Hunt staff fined after film showed fox being shot

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The Independent Online
TWO WORKERS at the Quorn Hunt were convicted of firearms offences yesterday after an anti-blood sports infiltrator filmed the shooting of a fox.

Christopher Doherty, a kennelman, was fined pounds 150 and Alan Betts, a part-time terrierman, was fined pounds 100 by Loughborough magistrates in Leicestershire for breaches of the 1968 Firearms Act, which they had denied.

Tom Hart, of the League Against Cruel Sports, for the prosecution, said that on 8 October last year Michael Huskisson, who had infiltrated the Quorn Hunt, made a video of a fox being chased near Shepshed.

After the fox had gone to earth, terriermen attempted to dig it out. Mr Huskisson filmed Doherty passing a loaded pistol to Betts, who then shot the fox.

Mr Huskisson, a self-employed photographic researcher, who has been fighting animal cruelty for more than 20 years, told the court that after making undercover inquiries about alleged breaches of hunting guidelines by the Quorn, he decided to 'just tag along and joined other hunt followers'.

After running through a small copse, the hounds stopped beside a hole near some fallen trees and began baying to indicate the fox had gone to ground.

As terriermen and other hunt followers began digging at the hole, Mr Huskisson said that he saw Doherty lay a loaded pistol on the ground near by. At first they were unable to shoot the fox because a terrier was already down the hole, holding the fox's face, and there was a danger of hitting the dog, he said.

He then saw Betts pick up the gun and shoot the fox, which was later thrown to the hounds and ripped apart.

Betts, 42, of Whitwick, Leicestershire, was found guilty of possessing a firearm without a firearms certificate. He was acquitted of acquiring a firearm without a certificate.

Doherty, 31, of the Quorn Hunt Kennels, Kirby Bellars, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was found guilty of not keeping a firearm in a secure place when not in use. He was found not guilty of breaching a condition of his firearms certificate, which restricted the use of firearms to the slaughter of animals.

Robert Anderson, for the two men, told magistrates that the morals of fox-hunting were not at issue. Betts maintained in evidence that he had the loaded gun in his possession for only about five seconds in order to 'dispatch' the fox.

Doherty said that their intention was to kill the fox as humanely as possible. Because Betts was in a better position to do the job more thoroughly and professionally, he handed him the gun.

The case was brought by the League Against Cruel Sports after the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take no action.

After the case, the League hailed it as a victory. James Barrington, for the League, said: 'It was totally right to bring this case because the terriermen of this country are probably doing this all over the place and this is a shot across their bows to show this sort of activity has got to stop.'

He warned that other infiltrators were currently operating within other hunts around the country.