A COUNCILLOR'S bid to get controversial 'trail hunting' banned in north Oxfordshire has been thrown out.

Green councillor Ian Middleton put the motion at a Cherwell District Council meeting on Monday after suspicions were raised about illegal hunting.

A video secretly recorded by the League Against Cruel Sports shows key members of the hunting community allegedly describing trail hunting as a ‘smokescreen’ for hunts that chase live prey.

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It is now being investigated by the police, and anti-hunt campaigners say it potentially makes any organisation that facilitates hunting on its land complicit in an illegal activity.

As a result, national bodies such as The National Trust and councils such as Peterborough have suspended trail hunting on their land.

Mr Middleton called on Cherwell to follow suit, but Conservative councillors threw his motion out, with councillor James McNamara saying there was no land in the district to hunt on and that the proposal was ‘completely bonkers’.

He said: “We don’t have any swathes of countryside. When did a hunt last hunt through Castle Quay? It’s completely bonkers.

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“At the moment this council is facing really serious issues that matter to our residents’ livelihoods, health, death, sickness, and we are grappling with those issues and we’re grappling with the financial impact.

“We’re being asked to pass a frivolous, vacuous and completely pointless motion. How does that make us look? Regardless of the merits of this motion this is a serious reputational issue.”

Similarly, councillor George Reynolds said: “Is it not time that we stop using this council to do all sorts of things that are not our responsibility? It seems to be the name of the game nowadays to get this council to take on responsibilities that are not ours. We have enough problems at the moment.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Conrad Copeland seconded the motion and said the council had ‘lost the plot’ through the course of debating it.

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He said: “As a council it is our legal duty to protect this council from prosecution or involvement in prosecution. This motion does that by temporarily suspending the hunt on council land until the conclusion of the investigation so that we are no longer liable for what occurs on our land through these hunts.

“To vote against this motion is arguably an abrogation of our legal duty to this council and to our residents to prevent this council from being involved in prosecutions and the arguments of the members opposite seem to be losing the plot a little bit.”

Mr Middleton said hunting has taken place in the district in places such as Sibford, Broughton, Cropredy, Wroxton and Horley and that residents have raised concerns.

After the meeting, he said: "Councillor McNamara made mention of a ‘reputational matter’ and I agree that the council needs to protect its reputation.  The best way to do that in this case is to ensure it is not caught up in the fallout from these potentially explosive revelations.

Instead of taking on board the facts that were presented to them, they chose to make this a debate about fox hunting itself.  Other councillors simply made disparaging remarks about the motivations behind the motion, claiming these matters were not important enough for them to be bothered with.

"I hope the residents of those wards affected remember that during next year’s district and county elections”

The motion was lost by 14 votes to 29 and there was one abstention.

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