Hunt injunction on top saboteurs: Writ seeks to ban disruption 'by blowing horns and hallooing'

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HUNT supporters have struck a pre-emptive blow in their campaign to neutralise the militant leadership of the Hunt Saboteurs' Association as the new fox hunting season gets under way.

Lawyers acting for the Portman Hunt in Dorset, one of the most beleaguered of the country's 191 foxhound packs, have won injunctions against three prominent saboteurs forbidding them to disrupt meetings 'by blowing horns, hallooing, or in any other manner'.

One of the saboteurs, Joe Hashman, received his writ while dressed in a fox costume at a meeting of the Portman at Guy's Marsh, near his home in Shaftesbury, over the weekend. The temporary injunction, granted at Poole County Court last Friday, also names Mr Hashman's girlfriend, Wanda Harrup, and Peter White, a leading saboteur from the New Forest, Hampshire. The two men have worked closely together sabotaging hunts for a number of years. An application to extend the injunction will be heard at Bournemouth County Court on 29 November.

The Portman's action followed a crucial case heard at Peterborough County Court on 2 October when a judge ruled it was a 'trespass to goods' for Steven Cracknell, a local saboteur, to interfere with the hounds of the Fitzwilliam Hunt by trying to confuse them with noise.

Hunting organisations welcomed his decision to grant an injunction against Mr Cracknell and his horn tootling. Lawyers for the Fitzwilliam Land Company, which brought the case, said the victory added greatly to the legal armoury of hunts.

Mr Hashman said yesterday that the Portman had taken action against him after he and Peter White ignored a warning letter from the hunt's solicitors on 4 November and had sabotaged one of its meets near Sturminster Newton.

Brian Toon, of the Masters of Foxhounds' Association, said court action against prominent militants like Mr Hashman and Mr White would weaken the saboteurs' leadership. 'We know there's a very, very small hard core of real activists in their association and a slightly larger number who are pretty keen,' he said.

'The balance are foot soldiers, not particularly committed and with a high turnover of numbers.'

Other hunts, recognising that the injunction route is an expensive and protracted business - it took two years to collate evidence against Steven Cracknell - may prefer to wait for new legislation promised by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary. The new laws, which are not expected to reach the statute book until the next hunting season, will give police powers to crack down on aggravated trespass on private land and make it an offence to disrupt any legal country sport, including fishing and shooting.

Ben Ponton, spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs' Association, said the Portman's injunction will not affect the anti-hunting campaign. 'All they're effectively doing is removing one or two saboteurs out of a movement of 3,000 activists,' he said.