Home > Dorset > Huntsman Claims Fox Hunted On National Trust Land ‘Inadvertently’ And Is Acquitted

14th March 2018

Huntsman Claims Fox Hunted On National Trust Land ‘Inadvertently’ And Is Acquitted

Hunt Monitors Peter White & Kevin Hill with Joe Hashman from Hounds Off outside Poole Magistrates Court today (14.03.18) where Portman Hunt Master Evo Shirley was acquitted of illegally hunting a fox, contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act (2004).

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A Dorset huntsman was today acquitted of illegally hunting a fox with hounds, contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act (2004).

District Judge Stephen Nicolls, presiding over the case brought by Dorset Police at Poole Magistrates Court, had previously heard eye-witness evidence from volunteer hunt monitors Peter White and Kevin Hill. Film taken by Peter White showed the Portman Hunt hounds chasing a fox on land owned by the National Trust near Wimborne Minster. However, District Judge Nicolls was not satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that this was deliberate and contrary to the Hunting Act as he interpreted it so he cleared Mr Evo Shirley, Master of Fox Hounds and Huntsman for the Portman Hunt, of the charge.

In evidence Mr Shirley told the court that he had allowed his pack of hounds to hunt a fox which they had flushed from a small wood on 8 March 2017, rather than try to stop them, because he could not control them while they were in hot pursuit and needed to let the events “play out.”

Reflecting on the case, Peter White said, “Dorset Police deserve full credit for listening to myself and Kevin Hill when we approached them and said that we had film of what we believed was illegal foxhunting.”

Regarding the verdict, Mr White said, “The Portman Hunt want people to think that they go after trails of fox urine and not live foxes. Unfortunately on this occasion they have persuaded the Court that the fox was hunted by accident and, as the Hunting Act stands, this is a defence in law.”

With regards to the National Trust, the landowners who allow so-called trail hunting to take place on the Kingston Lacy Eastate, Mr White said, “Despite this verdict, I believe that the Portman Hunt can no longer be trusted. In evidence, Mr Shirley admitted that foxes have been ‘inadvertently’ hunted on numerous occasions. Members and visitors might be shocked to learn that the National Trust is well aware of this too.”

Explaining how trail hunting can be easily used as a convenient cover for illegal bloodsports, Kevin Hill said, “Trail hunting is set up for accidents to happen. In evidence it was admitted that the Portman Hunt hounds are trained to go after a fox-based scent so clearly live foxes are constantly at risk. It was revealed that the whereabouts of man-laid trails was unknown to the Huntsman so he had no idea if his hounds were chasing that or a live fox, until he actually saw it. We were told that the hunting pack numbered thirty to forty hounds and, because they were hard onto the fox, the Huntsman could not stop them.”

Explaining how crying “Accident” allows for a defence in Hunting Act cases and how this loophole could be closed, Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman said, “To succeed with prosecutions, the law demands we prove that hunting wild mammals is intentional. In this case the Defence was able to persuade Judge Nicolls that the fox was hunted inadvertently. For thirteen years hunters have exploited this loophole to escape conviction. I suggest that using a large pack of hounds trained to hunt a fox-based scent in areas where foxes are known to live is reckless behaviour. It is now time to clearly define Section 1 of the Hunting Act so that to ‘hunt’ means ’cause or permit a dog to seek out, pursue, attack, injure or kill a wild mammal’.”

For the acquitted defendent, former Royal Air Force pilot Mr Bruce Cook had previously told the Court that he was responsible for laying trails that day for the Portman Hunt. Despite telling District Judge Nicolls that he had recorded his movements with GPS readings on an iPhone, he was unable to provide any verifiable evidence of this. Mr Cook admitted that the maps he provided as proof had not been prepared by himself, were inaccurate and that additional photographs claiming to have been taken on 8 March 2017 were “indicative of every photo I take on a hunt” and therefore it was not possible or him to definitively pin them to that date and place.

A spokesperson for the National Dis-Trust said, “The result of this case simply reinforces what we have been saying for years, namely that the National Trust faith in and defense of hunts is utterly misplaced & unjustifiable. Their licence system, for permitting hunting with hounds on National Trust property, should be revoked before the next season begins.”

