CHARGES of interfering with a badger sett have been dropped against a Holmes Chapel man – and member of the Cheshire Forest hunt – as the trial was about to be heard in court.

The RSPCA decided to drop a private prosecution of two supporters of the Cheshire Forest Hunt at a hearing at Chester Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Brian Nuttall, 79, from Holmes Chapel and Justin Schofield, 42, from Crewe, were out with the Cheshire Forest Hunt on March 3, 2012 near Crowton, in Cheshire, when they were filmed covertly by anti-hunting activists.

The RSPCA launched an investigation, during which both men’s houses was raided by RSPCA officials and police officers.

Five dogs were removed and held for at least 10 months, and both men were subsequently summonsed by the RSPCA to face charges of interference with a badger sett.

Mr Schofield was also charged with an offence under the Animal Welfare Act, but that was dropped at an earlier stage.

At the hearing on Thursday the RSPCA confirmed it was offering no evidence to support the Badgers Act charges.

The Countryside Alliance told the Guardian that defence costs of nearly £10,000 would be paid by the taxpayer.

On hearing the prosecution had been dropped, Brian Nuttall said: “It’s a huge relief that we won’t have to go on trial, but I was ready to fight the RSPCA if we had to.

“I did absolutely nothing wrong, yet these people took my dog, raided my house and caused me more than a year of worry.

“Now they have finally accepted the whole thing was nonsense, but they seem to be able to do anything they want.”

Tim Bonner, director of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “This is another example of the RSPCA abusing the criminal justice system to pursue its vendetta against members of the hunting community.

“Mr Nuttall and Mr Schofield were involved in perfectly legitimate activity, and the evidence against them was always paper thin, yet for over a year they have had multiple criminal charges hanging over them.

“There is an ongoing debate about the RSPCA’s abuse of the right of the individual to bring private prosecutions in the criminal courts, and we will be raising this case, as we have others, with the relevant ministers.”