Chris Woodward, huntsman of Wynnstay Hunt, has been charged under the Hunting Act. It is the first time that a charge has been brought against a member of the Wynnstay since the Act came into force in2005. Woodward appeared in court on 17 June and pled not guilty to illegally hunting foxes on two separate occasions: the first near Malpas in November 2021 and the second near Wrexham in February2022. His court case will take place on 6 September 2022.

Cheshire Monitors, which monitors the hunt on the ground, said:

“Woodward became Wynnstay huntsman in 2019, taking over from Richard Tyacke, who famously appeared in the leaked Hunting Office webinars which coached hunts in hiding the hunting of wild animals behind a carefully constructed "smokescreen" known as trail hunting. The Wynnstay are a particularly devious hunt, and have gone to great lengths to avoid prosecution over the years.”

One of the monitors is a key witness in Woodward’s upcoming trial. The group has documented countless terrible acts by the Wynnstay as it relentlessly hunts real foxes. It has filmed exhausted and terrified foxes being chased, and it has caught the hunt trespassing on private land and filling in badger setts. Hunt supporters continually attempt to block sabs on the ground from getting to where the hunt is killing foxes.

On top of all this, the hunt’s hounds have been caught out of control a number of times, as they blatantly go after the scent of real foxes. On 17 February, Cheshire Monitors filmed a Wynnstay dog being hit by a car in Shropshire. And in December 2021, one of the hunt’s hounds was killed by a car on the A525 after the whole pack ran onto the major road. A witness said:

“My children had to witness one of the Wynnstay hounds being hit by a car at 60mph when it ran out onto the A525 along with the rest of the pack. They then had to witness the whipper-in shouting the F word about20 times as he was clearly annoyed about the situation. The children then had to witness the poor hound fitting from its injuries and the whipper-in kicking it at the side of the road a few times to see if it was dead or not.

They then had to witness it being dragged out of the ditch it was lay in and on to the back of a quad. The Wynnstay were clearly not following a trail that day, unless they laid one over the A525.”

These incidents are by no means isolated, with the hunt continually putting its hounds in harm’s way in order to chase real foxes.

Investigation into policing

The news of the prosecution comes shortly after the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, announced that a team from Wrexham Glyndwr University will be conducting an independent review into the policing of hunts across north Wales. This will, in theory, affect the policing of the Wynnstay, which hunts in Flintshire, Shropshire and Cheshire.

It is telling of north Wales’ policing that, up until now, the force has never charged anyone from the Wynnstay with illegal hunting, despite ample evidence that the hunt consistently breaks the law.

North Wales Hunt Sabs has reported the same biased policing towards the Flint and Denbigh Hunt. The sabs said of the 2021-22 season:

“on numerous occasions we did catch [the Flint and Denbigh Hunt] red handed on camera illegal hunting foxes. We’ve submitted countless examples of illegal fox hunting to North Wales Police.”

Back in November 2021, the sabs tweeted a photo of the hunt’s whipper-in trying to wrestle the lifeless body of the fox from a sab, after the animal was murdered by the hunt.

Hunt staff across the country are finding themselves in the dock  

Woodward isn’t the only person to find himself in court right now, charged under the Hunting Act. Paul O’Shea, terrierman for the East Essex Hunt, is accused of hunting a wild mammal with dogs, as well as causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Charles Carter, huntsman for the Royal Artillery Hunt, will soon face trial for illegal hunting. Meanwhile, Beaufort Hunt’s hunt master, Matthew Ramsden, and whipper-in, Rhys Matcham, also face trial for hunting a wild mammal with dogs. |And in Dorset, Mark Anthony Pearson has also been charged with hunting a fox contrary to Schedule 1 of the Hunting Act. Pearson is joint master and huntsman for the South Dorset Hunt.

Of course, these prosecutions are only a small fraction of those that we should be seeing, if police across the country were to actually do their jobs properly and protect foxes and other wild animals from being torn apart.

Support Cheshire Monitors

Hunts are only held accountable because of the tireless effort of sabs and monitors on the ground. You can support Cheshire Monitors as they replace stolen and damaged equipment, and to fund work they are doing over the summer. Donate to them here. If you would like to get involved with monitoring hunts in Cheshire and surrounding areas, send your details to info@cheshiremonitors.org.uk.

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