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cattistock railway trespass

Cattistock Hunt escapes prosecution despite railway line fox chase

On 10 July, North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs reported that the Cattistock Hunt will not be prosecuted for trespassing onto railway tracks. This shows police bias in action: hunts continually get away with trespassing on railways, while members of the public doing the same face prosecution.

The incident in question took place on 4 February 2023, and was caught on video. A fox ran onto the Waterloo railway line, and hounds chased her. At the time, North Dorset Sabs wrote:

“Here a whip was sent to recover the hounds. One hound was in and out of the line near Hardington Marsh rail bridge. Also on the line was a supporter and a whip of the Cattistock.”

A ‘low level’ offence

According to the British Transport Police, no action will be taken against members of the Cattistock because the offence wasn’t serious enough. The trespass is classed as a ‘tier 1 offence’, which is the lowest category of offences. North Dorset Sabs reported that the police said:

“The CPS will not provide charging advice on Tier 1 offences, they will only provide charging advice if there is another factor to the offence such as it being Racially motivated or a Domestic incident for example. Their remit is generally Tier 2 and above.”

Trespassing on railways is common among hunts. As North Dorset Sabs pointed out, four Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt hounds were hit and killed by a train on 1 January 2022. It was the second time in the space of two weeks that the hunt’s hounds were seen on the tracks.

And on 31 October 2022, at least four Dunston Harriers hounds died after the pack ran onto a railway line in Norfolk. The dogs, which were used to chase hares, were struck by a high-speed Greater Anglia train on its way from Norwich to London. They were being exercised at the time.

There are plenty more such incidents. These include a train killing two hounds from the Beaufort Hunt in January 2020, another from the South Shropshire Hunt killed by a train in January 2019, and a train killing six hounds from the Dartmoor Hunt in 2014.

In December 2021, a specialist crash investigator documented 200 “near misses” and other dangers caused by hunts. The investigator collected numerous evidence over three years, and said that hunts put public safety at risk.

It is incredible that through these trespasses, hunts can risk the lives of the public – and actually kill their own dogs – yet the police still class the incidents as ‘Tier 1’ offences and take no further action.

One rule for hunts and another for the public

Inaction over incidents such as these shows just how much police are biased in favour of hunts and hunting staff. The public, meanwhile, are treated differently. In Margate, Kent, two young people were recently arrested by police after they trespassed onto a railway track on 24 June 2023. At the time, Kent police tweeted a statement, saying:

“Two juveniles have been arrested at Margate earlier tonight after reports of them trespassing. It turns out that the two youths wanted to gain access to a Dreamland event without paying and thought it would be a good idea to use the tracks as a means of doing that.”

And on 15 June 2023, British Transport Police arrested a man at Radlett station, in Hertfordshire, after he trespassed onto the railway track. The police stated that they had arrested the man on suspicion of trespass and a possession of a class B drug.

This month, Network Rail released figures, stating there were 1,152 trespass incidents on railway tracks across Sussex between 2022 and 2023. Yahoo reported that:

“Across the rail network in England, Wales and Scotland, there were 18,517 incidents, 20% of which (around 3,700) involved young people under the age of 18.”

Network Rail launched its You vs Train campaign in 2018 to highlight to children the dangers of trespassing on railway tracks. But surely these efforts are futile if the British Transport Police can’t even be bothered to prosecute the adult hunt staff who should know better, but who act like the law doesn’t apply to them.

We need to change the law

Very rarely, the police do take action. For example, the Warwickshire Hunt was fined for trespassing on the railway network. Rail network CCTV filmed members of the hunt walking on the line between Banbury and Leamington on 1 January 2020. But as we have seen, this is an exception rather than the norm, and hunts continue to enjoy special treatment as they act above the law.

We believe that:

Hunts are not special. They do nothing to deserve being treated differently to anyone else. If they can’t be trusted to behave like normal members of society – and they clearly can not – then they must be shut down and their menace removed so the rest of us – and the wildlife that surrounds us – can live in peace.

Protect the Wild is campaigning for the Hunting Act to be scrapped and replaced by new legislation, The Hunting of Mammals Bill, that would shut down hunts completely. One reason we need to get rid of hunting altogether – not simply try to strengthen existing legislation and allow hunting to continue in a slightly altered form – is to prevent this hunt havoc.

We commissioned Advocates for Animals to help us develop our proposed legislation. Our Bill will stop hunting in its tracks, and finally give wildlife much-needed protection from illegal hunting. Please support it and help us make it law.

  • You can read the Hunting of Mammals Bill in its entirety by downloading a pdf version here.
  • Sign our petition, calling for a proper ban on hunting here.
  • North Dorset Sabs are on the ground, capturing hunts such as the Cattistock as they cause havoc. Donate to the sabs here.

Featured image via North Dorset Sabs video screenshot