Hunting charges dropped against ex-councillor who made lewd comments to protester
- Credit: PA
A hunt master and former councillor filmed making lewd comments to a woman protester has been cleared of hunting charges.
Footage featuring former Tory Breckland councillor Charles Carter - who is Master of the Middleton Hunt - was shown during a trial at York Magistrates' Court of Mr Carter and whipper-in of the hunt Colin Milburn, 59, who were both charged with hunting offences relating to two foxes.
Both defendants walked free from court on Monday, October 9 after district judge Adrian Lower dismissed all the charges against them following an application by their lawyer.
During the trial, Linda Hoggard, who shot the footage, told a district judge how she lived about half an hour from where the Middleton Hunt was meeting on January 23 at Squirrel Hall, near Duggleby, North Yorkshire.
She said she set off with anti-hunt spray and her camera because she was concerned about a pair of foxes she had seen in the area.
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Mrs Hoggard filmed the hunt in some woodland and then described an encounter with Mr Carter, 34, she also captured on her phone.
In the three-minute long footage, played to the district judge, Mr Carter is dressed in full red hunting attire and is apparently filming the encounter himself on his phone.
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He made a lewd suggestion to Mrs Hoggard, which included asking her: 'Can I take you to bed, please?'
Cross-examining Mrs Hoggard, Stephen Welford, defending, asked her repeatedly how much money she had made from selling video footage to media outlets and she told the court she had earned nothing.
Asked why she was in the area at the time, Mrs Hoggard told the court: 'I was trying to save a fox's life'.
Asked by the district judge whether she went out that day to sabotage the hunt or to take pictures of wildlife, she said: 'A bit of both.'
Opening the case for the prosecution, Christopher Rowe told the district judge how Mr Carter told police he had been speaking with Mrs Hoggard and made the comments caught on camera 'in order to make light of the situation'.
Mr Rowe said Mr Carter told officers a trail had been laid for the hounds and he was not aware of the foxes.
After the prosecution case, Mr Welford argued there was no case to answer as the prosecution had not provided evidence of intent.
Agreeing to dismiss the charges, Mr Lower referred to the remarks Mr Carter made to Mrs Hoggard.
He said: 'They were boorish, they were offensive, they were distasteful. I imagine they caused her a degree of upset. But I put all of that to one side.'
A charge against Mr Carter of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress was discontinued at a hearing last month.
Mr Carter was a councillor for Saham Toney ward on Breckland Council in Norfolk at the time of the incident on January 23 but resigned after the footage emerged.
Mr Carter, of Birdsall, North Yorkshire, and Mr Milburn, of West Knapton, North Yorkshire, each denied two charges of hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
Both men sat in court watching proceedings wearing pin-striped suits.
They said they did not want to comment as they left the court.