Dartmoor fox hunt: Pair deny hunting animal with hounds

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Hound being led by hunter
image captionThe chairman of the Lamerton Hunt said the incident was ‘accidental not deliberate’

Two men have denied illegally hunting a fox with hounds on Dartmoor.

David Lewis, 50, and Gareth Frain, 25, are accused of hunting the wild animal with dogs at Lake Down in Devon on 14 December 2019.

Mr Lewis told Exeter Crown Court they were not drag hunting or hunting a fox, but were trail hunting when he lost sight of the dogs.

Prosecutors said the defendants always intended to hunt the fox, which ultimately escaped.

Mr Lewis had been employed as a huntsman with the Lamerton Hunt for 14 years, the court was told.

He said he and Mr Frain were trail hunting, which involves hunters following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds, without a fox being killed.

He said he could not see or hear the hounds as they chased a fox, which managed to escape the 20 or 30 dogs.

“I could not see them and I could not hear them,” Mr Lewis said.

Chairman of the Lamerton Hunt Roger Jennings said they had gone out trail hunting when the “hounds went wrong” and he “became aware of a commotion”.

He said he did not see a fox and said the incident was “accidental not deliberate” and the hounds had been impossible to stop.

He said within 10 minutes the whole incident was over.

Three witnesses claim they heard Mr Lewis encouraging the hounds, shouting “on, on, on”.

He told the court: “I do not use those words. I did not hear anyone shout ‘on, on, on’.”

Under the 2004 Hunting Act, foxes cannot be killed by dogs as part of a hunt.

One or two dogs can be used to “flush out” – remove from cover – a fox, which should then be shot.

The district judge said he will make a judgement on the case in March.

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