Somerset hunt bill slashed by £80,000

THE LEGAL bill for the battle between the Quantock Staghounds and Somerset County Council has been slashed by £80,000 by a High Court taxing master.

Among the expenses disallowed from the bill submitted by the successful hunt team, was the cost incurred by sending counsel Michael Beloff QC on an outing intended to familiarise him with field sports.

The cost of giving interviews to journalists and providing counselling for hunt members was also cut.

However, the court did allow £200 expenses for Sir Robert Carnwath to experience a hunt on Exmoor before he gave up the Quantock brief to become a High Court judge. Beloff was his replacement.

At the hearing, the High Court in London reduced the costs for the successful judicial review of the council hunt ban from £240,000 to £160,000.

Hunt solicitor Matthew Knight, who runs his own practice in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said although the actual bill had come to £240,000, he had expected to get £140,000.

Somerset County Council had decided to ban hunting on its land two years ago. It had described the controversial blood sport as “morally repugnant”.

However, members of the stag hunt successfully challenged the ban at the High Court.

Somerset unsuccessfully tried to reclaim victory at the Court of Appeal.

Tony Bull, assistant county solicitor at Somerset, said that the total bill, including the authority's own expenses, had come to about £210,000.

“We are very pleased that the bill was reduced by such a large amount,” he said.