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Hunting Ban – Burden of proof rests on prosecutors

Clarke Willmott’s Chairman Leads Successful Judicial Review

The High Court confirmed today that a person accused of breaching the hunting ban is ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

The Court, led by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, recognised in their judgment that the 2004 Hunting Act not only bans hunting with dogs, it also provides individuals with the right to engage in lawful ‘exempt hunting’.

It is now clear that if the Prosecution alleges that a person is not ‘exempt hunting’ it is for the Prosecution to prove it to the criminal standard.

Tim Hayden, Chairman and Head of the Regulatory Team at national law firm, Clarke Willmott, applied for judicial review on behalf of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds.

Mr Hayden welcomes the judgment, saying that: “Many cases around the country have been ‘on hold’ for more than a year awaiting the outcome of these proceedings.

“There is now clarity on issues covering the burden of proof and also on the definition of hunting. The Court has ruled that hunting does not include searching and that there can only be a prosecution where there is an actual pursuit of a wild mammal. This clarification will come as a great relief to people who engage in lawful hunting, as will knowing that they will not be required to prove their innocence.

“This decision will reduce the risk of people being convicted where they are unable to recall or to prove the events that may have happened many months earlier.

“Prosecutors will have to consider the evidence in relation to exemptions very carefully before deciding to charge. I would expect a reduction in the number of such cases being brought before the Courts.”