The price of justice

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive

Time seems to fly by and now the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the Hunting Act is upon us.

We live in a world where it is very important to deconstruct what is said and what is reported to get anywhere near the truth of what is actually going on out there.

First let us look at some of the recent cases that the Countryside Alliance have been involved in. In the case of the alleged infringement of their human rights by the passing into law of the Hunting Act that went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, the cumulative costs of that case will have approached £1million, if not more. The case against the Act was lost and the costs, as the accountants say, will have crystallised on the people taking the case, who in turn had liability cover from the Countryside Alliance. Off balance sheet provision for these costs is referred to in the Countryside Alliance accounts.

It is not clear whether the Government’s costs in opposing the case brought were included in the costings and the provisions made by the Countryside Alliance. To the best of my knowledge the Government have not made any application to the courts for their costs to be awarded to them as is usually the case when someone brings a case and loses.

It could be argued that no free man should be required to pay the government’s costs in seeking justice when accused of a crime and most people would agree with that view. But that said, there comes a point when, if a case is brought by one or more individuals against the law as passed in the elected parliament, the people through the courts should be entitled to recover the costs to the government of the day of defending that law if the claimants case is lost. In the same way as if the Crown Prosecution Service take a case and lose it, it is usual practice for the defendant’s costs to be paid.

I find it extraordinary that the Countryside Alliance are accusing the Crown Prosecution Service of ‘wasting’ £250,000 of taxpayer’s money in taking not one but two cases against an alleged interferer with badger setts which were lost, when at the same time apparently being quite content with having themselves cost the taxpayer a much more substantial sum of money over their opposition through the courts in the UK and Europe to the Hunting Act in England and Wales and the Wild Mammals Protection Act in Scotland. The old adage about people in glass houses not throwing stones comes to mind.

The other thought that comes to mind over the whole argument about costs of justice is the concern is that if enough money is thrown at a case the result could be influenced by the sheer weight of the legal onslaught rather than the facts of the case. We all rely on the legal process and the judiciary to ensure that does not happen, but none the less it is a worry. To have run up a bill of £250,000 as the Countryside Alliance claim, there must have been an incredibly large and expensive team of lawyers on the cases. I hope that when the legal costs are submitted to the court, they are both evidenced and are scrutinised with care. There is quite clearly a lot of taxpayers money at stake in this case.

The next issue that is well worth examination is the hunters’ claim that the Act is not working.

The most blindingly obvious statements made in regard to their claims that the Act isn’t working are the following:

The hunters now say that hunting is more popular than it was before. We always said that when the cruelty was taken out of the bloodsport, it would be more popular and now it seems the hunters finally agree that we were right.

The hunters say that they are hunting within the law. They now say that they no longer hunt at all for sport and for the most part that they trail hunt or hound exercise. Again we always said they could get their pleasure lawfully with out the cruelty of chasing and killing for sport. So if over 300 hunts have had over 150,000 days hunting legally since the ban, how can they possibly have a problem with the law?

The hunters say that they are confused by the law, and that they worry about breaking the law by accident, but we know that at the start of most meets they tell supporters exactly what they plan to do for the day. The hunters also apply for licenses to use land lawfully from the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Ministry of Defence. They don’t seem to exhibit much confusion in making their applications and in agreeing to observe the conditions of the license.

The hunters try to argue that it isn’t their fault when the pack accidentally find a fox and pursue it before they catch up with the hounds and reassert control. They blithely ignore the fact that we have years of records from the days before the ban, showing where they went when they were allowed to fox hunt. It is difficult to believe that something is really an accident when the actions are exactly the same, but allegedly the intent is different. The more obvious conclusion to be reasonably drawn from their actions is that they are deliberate and are not accidental. Any hunt that has repeated accidents with its hounds and/or with wildlife, should look to its accident record and decide on appropriate changes to reduce the numbers of accidents.

On the wider issues of law and order, the answer to a lawless minority who refuse to accept the law on hunting is not, as they demand. to do away with the law, it is to enforce the law without fear and favour. The policing minister said just that to the House of Commons earlier this week.

The League membership and supporter base is rather like a rural version of Neighbourhood Watch. The normally silent majority do care about cruelty to animals for sport, they do expect the law to be upheld and they do want the police to deal with the bullies, thugs and law breakers in the hunting and bloodsports community, who seem to think that the law should not apply to them and their behaviour.

On the anniversary of the Act, the League has a present for all who care about what the hunters are really up to. As a result of the tip offs we have had, the investigations we have carried out and the support you have all given us, there are a lot more hunters and coursers now on their way to face their accusers in Court. Of course not every case will be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and in some cases no doubt the defence will provide evidence of their being no case to answer. But as long as justice is done, and seen to be done, I am sure that we will be able to Keep Cruelty History.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    gilesbradshaw said,

    I was involved in the case and the Govts costs would have been considerably less actually.

    I believe also they were awarded against us so your argument is basically poppycock.

    By the way I am still taking my dogs out on a regular basis and flushing out and pursuing deer with them.

    You are very welcome to come and watch.

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