THE Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped fox hunting charges against a friend of Conservative Party leader and West Oxfordshire MP, David Cameron.

Julian Barnfield, professional huntsman with Oxfordshire’s Heythrop Hunt, was charged with four offences of fox hunting between November 2008 and February 2009 and was due to appear at Cheltenham Magistrates Court tomorrow (Friday, March 13).

But the court’s spokesman confirmed the CPS had discontinued the case because of last month’s High Court ruling that searching for a mammal was not hunting, which could only be an intentional activity.

At an earlier hearing Mr Barnfield, 44, of Heythrop Kennels, Chipping Norton denied three charges.

These related to alleged incidents at Cold Aston, near Bourton, on November 17, 2007; Adlestrop, near Moreton, on January 23, 2008 and Barrington, near Northleach, on February 7, 2008.

A fourth similar charge, allegedly committed near Witney, was also to be heard at his trial.

Richard Sumner, the Heythrop’s joint master, said "We are all absolutely delighted.

"We felt the evidence against Julian was pretty shaky.

"I think it was a political thing that this was ever brought in the first place.

"The CPS have to prove that we have been hunting illegally but we haven't and our consciences are clear."

Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: "The collapse of the case against Julian Barnfield is another nail in the coffin of the Hunting Act.”

Mr Cameron has ridden with the Heythrop at least six times since becoming West Oxfprdshire’s MP several years ago.

Nobody from the CPS was available for comment.