We would like to see seven changes made to the Hunting Act 2004 aimed at strengthening it by facilitating enforcement, creating a stronger deterrent effect, and closing current loopholes.  This document explains specifically which changes we would like to see made, and suggests the wording of the main text of a “Hunting Act Amendment Bill” that would accomplish these changes.

 

1. The introduction of a recklessness clause to prevent ‘trail hunting’ from being used as a cover or “false alibi”

Amending two sections (added text in bold):

●      1. Hunting wild mammals with dogs.

A person commits an offence if he intentionally or recklessly hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless his hunting is exempt.

●      11. Interpretation

(5) For the purposes of this Act a reference to a person recklessly hunting a wild mammal with a dog includes, in particular, any case where— .

(a) a person allows one or more dogs under his control to become out of control so they can no longer can be easily stopped, and

(b) such dogs engage in the pursuit of a wild mammal, with or without the knowledge of the person who let them out of control, and

(c) he does not take sufficient reasonable steps to stop such dogs engaging in such pursuit

 

(6) For the purposes of this Act a reference to a person recklessly hunting a wild mammal with a dog includes a person undertaking any form of simulated hunting in which— .

(a) dogs are set to search for a mammal-based artificial scent, or 

(b) dogs are set to search for an artificial scent laid in areas likely to contain live foxes, hare, deer or mink, or

(c) dogs are set to search for an artificial scent and those able to control these dogs are deliberately not made aware precisely where the artificial scent trail has been laid

 

 2. The removal of the exemption for ‘Research and observation’, which has been abused by stag hunts to avoid prosecution for illegal hunting, and it has become an effective loophole

 

Removing an entire paragraph and its subparagraphs from Schedule 1:

 

●      Omit Paragraph 9 (Research and Observation) in Schedule 1

 

3. An increase in the penalty for illegal hunting to include custodial sentences, in line with other wildlife crime legislation, and to create a stronger deterrent effect

 

Amending one section (added text in bold):

 

●      6 Penalty.

A person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

 

4. The removal of the exemption “Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting”, as it cannot prevent fights between dogs and wild mammals, and is therefore against the spirit of the Act

 

Removing an entire paragraph and its subparagraphs from Schedule 1:

 

●      Omit Paragraph 2 (Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting) in Schedule 1

 

 5. An extension of the available time to charge suspects with breaching the Act, which is currently only six months, and therefore insufficient considering the complexity of hunting cases

 

Amending one section (added text in bold):

●      6 Penalty.

(2)   Summary proceedings for an offence under this Act may be brought within a period of six months from the date on which evidence sufficient in the opinion of the prosecutor to warrant the proceedings came to his knowledge; but no such proceedings shall be brought by virtue of this section more than three years after the commission of the offence or, in the case of a continuous contravention, after the last date on which the offence was committed.

 

(3)   For the purpose of this section a certificate signed by or on behalf of the prosecutor and stating the date on which such evidence as aforesaid came to his knowledge shall be conclusive evidence of that fact; and a certificate stating that matter and purporting to be so signed shall be deemed to be so signed unless the contrary is proved.”

 

 6. Application of vicarious liability to cover the employers of those in breach of the Act (typically the Hunt Masters and/or the hunt as corporate body), and the landowners who requested that hunting take place on their land

 

Amending one section (added text in bold, deleted text crossed):

 

●      3. Hunting: assistance

 

(1)   A person commits an offence if he knowingly permits does not take reasonable steps and exercise all due diligence to prevent land which belongs to him to be entered or used in the course of the commission of an offence under

 

(3)   The employer or relevant services receiver of any person who has committed an offence under this Act also commits an offence if the use of one or more dogs in any form of hunting, real or simulated, is an integral part of their relevant employment or services relationship.

 

(4)   For the purposes of this section, “relevant services” include the provision of otherwise lawful animal (pest or otherwise) control, and the detection and/or removal of fallen stock

 

(5)   For the purposes of subsection (3), a “services relationship” is one when—

 

(a)   a verbal or written arrangement between services receiver and services provider has taken place, or

 

(b)   a verbal or written arrangement between services receiver and the relevant  employer or representative  of the service provider who is providing or securing the provision of services in behalf of the service provider, has taken place.

