A HUNTSMAN from the Quantock Staghounds has become the first person to be convicted twice under the Hunting Act at Taunton Deane Magistrates Court this week.

Richard Down, 47, from Bagborough, was found guilty of hunting a wild mammal with more than two dogs.

The hunter was previously convicted in 2007 for chasing deer with hounds in February that year.

At Taunton Magistrates Court, District Judge Martin Brown said he believed Down was in control of the hounds and could have called them back.

Down was fined £375 and ordered to pay £2,545 in costs.

Evidence filmed by the League Against Cruel Sports was used in court to help convict Down.

League chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: “This is a real slap in the face for anyone who claims the Hunting Act is not working.

“Not only has this individual been convicted once but twice for offences under the Act.

“Let’s hope this steep bill he faces in paying back the court costs will act as a deterrent to him in the future.”

Quantocks Staghounds chairman Nick Gibbon said: “I think the country’s gone mad.”

He added: “I am not saying whether we will or won’t but we can appeal within 20 days.”

According to the league, there have been more than 150 convictions under the act but the Countryside Alliance say only four of these have been against registered hunts because the act has been used against poachers.