A Sussex man has admitted illegally hunting a fox – after being filmed by a wildlife campaigner.
Huntsman Nicholas Bycroft, a member of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt, was filmed by at Angmering Park, near Arundel, on February 19 this year.
Wildlife monitors – volunteers who are against hunting – filmed Bycroft hunt a fox with a dog.
On Tuesday Bycroft appeared at Worthing Magistrates’ Court where the 48-year-old, of Huntsman’s Cottage, Kennel Lane, West Grinstead, near Horsham, admitted one count of “hunting a wild mammal with a dog” contrary to the Hunting Act 2004.
He was given a year-long conditional discharge, ordered to pay costs of £150 and a victim surcharge of £15.
Speaking after the hearing Simon Wild, of West Sussex Wildlife Protection, said: “He was filmed from more than a mile away by a wildlife monitor – he obviously thought he could not be spotted.
“But there was clear evidence he was hunting and the police agreed.”
Mr Wild revealed how officers from Sussex Police’s wildlife crime unit recruited a university professor from Bristol to examine the video.
He agreed there was clear evidence of illegal hunting, and this was put before the court.
“His evidence was pretty compelling,” Mr Wild said. Bycroft was on a horse in a pit by South Downs Way.
“It’s full-blown hunting; there is no getting away from it. Bycroft is a professional huntsman – he is a hunting servant.”
He said he did not know if the fox involved had died.
The League Against Cruel Sports added: “This is the second time members of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt have been prosecuted for offences under the Hunting Act.”
The Crawley and Horsham Hunt said yesterday: “Nick Bycroft has taken the decision not to contest the allegation made against him of illegal hunting.
"The Crawley and Horsham carries out trail hunting and exempt hunting and from time to time it is inevitable that the hunt will come across a fox.
"On this occasion it does seem the hounds did find a fox in cover. The fox was not hunted and was not caught by hounds.
"However, the Hunting Act is a draconian and complex law and Mr Bycroft has decided to plead guilty rather than go to trial.
“The Crawley and Horsham Hunt continues to carry out legal hunting through autumn and winter.”