Supporters of hunt escape jail for attacks

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TWO HUNT supporters who punched, kicked and tried to run over saboteurs to teach them a lesson escaped jail sentences yesterday.

Roger Wakefield, 41, a terrierman with the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt, and his assistant, Bryn Chittenden, 27, were goaded by saboteurs armed with sticks in at least one incident, Judge Frederick Marr-Johnson said.

In sentencing Wakefield to 160 hours' community service and Chittenden to 120 hours, the judge said: 'I'm quite sure a considerable degree of violence was shown towards the hunt saboteurs by yourselves and others involved with the hunt, who may have been fortunate not to find themselves in the dock with you. However, there was a degree of provocation by the saboteurs.'

Knightsbridge Crown Court was told the saboteurs armed themselves with sticks while trespassing during the hunt on 8 April last year. 'Some of the saboteurs said in evidence the sticks were used as walking sticks but this was clearly not the case,' the judge said.

Wakefield, unemployed, of Mundon, Essex, and Chittenden, a self-employed building worker, of Bicknacre, Essex, were both found guilty of affray and violent disorder.

During the hunt, in South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, Essex, Wakefield and Chittenden punched and kicked two saboteurs to the ground on a secluded forest pathway. Later in the day, Wakefield, at the wheel of his Land-Rover, with Chittenden in the front passenger seat, tried to run down five or six saboteurs in a field.

Wakefield admitted a further charge of criminal damage. Using a wooden post, he smashed the windows of a saboteurs' van, cutting the faces of several occupants.

The judge said the offences were so serious that immediate imprisonment was justified. But mitigating factors, including provocation, made it 'just possible' to impose sentences of community service.