must be seen to be done.”

The judge added: “The allegation of bias specific to this particular case is something that in my view the court cannot ignore. A reasonable observer would consider him to be partisan. “However unbiased he may be, this court must exclude Professor Harris’s evidence.”

Professor Harris told the Telegraph newspaper that Judy Gilbert had  kissed him before he could stop her and claimed they had not seen each other for nearly two decades.

He said: “She walked up to me in court, greeted me, and kissed me before I could stop her. I am not responsible for someone who I have not seen for so long kissing me.”