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East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association hit out at Crown Prosecution Service for dropping charges against suspected Bilsington fox hunters

By Vicky Castle

Anti-foxhunters have spoken of their shock after hunting charges against five people were dropped.

Members of the East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association (East Kent HSA), who regularly disrupt organised hunts, said the group is "concerned" about the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to drop the case.

Jack Jones, 23, from West Brabourne; Paul Smissen, 61, from Alkham; Michael Manahon, 26, from East Sussex; Alfie Vassar , 24, from Rhodes Minnis and Mary Major, 46, were accused of fox hunting with hounds in Bilsington, near Ashford.

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Hounds and hunt staff of the East Kent Hunt.
Hounds and hunt staff of the East Kent Hunt.

But all charges have been discontinued by the court and the group will not face any further criminal proceedings.

A spokesman for the East Kent HSA said: "It is unbelievable that the CPS believe that there was insufficient evidence - there was video footage, which speaks for itself.

"The police clearly thought there was a case to answer, as did the CPS, as charges would not have been brought against them, and the case would not have been allowed to proceed to court if the case was weak.

Hunt staff wear red jackets, while field (riders) wear black.
Hunt staff wear red jackets, while field (riders) wear black.

"This is not the first time that this hunt has been accused of illegal hunting, but it is the first time its supporters have been charged and appeared in court for hunting offences."

The court cases have come about in the midst of a national debate about the fox hunting ban, introduced by Labour more than 10 years ago.

Video: Apparent fox hunting is filmed

But the East Kent Saboteurs – or Sabs as they call themselves – said the decision to drop the case has highlighted the need for some amendments.

The spokesman, who asked not to be named, added: "Given as none of the hunts can be trusted to obey the law, parts of the Hunting Act need to change.

Terrier men dig out foxes that have gone underground.
Terrier men dig out foxes that have gone underground.

"All the exemptions to the act means that prosecution is extremely difficult, or even impossible.

"This recent decision by the CPS highlights the need for non violent direct action even more.

"If the institutions of justice fail to act in a fair manner, people will take direct action to see that justice is done."

The CPS defended its decision to drop the charges, on the grounds there was not enough evidence.

Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan
Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan

Kris Venkatasami, deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS South East, said: "The video footage was reviewed by more than one of our prosecutors and they concluded that there was insufficient evidence within it to prove the requirements of the legislation to the court."

The East Kent Hunt has been approached for a comment.

What do you think about fox hunting? Should the ban be relaxed or tightened? Write to Kentish Express, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, TN24 8JR or email kentishexpress@thekmgroup.co.uk

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