Heythrop Hunt banned from riding out on National Trust land
ONE of the West's most distinguished hunts has been banned from riding out on National Trust land after it admitted "repeated and gratuitous" breaches of the ban on foxhunting.
In a strongly worded statement, the National Trust said land it owns in Gloucestershire would be out of bounds to the Heythrop Hunt because of a "serious breach of trust" by the hunt leaders.
The trust said it would not be renewing the hunt's licences to go on its land when they expired on March 31, following the guilty plea to four separate breaches of the ban by two huntsmen and the hunt as a corporate body before Christmas.
The National Trust has long been a battleground between pro-hunt and anti-hunt supporters, particularly over the rights to access land for stag hunts.
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A spokesman for the trust said: "We are very much aware of the importance of countryside traditions and we allow field sports to take place, providing they are within the law and are compatible with the trust's purposes.
"These include public access and the protection of rare animals and birds and fragile habitats. We have spoken to the hunt and also followed up in writing to make it clear that they will need to work closely with our local teams to rebuild our confidence in how they run their activities."
The private prosecution of the Chipping Norton-based Heythrop was undertaken by the RSPCA, which sparked a political controversy because it spent more than £330,000 on legal fees to bring the hunt to court.
Last week, pro-hunt MPs called a debate on its prosecuting practices, claiming that people would not donate money to the society if they thought it would be spent on top lawyers to prosecute hunts.
But the RSPCA said that before the Heythrop prosecution, it launched a "fighting fund" to ring-fence money for prosecutions – and had collected £160,000 in just eight weeks to pay for "major prosecutions".
Chief executive Gavin Grant said: "It is for those individuals who wish to subscribe to the work of the society in major prosecutions which are likely to be costly, as with the Heythrop Hunt, which are complicated and substantial."
Heythrop goes out across the Cotswolds including to Stow-on-the-Wold and also to Moreton-in-Marsh.