Hot off the press.
The League Against Cruel Sports’ (LACS) private prosecution under the Hunting Act against six members of the Lamerton Hunt collapsed this morning, three days into a scheduled 10-day trial at Newton Abbot Magistrates' Court. LACS withdrew all evidence following an application by the Lamerton’s barrister, Peter Glenser, to have expert witness Professor Stephen Harris removed from the proceedings.
Professor Harris had revealed under cross examination that he had a close personal relationship with a LACS employee, and was also read an email which he himself had written in 2012 stating that it would be “very damaging” if the police knew of his relationship with LACS. The court sought confirmation from absent LACS acting chief executive Rachel Newman, a qualified solicitor, that she had advised Professor Harris not to disclose the relationship with the LACS employee. Professor Harris had also been accused of embellishing his experience of hunting whilst giving evidence. Rather than answer these very serious questions LACS withdrew all charges. The defendants were represented by barrister Peter Glenser and solicitor Jamie Foster who will seek costs from LACS at a hearing next week.
This case raises a series of fundamental questions about the abuse of the criminal justice system by vindictive private prosecutors. LACS spent more than £100,000 of charitable funds on a case that the police had correctly judged simply did not stand up. In desperation it has then sought to present as independent an expert witness who was clearly deeply prejudiced against the defendants and used the court process to harass six innocent people over an 18-month period. Questions need to be asked at the highest levels about this abuse.
Our congratulations go to the six defendants who have been cleared and had the weight of this prosecution lifted from their shoulders, and to solicitor Jamie Foster and barrister Peter Glenser who represented them so effectively. The Countryside Alliance has been working with them all from the first moment LACS’ allegations surfaced nearly two years ago. Helping those dragged into this sort of vindictive prosecution is one of the reasons we exist.
I am pleased to report that there were no prosecutions of hunts from the 2014/15 hunting season, and that this was the last outstanding Hunting Act prosecution involving a hunt. Animal rights groups will continue to make allegations, and perhaps even bring prosecutions, but as long as we stand together we will continue to beat them. Tim Bonner