A huntswoman who whipped a saboteur with her riding crop could be jailed for up to six months.
Jane Goring, 57, is facing a private prosecution for assault for thrashing the activist up to 17 times around the head during an ugly row caught on camera.
Footage of the incident in Hailsham, East Sussex, in which the sheep farmer can be heard screaming ‘get off my horse’, went viral and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online.
Less than two months later police concluded there was not enough evidence to proceed and dropped the case.
But now Goring – whose husband Richard, 79, is part of the country’s oldest luxury family hotel dynasty – faces two criminal charges through a private prosecution.
The pair travelled from their £1million farm in Heathfield on the Sussex Downs to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
During a brief legal hearing, Goring pleaded not guilty to beating Simon Medhurst, a veteran animal rights and environmental campaigner and member of the South Coast Hunt Saboteurs.
She also denied assaulting fellow saboteur Shirley Makin by ‘riding her down’ with her horse during the confrontation.
Her lawyer Noelle Magennis said both allegations are disputed and that the saboteurs attacked Goring’s horse.
She added her client saw Mr Medhurst outside court and insisted he was not the person she had hit with her crop.
She told the court: ‘In essence, she was acting because a young 17-year-old was on a horse, she’s gone to check he was okay. There was a crowd of saboteurs around him with balaclavas on.
‘When she goes over to the group, one of the sabs grabbed her reins and one of them punches the horse in the mouth.
‘She then reacts by hitting them with her riding crop. The riding down of Shirley Makin just didn’t happen.’
In the unusual case, the prosecution is being overseen by a private criminal solicitor from a Brighton-based law firm.
But District Judge Tessa Szagun asked a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service to review the files.
She gave him until October 25 for the DPP to decide whether she will take over the case.
Alison Saunders, the country’s top prosecutor, has the power to take over a private prosecution at any time and continue it or shut it down.
Both offences will be dealt with by magistrates in Hastings in January. The maximum penalty if Goring is convicted is six months imprisonment.
The alleged attack took place as members of the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt rode out in Hailsham last November.
In the 30-second clip, Mrs Goring is seen riding towards the saboteurs, who are accused of trespassing on private land, shouting ‘get back to the road’.
A masked man takes hold of her horse’s reins and she begins to strike him ferociously with her whip.
The protester claimed he suffered bruising to his face and head but did not require hospital treatment.
South Coast Hunt Saboteurs launched an online appeal to fund a private prosecution and raised more than £8,000 towards their goal of £15,000.