Notes for Journalists:

For more information or interview requests please contact the Hounds Off Press Office on 07711 032697 or email help@houndsoff.co.uk

About Hounds Off:

Hounds Off helps homeowners, landowners and tenants to protect their property, livestock and pets from hunt trespass. Hounds Off also supports the Hunting Act (2004). We seek to enforce and reinforce this legislation in partnership with the public, wildlife crime investigators, legal professionals and politicians.



shirley mug shot

Huntsman and Master of Fox Hounds for the Portman Hunt on 8th March 2017, when the hounds under his control “inadvertently” hunted a fox on the National Trust-owned Kingston Lacy Estate in Dorset. He faced charges under Section 1 of the Hunting Act but was found Not Guilty at Poole Magistrates Court on 14.03.18. Credit: Peter White / Hounds Off


fox and hounds

Portman Hunt hounds (top right) chasing the fox (centre). Huntsman Evo Shirley admitted that foxes are hunted “inadvertently from time to time” and told the District Judge at Poole Magistrates Court that his “best chance of stopping them was to allow what was happening to play out.” Credit: Peter White / Hounds Off



The hunted fox. Accident or on purpose, the fox is still forced to run for its life or face an ugly end in the jaws of up to 40 rampant foxhounds. Credit: Peter White / Hounds Off



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13 Comments | Leave a comment

  • Jan Breeds says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 11:29 am

    All hunts should have a printed map of the exact trail that has been laid.According to female spokeswoman from NT the thugs on quad bikes lay the trails so it would be easy to do then a copy to be kept by said thug a copy to local police even copy to local monitors if they have nothing to hide.

    Reply to this comment >
  • for love of foxes (@AgainstHunting) says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Absolute travesty of justice. In fact there is no justice, just animal abusers who get away with their abuse time and again. They can’t prove they lay trails, because they don’t lay trails, they hunt live quarry and have done since time immemorial. A pity the judge didnt ask where they got their trail laying scent? It’s well known now it isn’t from where they claim. An FOI to a department in DEFRA shows no licences to import fox urine for hunting in the UK have been issued for at least 3 years. Nothing will change until we elect a humane government who will strengthen the hunting Act and stop these monsters for good.

    Reply to this comment >
    • Alan Plater says:
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Why is it these effin horray henries always get away with it??, do they come in their trousers at the sight of blood??

      Reply to this comment >
  • Neil Armstrong says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    I have to ask if the District Judge Stephen Nicolls has fox hunting associations which seems likely & if so should have recused himself I am very suspicious. The law was rather badly drafted & needs updating this year.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Neil Armstrong says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Having now view the video I can see he could easily have attempted to call off the hounds he just gave a lame untrue excuse the judgement should have been or be appealed the trailing was just a farce I am very angered by this court.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Ian Clarke says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    It is a very disappointing verdict from the judge, especially in view of the video footage, and the obvious vagueness of the ‘trail layer’. This is not ‘justice’, and it makes me very suspicious of ‘connections’ within the hunting community. Anyway,very well done on such detailed and speedy coverage, whoever was responsible.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Lorraine Jones says:
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Yet another Hooray Henry getting away with murder…..seems to me Class still matters in the hunting set…..why don’t judges ever uphold the law where hunting is concerned???

    Reply to this comment >
  • Aardy Frappe says:
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:12 am

    It was no accident – it was either deliberate illegal hunting or a negligent failure to adequately mitigate a serious and entirely foreseeable risk. Verdicts like this simply reinforce opinions that the legal system is failing to adequately deal with this issue.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Frankie James says:
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Great respect to Peter and Kevin for not giving up and shame on Judge Nicholls and Evo Shirley for their dishonourable conduct. Shame also on Tony Blair and cronies who designed the hunting act with loopholes to allow hunting to continue. The law badly needs to be tightened to remove accident as an excuse. Well done Hounds Off and crew. Never give up.

    Reply to this comment >
    • Marta Falco says:
      Posted February 21, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      Peter and Kevin and Joe are brilliant, never giving up against all the lies. Its true that its the elite of this country who see Hunting as their thing. and the serfs who do the dirty work , digging out etc. as I understand it, when Blair and the Anti Hunting act were being created, it so nearly was passed but Prince Charles managed to coax Blair into this laying a trail loophole. roll Labour being im power and lets close down that loophole.

      Reply to this comment >
  • Carol Miadowicz says:
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Well done for the footage. Begs the question – just how much evidence does the judge require? Very suspicious. No justice here.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Peter Payne says:
    Posted March 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    At least being taken to court sends a message. To be hoped we NT members will win the ‘ban’ vote next time.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Elaine Milbourn says:
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Why would a judge not believe decent, honourable people with strong visual evidence of illegal hunting? Total travesty of justice.

    Reply to this comment >

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