Huntsman first to be convicted twice under Hunting Act

Image caption,
Richard Down was ordered to pay £2,920 in fines and legal costs

A huntsman from Somerset has become the first person to be convicted twice under the Hunting Act.

Richard Down, 47, from West Bagborough, was found guilty at Taunton Magistrates Court of hunting a wild mammal with more than two dogs.

He was convicted for chasing an injured stag with three hounds. Under the act, only two are allowed if the purpose is to relieve the animal's suffering.

The Quantock Staghound huntsman was first convicted in June 2007.

On that occasion he was found guilty of chasing deer with hounds.

'Slap in the face'

The latest conviction was based on video footage gathered by the League Against Cruel Sports.

The video showed an injured stag race across the combe in the Quantock Hills while being pursued by three hounds.

The defence said that when Down entered the combe, he was looking for the stag and under the Act, more than two hounds were allowed.

But as soon as the injured stag was found, the prosecution said only two dogs were allowed to gather the mammal which then had to be shot straight away to relieve suffering.

Down, who was described as one of the most experienced huntsmen in the country with 21 years' experience, said he was not in a position to stop the dogs once they had found the stag.

Prosecuter Kerry Barker said the chase caused the stag "great distress".

District Judge Martin Brown said he was "in control of the hounds and could have called them back".

He was ordered to pay a total of £2,920.

League chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: "This is a real slap in the face for anyone who claims the Hunting Act is not working.

"Let's hope this steep bill he faces in paying back the court costs will act as a deterrent to him in the future."

Since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005, 154 people have been convicted however the Countryside Alliance said of those, only four were for hunting, the rest were for offences such as poaching.

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