Is hunting now in the clear? Now Hankinson's conviction for encouraging illegal hunting overturned

Prominent huntsman Mark Hankinson who has won his appeal against a conviction for encouraging illegal fox hunting in an online talk. Credit: PA

When one of Britain’s leading huntsman was convicted of encouraging members of his sport to hunt illegally it was described by hunting opponents as “seismic”.

In theory, now that Mark Hankinson’s conviction is over-turned, the damage caused to his sport will be undone but that's maybe wishful thinking.

Following the fall-out from his trial a number of large British landowners moved to ban or suspend hunting on their land.

Many have responded to the news that he’s been acquitted but they’re not shifting their position yet.

The National Trust currently looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside. Credit: PA

National Trust members voted to ban trail hunting on their land last year.

A spokesperson said: "There were many contributing factors in our decision to no longer issue trail hunting activities on National Trust land, including the appropriate use of charitable funds, the risk of reputational harm to the Trust and the result of the recent members' resolution vote on this matter at our October 2021 Annual General Meeting.

"We will not be reviewing our position on trail hunting as a result of this appeal."

United Utilities have made it clear that if hunting were ever resumed on their land “We would need reassurances from the hunts on how they will comply with licences and the law. Until this is complete, trail hunting remains suspended on our land.”

Similarly Forestry England say they have “suspended all trail hunting in the nation’s forests following the initial police investigation. It will remain suspended until our board decides on its future in forests we care for.”

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The problem hunts face is convincing wary landowners that killing a fox, which happens a lot, is entirely accidental or has come about purely as a result of exceptions within the law. This maybe easier said than done especially as policing hunting has undoubtedly shifted towards investigating hunts more than protecting them from hunt saboteurs.

Mark Hankinson has cleared his name but the sport he loves is still under the spotlight and right now, in the eyes of many, under suspicion.