Thursday, August 02, 2007


By Phoebe Smith
Denbighshire Free Press

THE Denbigh and Flint Hunt will be stronger than ever, according to Master of the Hunt Jeremy Reed, despite the controversial sentencing of its "terrier man".

William Francis Armstrong, 69, of Cefn Home Farm, near St Asaph, was fined £200 plus £60 court costs for hunting a wild animal with dogs, at Prestatyn Magistrates' Court on Monday. But Mr Reed said he was confident that membership will not fall in the slightest and he sees no reason why the hunt will be affected.

"We're only talking about a minor infringement of a technicality," he said. "It is really no different to someone driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone.

"The law is so ambiguous – it can be read in a number of ways. In this instance we did slip from the hunting law and we're sorry we did it but we will carry on hunting within the law as we have for the past two years.

"We've had amazing support from the community and farmers, and all members of the hunt are standing behind us, so we'll only get stronger," he said.

Mr Armstrong pleaded guilty in what is thought to be the first prosecution in Wales under the Hunting Act 2004.

Gareth Preston, prosecuting, told District Judge Andrew Shaw that Mr Armstrong was seen sending a terrier down a hole on the Clwydian hills, on January 2, by off-duty policeman Stephen Whitfield who was walking in Moel Llys-y-Coed.

Mr Armstrong had started digging and eventually shot the fox with a .22 pistol. Mr Preston said that under the law Mr Armstrong should have made sure that there was another exit from the hole before he sent the terrier down as they should only be used to locate and flush the fox out.

He said Mr Armstrong should also have used a shotgun to kill the fox as it is more humane than a pistol.

Defending solicitor, Gwyn Jones, said that Mr Armstrong did accept on this occasion that his actions were not in accordance with Section 1 of the Hunting Act.

"Whatever political or moral views people have on hunting, the one aspect universally supported is that a fox should not suffer any more than is necessary," said Mr Jones.

But he said it is often hard to see if there are more exits from a hole.

Mr Jones said that since the incident Mr Armstrong had given up his position with the hunt, given away the dog and handed his pistol and gun licence to the police.

Mike Hobday, head of prosecution with the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "This case shows that fox hunting is a public activity and if people go out and break the law they may well be seen and taken to court.

"Hunting with terriers below ground is a particularly cruel form of hunting. I am very pleased that the cruelty of fox hunting has been dealt with and punished in this case," he added.

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