The High Court has confirmed today that a person accused of breaching the hunting ban is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. This means that the burden of proof will lie with with anti-hunting brigade and will make the prosecution of Hunting Act offences much more difficult.

The High Court ruled today in favour of Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright, the first huntsman to be prosecuted under the Hunting Act, rejecting an appeal by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) against the judgement in his acquittal at Exeter Crown Court.

The CPS had appealed that judgement, arguing that it should have been for Mr Wright to prove that he was hunting legally, and that ‘hunting a mammal’ includes ‘searching for it’.

Tony Wright said: ‘This has dragged on for over three years and during that time I have been living under the threat of a criminal conviction. But if this judgement makes it less likely that other people will face the sort of vindictive prosecution that I’ve been through, then it has all been worth it.’

Since the Act came in, in 2005, only about five of the 30 cases brought have been connected with hunting – the rest have been for offences such as ratting.

Tim Hayden of law firm Clark Willmott commented: ‘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. I would expect a reduction in the number of such cases being brought before the courts.’