 

 7. The reversal of burden of proof in cases where the defence argues exempt hunting, so that the burden is no longer on the prosecution but on the defence under the balance of probabilities (as was the initial interpretation of the CPS, and presumably of Parliament, which was changed due to a High Court ruling in 2009)

Amending one section (added text in bold):

●      4. Hunting: defence

It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 1 in respect of hunting to show that he reasonably believed that the hunting was exempt, providing that in the proceedings for an offence under section 1 he is able to show on the balance of probabilities that he had complied with all the conditions set out in any paragraph of Schedule 1 of the Act relevant to the exempt hunting he relies on as a defence.

 

To accommodate all these changes, we suggest that the main text of the “Hunting Act Amendment Bill” should be as following:

 

(1)   The Hunting Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2)   In section 1 (Hunting wild mammals with dogs) after “an offence if he” insert “intentionally or recklessly”

(3)   In section 3 (Hunting: assistance)

(a)   In subsection 1 remove “knowingly permits”

(b)   In subsection 1 insert “does not take reasonable steps and exercise all due diligence to prevent” before “land which belong to him”

(c)   After subsection 2 insert

“(3) The employer or relevant services receiver of any person who has committed an offence under this Act also commits an offence if the use of one or more dogs in any form of hunting, real or simulated, is an integral part of their relevant employment or services relationship.

(4) For the purposes of this section, “relevant services” include the provision of otherwise lawful animal (pest or otherwise) control, and the detection and/or removal of fallen stock

(5) For the purposes of subsection (3), a “services relationship” is one when—

(a) a verbal or written arrangement between services receiver and services provider has taken place, or

(b) a verbal or written arrangement between services receiver and the relevant  employer or representative  of the service provider who is providing or securing the provision of services in behalf of the service provider, has taken place.”

(4)   In section 4 (Defence)

(d)   After “hunting was exempt”, insert “, providing that in the proceedings for an offence under section 1 he is able to show on the balance of probabilities that he had complied with all the conditions set out in any paragraph of Schedule 1 of the Act relevant  to the exempt hunting he relies on as a defence”

(5)   In section 6 (Penalty)

(a)   Number the paragraph beginning with “A person guilty of an offence under this Act” as subsection (1)

(b)   After “be liable on summary conviction to” insert “imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to”

(c)   After “standard scale” insert “,or to both”.

(d)   After the paragraph beginning with “A person guilty of an offence under this Act” insert

“(2) Summary proceedings for an offence under this Act may be brought within a period of six months from the date on which evidence sufficient in the opinion of the prosecutor to warrant the proceedings came to his knowledge; but no such proceedings shall be brought by virtue of this section more than three years after the commission of the offence or, in the case of a continuous contravention, after the last date on which the offence was committed.

 

(3) For the purpose of this section a certificate signed by or on behalf of the prosecutor and stating the date on which such evidence as aforesaid came to his knowledge shall be conclusive evidence of that fact; and a certificate stating that matter and purporting to be so signed shall be deemed to be so signed unless the contrary is proved.”

(6)   In section 11 (Interpretation)

(a)   after subsection (4) insert

“(5) For the purposes of this Act a reference to a person recklessly hunting a wild mammal with a dog includes, in particular, any case where—

(a) a person allows one or more dogs under his control to become out of control so they can no longer can be easily stopped, and

(b) such dogs engage in the pursuit of a wild mammal, with or without the knowledge of the person who let them out of control, and

(c) he does not stop such dogs engaging in such pursuit

(6) For the purposes of this Act a reference to a person recklessly hunting a wild mammal with a dog includes a person undertaking any form of simulated hunting in which— .

(a) dogs are set to search for a mammal-based artificial scent, or 

(b) dogs are set to search for an artificial scent laid in areas likely to contain live foxes, hare, deer or mink, or

(c) dogs are set to search for an artificial scent and those able to control these dogs are deliberately not made aware precisely where the artificial scent trail has been laid”

(7)   In Schedule 1 omit Paragraph 2 (Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting) entirely

(8)   In Schedule 1 omit Paragraph 9 (Research and Observation) entirely

(9)   In Schedule 1, Paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8  should be renumbered as Paragraphs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 respectively

 

If the hunting act is not amended illegal hunting will continue- these changes will stop the loopholes and will bring clarity to the law. 

Anne Brummer/TF

November 2012