Hunter loses appeal on badger conviction

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TWO judges - one who allows fox hunts to cross his land and one who does not - have clarified the law on the extent to which hunters can interfere with badgers' sets.

Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Sullivan in the High Court in London yesterday, ruled that soil could only be used to "stop up" a set and prevent a fox going to ground if it was sufficiently broken so as not to interfere with a badger's ability to use its home.

Hunt supporters claimed the ruling as a victory, as it clarified the law. The RSPCA, also claimed a victory, saying it had been "a matter of common sense" all along.

The two judges rejected an appeal by Richard Lovett, a full-time employee of the Vale of White Horse Hunt, against his conviction for interfering with a badgers' set at Flisteridge Wood, Wiltshire, in December 1994.

Lovett, who was prosecuted by the RSPCA, was found guilty by Wootton Bassett magistrates in May 1996 and fined pounds 100.

The Crown Court ruled that, although Lovett believed he was acting within the law, he had used clay soil to stop up two holes which was not "loose soil" and had therefore committed an offence under the provisions of the 1992 Badgers Act.