'Pitiful' £350 fines for fox hunters caught in video footage

Media caption,
Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt has been asked to comment

An animal welfare charity has called for people who illegally hunt foxes to be given prison sentences - after two men were fined a "pitiful" £350.

The League Against Cruel Sports filmed a fox being hunted on land in Derbyshire in October 2018 and gave the footage to police.

It was the second time people from the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt have been prosecuted for fox hunting.

The hunt said it would "continue to operate within the law" moving forward.

The men were charged under the Hunting Act 2004, which says people who illegally hunt foxes can be fined but not sent to prison.

'Barbaric activity'

Martin Sims, director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said the "pitiful" fine was not sufficient punishment.

"To receive just a fine for this barbaric activity shows the need to strengthen the Hunting Act, including the introduction of prison sentences," he said.

Six men from the hunt were originally charged but charges against four of them were dropped.

Image caption,
The video was filmed by a League Against Cruel Sports investigator

The remaining two - William Tatler, 45, from Belper in Derbyshire and Sam Staniland, 31, of Hadley in Ipswich - pleaded guilty at Nottingham Magistrates' Court to hunting a wild mammal with dogs.

As well as being fined they were each ordered to pay £150 towards legal costs.

League Against Cruel Sports investigator Roger Swaine filmed the footage on 2 October 2018 at Spath Covert in Sutton-on-the-Hill, Derbyshire - the same area where two other men from the hunt were caught illegally hunting fox cubs in 2011.

Mr Swaine said they were "cub hunting", which is when hounds are trained to hunt fox cubs.

"They were in the same place, it was the same hunt, doing exactly the same thing," said Mr Swaine, who also filmed the previous footage.

He said he was "disappointed" by the fine.

"The problem is they are very well financed and they have a very good legal defence team," he said.

In a statement issued through the Countryside Alliance, the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt said the Hunting Act was "a difficult and troublesome piece of legislation".

"It is complex and open to misinterpretation," the statement said.

"The Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt regrets that in this case some individuals were unable to show that they had fulfilled all the conditions of the relevant exemption, as set out in Schedule 1 of the Act.

"The Hunt confirms that moving forward it will continue to operate within the law, utilising both artificial trails and the exemptions provided in the Act."

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