THE HUNTSMAN of the Seavington Hunt has admitted an offence of hunting a fox with dogs.

Huntsman David Parker, 39, of Seavington St Mary, Ilminster, pleaded guilty before Yeovil Magistrates yesterday to the offence under the Hunting Act.

The court heard the offence took place in the area around Causeway Lane, Winsham on the West Dorset/Somerset border in January.

He was ordered to pay a fine of £500, a £50 victim surcharge and £500 costs.

District Judge Lynne Matthews dismissed the defence’s plea for a conditional discharge and made the point that Parker had admitted the offence of fox hunting by his own guilty plea.

The court heard that two wildlife crime investigators from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) were filming the hunt when they saw a fox bolt from where hounds were searching scrub area.

The huntsman then blew the horn and engaged the hounds in pursuing the fox. The hounds were not called off and the pursuit ended at an earth where the fox apparently managed to escape.

The footage showed the fox fleeing across the field, with the hounds following shortly after.

The IFAW investigators presented the footage to the RSPCA and the decision was taken to prosecute. The case cost the RSPCA a total of £4783.38 to bring to court.

The charge was one of hunting a wild mammal, namely a fox, with dogs contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004. The offence is made out by the deliberate pursuit of a fox with dogs – the fox does not have to be killed or maimed.

RSPCA inspector Jo Daniel said: “The footage, provided by IFAW, clearly shows the members of the hunting party searching the area, along with the hounds, before the fox fled and the huntsman pursued it. “We cannot stand by whilst laws which are there to protect wild animals are broken and if sufficient evidence is provided to us we have an obligation to act to prevent further such offences from occurring.”

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Hunting a fox with hounds is a cruel and illegal activity and IFAW’s monitors will remain vigilant to ensure anyone committing such offences is brought before the court."