Fox hunting: Top huntsman 'gave advice' on illegal events, court told

·1 min read
Mark Hankinson
Recordings of private webinars held by Mark Hankinson were leaked and posted online, the court heard

A top huntsman gave advice on how to hold illegal foxhunts during private webinars, a court has heard.

Mark Hankinson, a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, denies encouraging or assisting others to break Hunting Act laws.

Recordings of two online sessions held in August 2020 were leaked to anti-hunting groups and posted on the web.

Greg Gordon, prosecuting, said Mr Hankinson gave advice on how to use trail hunting as a "smokescreen".

He told Westminster Magistrates Court that, to outsiders, trail hunting looked like a "normal hunt" which made it "a potent excuse".

"A huntsman can say I thought it was a trail, but I called them [the hounds] off too late," he told the court.

Many organisations took up the practice of trail hunting after the foxhunting ban came in to force in 2005.

It involves laying a trail of animal scent for the hounds to follow and is "designed to simulate traditional hunting", according to the Hunting Office.

This is the executive body for more than 170 hunting packs in England, Scotland and Wales, which hosted the webinars.

'Out of context'

Defending, Richard Lissack QC, said the recordings were "illegally obtained" by the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and should not be admissible as evidence.

He said the allegations related to a few seconds of "out-of-context" comments.

But Deputy Chief Magistrate, Tanweer Ikram, ruled that they were admissible as a "contemporaneous recording" of what was said.

Mr Hankinson, from Sherborne in Dorset, denies the charge and the trial continues.

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