WEST Somerset huntsman Tony Wright, 52, who became the first person convicted for breaking the ban on fox hunting with hounds, has lodged an appeal against the decision.

Mr Wright, 52, of Simonsbath, was fined £500 and ordered to pay £250 costs after a private prosecution brought by the League Against Cruel Sports earlier this month.

The appeal papers have been filed at Exeter Crown Court, and the first hearing is expected within two months.

In the week-long hearing at Barnstaple Magistrates' Court, Mr Wright, of Exmoor Kennels, denied breaching the Hunting Act when he led the Exmoor Foxhounds last year.

The League told the court Mr Wright broke the hunting ban by signalling the Exmoor Foxhounds to pursue two foxes at Drybridge, Devon.

Exercising hounds, chasing a scent trail and flushing out foxes to be shot is still legal.

But the league alleged the hunt went further than that on April 29 by allowing hounds a "prolonged period of pursuit" of a fox on two occasions.

Mr Wright's appeal is to be backed by the Countryside Alliance.

Chief Executive Simon Hart said: "If people were confused about the Hunting Act before Tony Wright's conviction they will be a lot more confused now.

"We believe that he was trying to comply with the law as he understood it and will be supporting his appeal."

But the League Against Cruel Sports said it believed the Hunting Act was a "clearly worded" piece of legislation which could be used by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, and the courts, to oversee prosecutions against illegal hunting.

The league brought the action at a total cost believed to be in excess of £100,000 after Avon and Somerset Police declined to take on the case based on the evidence available.