Council 'leaves door open' for hunt bans

Cyril Dixon reports

SOMERSET County Council claims it has paved the way for successful bans on hunting – despite losing its bid to prevent the Quantock Staghounds riding across its land.

Leader Chris Clarke made the claim after the council finally gave up plans to take its battle with the Quantock to the House of Lords.

Somerset had been willing to pursue the case to the highest court in the land if other anti-hunting councils believed the move was worthwhile.

However, Clarke says that they were content that the legal issues had been tested, and claimed the courts had found in favour of the local authority.

He says: "We were all content to let the matter rest with the Court of Appeal ruling. We believe what we have done will be a great help to other local authorities who share our view of hunting."

Somerset banned the Quantock from using its land two years ago because it found hunting "morally repugnant". Hunt supporters challenged the decision and were backed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

However, although the courts ruled the ban unlawful, the council interpreted the Appeal Court judgment as meaning that it could have been lawful if it had been made in a resolution which was couched in different terms.

"On that basis other authorities might be able to follow," says Clarke.

Matthew Knight, solicitor for the hunt, says: "My view is that any council which attempts this exercise does so at its own peril. Any ban of this sort has been found to be unlawful. As for airing the issues, Somerset has done that, but it has been very expensive."