Huntsmen ‘wanted hounds to kill fox’

Close up portarit of a European Fox

Close up portarit of a European Fox

A father and son have gone on trial accused of breaching Scotland’s fox hunting legislation.

John Clive Richardson, 66, and Johnny Riley, 24, from the Jedforest Hunt, deny deliberately hunting a fox with hounds – which has been illegal in Scotland since the introduction of the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Jedburgh Justice of the Peace Court.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Jedburgh Justice of the Peace Court.

A video filmed by an investigator from the League Against Cruel Sports was shown on Thursday at Jedburgh Sheriff Court which, it is alleged, shows a breach of the act.

The law allows hounds to flush a fox out of cover to waiting guns to be shot. But the footage shows the foxhounds chasing a fox through gorse land and down a hole.

A male, described in court as a terrier man, put a terrier dog down the hole to locate the fox.

The terrier dog was then taken out of the hole and the male spends the next 20 minutes digging to reach the fox.

The law says the fox should then be dispatched or killed by a hand pistol or shotgun.

But the footage shows the fox being released from the hole and pursued again by the hounds.

League Against Cruel Sports investigator Terence Hill, 51, shot the video after setting up an observation point for a covert operation on gorse-covered land at Townfoothill, near Jedburgh, on February 18 last year. It shows huntsmen Richardson and Riley on horseback at the scene of the incident and in charge of the dogs.

Mr Hill – who has been observing hunts throughout the UK for the past 30 years – filmed the incident on a video camera from a distance of 650 metres.

Giving evidence, Mr Hill told the court: “Through the whole proceedings they had no interest in the proper fox control of dispatching it based on my observation and film material obtained.

“Their intention was they wanted the hounds to hunt and kill the fox.

“They allowed this to happen and did not have guns anywhere around that gorse.”

Mr Hill said that when the fox was trapped below the ground there was plenty of opportunity to humanely kill it with a gun.

He concluded: “They clearly wanted the hounds to kill the fox.”

Around 20 minutes after the incident, the video shows Richardson and the terrier man carrying shotguns, but Mr Hill insisted they did not have them at the time of the death when the fox was supposed to be flushed out to guns.

He said: “That is way after the incident of the fox bolting. And I did not hear a gunshot then.”

He dismissed a suggestion that the fox would have been shot before the dogs caught it.

Mr Hill explained: “No-one in their right mind would have shot the fox with the hounds right behind it.”

He also claimed hunt members were calling and encouraging the hounds to chase the fox.

He said he saw one hunt member – in charge of the terriers – try to trip the fox up as it attempted to escape back down a hole.

During his evidence Mr Hill said: “There are far too many loopholes in the legislation just now.

“Flushing to guns is not happening.

“Traditional fox hunting is still going on.”

No huntsmen have yet fallen foul of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, but two individuals have been convicted for hunting foxes with dogs and 10 for hare coursing.

The trial of Richardson and Riley, of Abbotrule, Bonchester Bridge, will resume on Thursday, April 27.