Three hunt members were wrongly convicted after a police sergeant failed to disclose crucial photos in evidence.
Calling on prosecutors to review the case, judge Recorder Roger Evans criticised Sergeant Matt Scott – saying Paul Larby, Peter White and Jane Wright had been subjected to a ‘serious injustice’.
Mr Larby, pictured, and his colleagues were convicted in March last year of hunting a mammal with dogs after a fox was chased and killed during a trail hunt in January 2016.
Jane Wright, Paul Larby and Peter White (left to right), who were wrongly convicted of hunting a mammal with dogs
The convictions hinged on 209 photos and a video taken by birdwatchers that appeared to show the group – members of the Nottinghamshire Grove and Rufford Hunt – chasing the fox.
But at an appeal hearing last month, a further 50 pictures emerged showing Mr Larby, 59, and Mrs Wright, 64, racing to intervene before being blocked by a hedge.
The judge ordered almost £60,000 in costs should be returned to the group as, ‘if this case had been investigated properly’, Sergeant Scott would have obtained and disclosed all the images at the earliest opportunity and a ‘different view may have been taken’ on charging them.
The prosecution’s opposition to the appeal was abandoned on the second day, though the CPS insists the decision was not made because of the photos.
Ruling on costs at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday, the judge said he was ‘concerned’ by the evidence of Sergeant Scott, who ‘seemed to have no explanation’ for the missing evidence.
The group, initially fined a total of £1,530, have lodged a complaint against Sergeant Scott.
The judge had heard as part of legal argument that a series of Twitter posts in the officer’s name from 2014 criticised the Shooting Times.
Mr White, 58, told the Sunday Telegraph the case had been ‘completely biased’ from the outset with a ‘prejudiced’ officer in charge.
Nottinghamshire Police said that it reviewed processes where appropriate, while the CPS said it would consider the judge’s comments.