Three members of the Grove and Rufford hunt have been charged with hunting a fox after pictures were taken by two keen birdwatchers.
Huntsman Paul Larby, 57, of The Kennels, Kennel Drive, Barnby Moor, trail-layer Peter White, 57, of Leyfields Farm, Redhill Lane, Kneesall, and the hunt’s whipper-in Jane Wright, 63, of Town Street, Lound, each pleaded not guilty to offences under the Hunting Act.
The hunt claimed it was trail-hunting, which is legal, after fox hunting was banned in 2005.
Rod Chapman, prosecuting, said: “The issue for trial today is whether the activities of the defendants constituted the hunting of a wild mammal, and whether they were engaged in it.
Phillip Palmer and his partner Pauline Hogg asked permission to photograph the hunt when it gathered at the Bees’ Knees pub, in Laneham, at 10.30am, on January 30, 2016.
While giving evidence, Mr Palmer referred to his pictures of the hunt, which included 20 to 30 people on horseback, around 45 dogs, people in cars or on quad bikes, which he took because he “liked the idea of seeing people in red jackets riding across the countryside.”
At 11.52am at Holly Folly Farm, he and Ms Hogg saw a fox cross Broadings Lane, and five minutes later the hunt appeared.
Mr Larby spoke to a man in the field, on a mobile phone, who pointed in the direction the fox had run, before setting off that way too, Mr Palmer said.
Mr Palmer told the court: “I said to my partner ‘this is going to be interesting. They should go in the opposite direction and call off the hunt’.”
The couple walked north along Broadings Lane before splitting up.
Mr Palmer drove to Rampton Road, where he saw a fox run across the road and into a field pursued by hounds, at 12.44pm.
“It was running like mad to get away,” he said. “The hunt was reasonably close behind - a couple of minutes. The hounds had picked up the scent but they hadn’t got a sight of it. They followed the route the fox had taken.”
About fifty per cent of the hunt followed the route of the fox, he said.
At 1.12pm, they saw the hounds catch the fox on a field off Helenship Lane.
Mr Palmer said: “We could hear the dogs barking. I saw the fox running with the dogs following very close behind. They soon caught up and that was it.
“The lead huntsman was about 40 or 50 yards away. The lady rider was near him. They were trotting along quite slowly. I saw the lead dogs overtake the fox. It was just a mass of dogs in one place. And there was nothing left at the end of it.
“There were some bits and pieces left which a man on a quad bike came to sift through a matter of minutes later. He put some things in a carrier bag.
“We were aware that we could have been in quite a dangerous position because we were surrounded by supporters,” he said.
“We were thinking that at any time they could have called the dogs off, but we didn’t hear any calls.
“Wherever we saw the fox or the dogs running, there was no trail laying before that. There was nothing to indicate that.”
But he couldn’t say if the riders were in the same field or not at the time of the kill.
Stephen Welford, defending, said to Mr Palmer: “There were times when you couldn’t see the hunt or the riders? The quad bike could have been leaving trails when you couldn’t see it?”
Mr Palmer agreed.
The trial at Mansfield Magistrates Court continues.