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Four members of the Middleton Hunt, a registered hunt based at Malton, North Yorkshire, today pleaded guilty to illegally hunting a fox in December 2012 following footage obtained by the League Against Cruel Sports during a hunt meet at Full Sutton, East Yorkshire. Huntsman and joint master Tom Holt, whipper-in Shaun Marles, terrierman Lee Martin and amateur terrierman Brian Cuthbertson all pleaded guilty in respect of Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004 – the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog. Holt was fined £200 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs; Marles was fined £100 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs; Martin was fined £100 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and £85 costs; and Cuthertson was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

The case concerned an incident where a fox had taken refuge in a stack of hay bales. The animal was trapped in the bales for over 25 minutes while terriers were used to flush out the fox into the open. Eventually the fox did attempt to escape but was soon brought down and torn apart by the waiting pack of hounds. The huntsman was clearly seen and filmed using his hunting horn to blow the traditional call for a kill. He then picked up the fox carcass and held it so the hounds could better attack and ‘rag’ it. Paul Tillsley, Head of Investigations at the League said: “Whilst we’re pleased with the result and the admission of guilt from the hunt staff concerned, we doubt it will change their behaviour… We know that many hunts are regularly breaking the law and that’s precisely why we have a team of professional investigators in the field – to capture illegal activity and work with the relevant authorities to bring about prosecutions… The successful outcome of this case today is a clear example of how the Hunting Act 2004 can and does work when enforced”.