Animal rights activists monitoring the conduct of huntsmen were accused in court yesterday of conducting an increasingly determined campaign of unlawful harassment, trespass and nuisance.

With the start of the new fox hunting season due on November 1, a High Court judge was urged to grant an injunction protecting the rights of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt and 88 landowners who allow the hunt to cross more than 100,000 acres of countryside in West Sussex.

The defendants in the case, named as West Sussex Wildlife Protection Group and Simon and Jaine Wilde, of Bognor Regis, deny the allegations and plead that, even if they are guilty of harassment, it is justified in order to prevent crime.

The crime, they say, consists of repeated breaches by the hunt of the ban on hunting with dogs.

In a hearing in London set for five days, Mr Justice King will be shown video recordings from both sides.

The hunt and the landowners, supported by the Countryside Alliance and the Masters of Foxhounds Association, are suing under the Protection From Harassment Act and under the common law relating to trespass and nuisance.

They insist the hunt has been operating within the law since the ban on hunting with hounds came into force.

They stress they are not seeking to ban objectors from public land, footpaths and highways. Their solicitor advocate, Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, said that activities of people using rights of way over private land must be subject to regulation by the landowner.

“We are not trying to stop the defendants filming field sports activities,” he said. “What we are trying to stop, among other things, is constant filming and constant surveillance.”

Among the court orders sought was an exclusion zone around the hunt kennels in West Grinstead.

“There is evidence that the kennelman and his wife feel very intimidated by protest activity in the vicinity of their home,” said Mr Lawson-Cruttenden.

The hunt also sought protection against assault and the laying of false scents on private land.

The wildlife group says the evidence of “hunt monitors” has been instrumental in prosecuting hunts which have failed to abide by the Hunting Act. The hearing continues today.