HSA news release 12th January 1995

Kent Crown Prosecution Service demonstrated their confidence in the new Criminal Justice and Public Order Act earlier this week when they dropped charges of aggravated trespass against a hunt saboteur appearing at Maidstone magistrates court on Monday 9th January 1995.

Erica Wirrmann, a member of Ashford Hunt Saboteurs, was arrested with two other saboteurs at the Ashford Valley Foxhunt meet at Chainhurst, Kent, on 12th November 1994. She had been charged under s.69 of the new act, but when she appeared in court on Monday, pleading not guilty, Kent CPS offered to drop the criminal charge if she would agree to be bound over for 12 months in the sum of £100. As she is leaving the country next month and did not wish her departure to be delayed, she agreed to be bound over. A bindover is a civil remedy and means that Erica has not been found guilty of any criminal offence; as she will not be in the country, the bindover will make no difference to her whatsoever.

This is the first result of any of the aggravated trespass cases to be heard by the courts under the new act and amounts to a blow against the Home Office's attempt to stifle protest at hunts. Even their own Crown Prosecution Service have so little confidence in obtaining convictions under the new act that they offered to drop the criminal charge in return for what will, in Erica's case, be a largely irrelevant civil remedy.

The two men arrested with her will be appearing at Maidstone magistrates' court on 2nd February. Both are facing charges of aggravated trespass under the new act. Both have pleaded not guilty and have announced their intention to fight the case vigorously.

HSA press officer Paul Gammon commented, "The failure of this first prosecution is being taken as a great boost to morale to hunt saboteurs all over the country. The new act is not working and we are as active as ever wherever wild animals are being hunted for sport. As long as animals are under threat from so-called "sportsmen", we will be out there doing our best to save lives just as we have always done."

Total number of saboteurs arrested under Criminal Justice Act so far: 95