Charles Carter, huntsman for the Royal Artillery Hunt, will face trial for illegal hunting. It relates to an incident on Salisbury Plain in October 2021. And it could have major implications for hunting on Ministry of Defence (MOD) land.
Carter will be up in Swindon Magistrates Court on 1 June 2022 facing a charge of illegal hunting under Section 1 of the Hunting Act. The incident occurred during the Royal Artillery Hunt’s opening meet at Larkhill, Wiltshire, on 31 October 2021.
Due to the location of the incident, the investigation and subsequent charge was carried out by MOD Police. This is the first time a case related to the Hunting Act on MOD land has made it to court.
Hunt saboteurs, Keep The Ban and other anti-hunting campaigners have led campaigns demanding the MOD stop licensing hunting on its land. Major public landowners suspended or ended hunting licences following the conviction of Mark Hankinson, former head of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, for encouraging illegal hunting. These included the National Trust, National Resources Wales and Forestry England. Despite this turn by landowners against hunting, the MOD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) continued issuing licences and permitted 23 hunts to use its land during the 2021/22 season.
Two notable results of this ongoing licensing occurred during the 2021 festive period.
On 24 December, sabs and monitors found the recently killed body of a fox in the same spot Carter had stood in moments earlier. The remains of the body were later taken to Save Me Trust’s sanctuary for burying, where founder Brian May named her Holly.
And just two days later, the Royal Artillery Hunt killed on MOD land again. During the Boxing Day meet on 27 December, sabs captured footage of the hunt’s hounds killing a fox. Despite sabs retrieving the body, hunt supporters assaulted a sab and took the body away. Police later cautioned one of the men involved and issued a fine.
In both cases, the Royal Artillery Hunt openly admitted to killing a fox. As part of its licensing agreement, MOD DIO requires hunts to report any mammal kills within 48 hours. The hunt did this, describing both kills as accidental. As a result, no further action was taken.
However, the latest charge could change things. Section 3 of the Hunting Act states that it is an offence if a landowner “knowingly permits land which belongs to him to be entered or used in the course of the commission of an offence”. Therefore Carter’s case could prove pivotal for the future of hunting on MOD land.
The MOD is the last major public landowner to continue licensing hunts on its land. Until it permanently suspends hunting altogether, campaigners must continue pressuring the MOD.
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