Court backs hunting ban

The ban on hunting with dogs will come into force on Friday after the Countryside Alliance lost their Court of Appeal case against the ban.

The pro-hunting group had argued that the Parliament Act used by the Government to push through the ban against the wishes of the House of Lords was invalid.

Today the Court of Appeal backed the High Court's decision and threw out the Countryside Alliance's case. The ban will now come into force on Friday as scheduled.

The Countryside Alliance was also refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords, with the Lord Chief Justice ruling that this would mean too much uncertainty to the status of the Hunting Act.

But hunt supporters are not downhearted and have said they believe that the case will still end up in the House of Lords as the Lords can still choose to hear the case.

Alliance chairman Simon Hart said the Court of Appeal's judgement, delivered this morning, had turned down their application to have the hunting ban ruled illegal on two "highly contentious and arguable" points.

Speaking in a press conference today, Mr Hart said: "Of course it would have been nice to have an outright win, but our position is now considerably better than it was following the decision by the divisional court [of the High Court]."

The court's decision was based on two points, he said: firstly, that the modifications to the Parliament Act in 1949 were only 'relatively minor', and secondly that the 1949 act had become a political reality.

"Both of those points are highly contentious and arguable," Mr Hart said.

The court also turned down the alliance's request - supported by Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith - that no-one be prosecuted under the hunting ban until its challenge was exhausted. Mr Hart said this showed the Government could not 'hide' behind the legal challenge and would have to give its own instructions to prosecutors about how they should proceed.

"That is a very significant development and is an important aspect of the political environment that we're now moving into," he added.

Anti-hunting groups were delighted by the ruling.

John Cooper, chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The courts have upheld this legislation which reflects the will of the people and of the parliament they elected. Today, we have seen democracy defended and cruelty curtailed."

On the upcoming weekend - at which hunts are hoping for a large turnout - Mr Cooper said: "We expect the hunters to keep within the law and welcome the news that many are converting to drag hunting as we have urged them to for so long."

It is planning a 'hunt crimewatch' campaign to monitor hunts' activities. It is urging members of the public to video any suspicious activities, such as hounds running across obstacles like railway lines or main roads where drag hunting trails are unlikely to be laid.