Huntsman takes stand to turn blame for fox death on group of saboteurs
PUBLISHED: 18:30 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 12 March 2019
A huntsman accused of illegally pursuing a fox has blamed activists for causing the animal's death in Suffolk woodland.
Christopher Amatt told a court that gathered hunt saboteurs had diverted the course of a fleeing fox into the path of hounds in Great Thurlow on Boxing Day 2017.
The 58-year-old, of Attleton Green, Wickhambrook, said the fox “shot out” from bushes during what he claimed to be a legal trail hunt, but which Beds and Bucks Hunt Sabs and North Cambs Hunt Sabs insisted was unlawful.
Amatt is accused of illegal fox hunting with Archibald Clifton-Brown, 19, of Little Bradley, Haverhill, who prosecutors claim was a ‘whipper-in’, responsible for keeping the hounds in check, but who his barrister, Peter Glenser, argued was present only as a volunteer and observer.
Amatt also faces a common assault charge against Steven Milton, by allegedly bringing down a whip on the hunt saboteur, while Clifton-Brown allegedly assaulted the same victim during an attempt to wrestle the dead fox away and prevent activists from taking the carcass as evidence.
Clifton-Brown claims it was he who was the victim of assault after trying to stop a trespasser from stealing private property.
Amatt took the stand on the second day of a trial before district judge Nick Watson at Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday.
When asked his involvement by barrister Richard Paton-Philip, Amatt claimed to have tried getting ahead of the hounds to prevent them from “coursing”.
But prosecutor Richard Kelly said footage taken by saboteurs showed him exhibiting “no urgency” – demonstrated by Mr Milton overtaking his horse on foot while approaching the kill.
Amatt argued his only concern was the safety of the hounds, which he claimed were “punched and kicked” in the melee.
Mr Kelly said: “You were quite happy for these hounds to find live quarry and to hunt it. You had taken the hounds into a wooded area, not to hunt a trail, but because you knew that’s where they were likely to find quarry.
“The reason you moved at such a snail’s pace is because that’s what you intended would happen.
“The reason you went after Mr Milton had nothing to do with gathering the hounds. It’s because you and Archie wanted to do anything you could to stop the sabs taking away evidence.”
Both deny the charges. The trial is expected to conclude tomorrow.