Lady Sarah McCorquodale, the sister of Princess Diana, made an appearance in court this week to defend the Belvoir Hunt, the oldest in England, against charges that a legal observer was seriously injured by a member of the hunt staff.
The Telegraph is reporting that a large suit has been filed against the hunt after a retired police officer, Darryl Cunnington, 60, suffered a fractured vertebra after being pushed down a hill while monitoring the activities of the Belvoir Hunt. In the U.K., fox hunting attracts crowds of protesters, and so there are always observers on site.
The hunt's kennel manager, George Grant, 58, and his son, Thomas, 26, were both found guilty and sentenced to 13 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm, theft, and criminal damage to property.
At their trial, Princess Diana's oldest sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale (the master of the Belvoir Hunt), vouched for Grant and his son, telling Judge Jinder Singh Boora that he would lose both his home and his job if he was jailed. She explained that she had never before seen him lose his temper, and his behavior on that day was out of character.McCorquodale, who is the former High Sheriff of Lincolnshire and president of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, told Leicester Crown Court that she's worked with Grant for some time.
"We've had contact on a regular basis through my role as joint master of the hunt. He has always been courteous, polite, hard working and a good communicator. I've seen him under pressure on many occasions when the 'anti-s', or whatever you want to call them [hunt monitors], were there and he was slow to burn. I've no idea what happened on this occasion."But this won't stop the civil action, as Mr. Cunnington, an investigator with the League Against Cruel Sports, and his colleague Roger Swaine, 47, are now suing the hunt for £100,000 saying they are liable for the injuries sustained, including stress and anxiety.
Both men say that Grant and his son order four men in ski masks to attack the observers, and that's when the injuries were sustained. Swaine claims he was also injured in the scrape when he incurred cuts and bruises and developed a generalized anxiety disorder.
A spokesman for the Belvoir Hunt said that this is an ongoing legal matter, and so it would be "inappropriate" to comment.