A PROFESSIONAL huntsman based near Minehead who has successfully overturned the first conviction under the Hunting Act says he always believed he would clear his name.

Tony Wright, of the Exmoor Foxhounds, whose kennels are at Simonsbath, was convicted last August of hunting a fox with dogs and fined, following a private prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports.

At Exeter Crown Court on Friday, Mr Wright heard his long battle to overturn the conviction, including a five-day appeal hearing last month, had been successful.

Mr Wright, 53, a huntsman for 26 years, told the County Gazette this week: "I thought all along that I was innocent and Friday proved that.

"I'm highly delighted. It's taken a long time but I was prepared to wait for ever."

The original prosecution brought ag-ainst Mr Wright was based on film footage taken by the League on Brendon Common near Lynton in April 2005.

When the case came to court, Mr Wright failed to convince Barnstaple Magistrates that he had legally complied with an exemption to the Hunting Act by using two hounds to flush out a fox to be shot by a marksman.

The League claimed that Mr Wright was using hounds to pursue a fox in the open, in breach of the act, an allegation which Mr Wright denied.

Douglas Batchelor, the chief executive of the League against Cruel Sports, said that his organisation was extremely disappointed with the verdict.

He also said the league would continue to work with police to stamp out illegal hunting.