On 6th December 2022, Ollie Finnegan, the ex-huntsman of Leicestershire’s Quorn Hunt (one of the most “prestigious” foxhunts in England) pleaded guilty to breaching the Hunting Act 2004. This is the first conviction of illegal hunting masqueraded as “trail hunting” where the key evidence came from WhatsApp messages found on the huntsman’s phone after it was seized by police.
Hunt saboteurs from Herefordshire and Three Counties were due to be witnesses in the case but Finnegan’s guilty plea meant they were not needed in the end. Magistrates said that the messages demonstrated a “pattern of offending over a period of time.” In one exchange, Finnegan openly discusses illegal hunting with a hunter from Gloucestershire’s Ledbury Hunt, while in other messages, he discusses hunting with his bosses at the Quorn Hunt. Some of the messages refer to a supposed “trail hunt” that happened on the 7th of January 2022, showing that it was — as all other trail hunts — just a cover for illegal hunting. When asked how that day went, Finnegan wrote in the messaging app, “Only found a brace [of foxes]. First one went to ground, The second went 5 fields to a real thick cover which we weren’t aloud in and had to stop [the hounds].”
A spokesperson of the Hunt Saboteurs Association commented the following: “The Quorn is the most famous fox hunt in the world, they literally invented the modern form of fox hunting we see today. The fact that even this supposedly prestigious hunt is utterly mired in criminality proves — once again — that fox hunts are just organised crime gangs. While we welcome this conviction, the sad fact is that — almost two decades on from the passing of the Hunting Act — the police still spend most of their time harassing hunt saboteurs, instead of targeting the criminal fox hunters.”