Once, he led the League Against Cruel Sports into battle against the huntin’ and shootin’ set.
Now, amid allegations about his relationship with a vet’s wife, Jim Barrington’s eye for female quarry has earned him the nickname the Cruel Sport.
Trouble started when he rode roughshod over the league’s sensitivities by giving an interview to The Field, magazine of the country set, in which he described hunters as ‘pillars of society’.
Before you could say tally-ho, furious league supporters were hot on the trail of the 42-year-old executive director. They accused him of becoming something of a poacher turned gamekeeper – and demanded his head.
In December, he duly resigned his job of seven years while maintaining his commitment to the cause. But the revelation of married Mr Barrington’s relationship with Mrs Joanne Woolliscroft has added another complexion to the story, erupting in allegation and counter-allegation between him and the league.
Yesterday, a puzzling picture emerged of the Barringtons’ domestic arrangements. He called Mrs Woolliscroft his partner, but his wife Ursula said she and her husband were still very much together.
Over at the league, though, they had other matters on their mind. Mr Barrington’s expense accounts are being looked into following allegations that money donated by supporters was spent on Mrs Woolliscroft. It is claimed he paid for hotel accommodation for himself and the vet’s wife on the league’s Visa card.
He is also accused of using league phones to call her, having allegedly run up a bill of more than £190 in a week when she was on holiday in Gambia.
Mr Barrington yesterday dismissed the allegations.
‘I have receipts that can prove I paid all this money back,’ he said.
‘It is absurd to call her my mistress – she has been my partner for two years. The allegations are denied. It is people in the league trying to make trouble for me.’
He confirmed, however, that he is still married. And his wife – who lives at their home in Tonbridge, Kent – insisted: ‘As far as I am concerned, he is still my husband. It is news to me that she has been his partner for two years.
‘But I am sure he wouldn’t do anything wrong with league funds. He has worked very hard for them for many years.’
Mrs Woolliscroft, who lives at Whitwick, near Coalville, Leicestershire, was unavailable for comment. Her estranged husband Graham, a vet in Netherfield, Nottinghamshire, said she was living with Mr Barrington, but refused to comment further.
A friend of Mr Barrington said he was having difficulty choosing between the two women. ‘Jim seems to be dividing his time between them, unable to make his mind up, ’ he added. ‘Christmas was a bit of a farce. He was staying with Joanna, then went down for New Year with Ursula. Some people are calling him the Cruel Sport.’
The league’s executive committee voted last Saturday to appoint accountants to examine Mr Barrington’s expenses during his last two years in charge. He has since repaid some money, but it is unclear if any is still outstanding.
Last night, the league’s company secretary, Tom Hart, revealed that it had agreed to pay Mr Barrington for unfair dismissal. The exact sum had yet to be agreed, but if any expenses are outstanding, they would be deducted from Mr Barrington’s payment.
He added: ‘There’s no evidence at this stage of any fraud or dishonesty. It looks very much as if the allegation has been motivated by somebody who bears him ill-will.’