'His intention was to encourage illegal hunting,' trial of Mark Hankinson hears

Huntmaster Mark Hankinson appearing previously outside court. Credit: ITV News

“His words were clear, his advice was capable of encouraging hunts to commit illegal hunting, and his intention was to encourage illegal hunting,” says prosecution lawyer Gregory Gordon in his closing submission to the trial of leading huntsmen Mark Hankinson. He summarised the case by saying “over the course of five minutes, during a webinar arranged by the Hunting Office on 11 August 2020, the defendant offered advice to hunt masters on how to hunt illegally, behind a smoke screen of trail hunting.” Mr Hankinson is accused of encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act which he denies.

His defence lawyer Richard Lissack QC finished his submission saying “the court is confronted with a man whose raison d’etre has, for almost a decade, been to ensure that hunts are complying with the law.

"The unchallenged evidence is that he carried out that role strictly, properly and unapologetically….. The verdict in this case should be one of not guilty.” The case rests on the “context” of language used by Mark Hankinson during a series of online webinars for hunt masters in 2020.

The rural sport of hunting. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Gregory Gordon wrote: “It is important to keep in mind that this was not a public forum, when considering the defendant’s words and what he meant by them.

"The prosecution say that the importance of this is clear: the defendant thought he was able to give criminal advice without being overheard by ‘undesirables’ (i.e. hunt saboteurs).” In response, the defence say “the title of this webinar was, as the court knows, ‘Sabs, monitoring and evidence gathering’ and the title of Mr Hankinson’s presentation was ‘Overt Trail Laying’.

"Its entire focus was therefore on the disruption of legal hunts by saboteurs and evidence-gathering in that context. All attendees would have been fully aware of that.” The verdict in the trial is due to be delivered at Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday 15th October.