Borders hunt master won’t be prosecuted over alleged breach of law

Claire Bellamy, right, with the Lauderdale Hunt in December.
Claire Bellamy, right, with the Lauderdale Hunt in December.

Scotland’s only female master huntsman will not face prosecution after being accused of breaching the country’s fox-hunting laws.

Claire Bellamy was charged by police after concerns were raised about practices employed at a Lauderdale Hunt meeting in the Borders last October.

However, the Crown Office has taken the decision to issue a warning instead to avoid potentially lengthy court proceedings.

The 42-year-old, master at the Lauderdale Hunt, based at Trabrown, north of Lauder, since moving to the region from her native Dartmoor in Devon last year, has accepted a direct measure as an alternative to prosecution.

She will not appear in court and it will not be marked on her record, but it does serve as a warning about her future conduct.

The League Against Cruel Sports secretly filmed the hunt’s activities on land near Galashiels in October and alerted the police, leading to Ms Bellamy being charged in February.

It has criticised today’s decision not to prosecute her, but the Countryside Alliance has described it as a “victory for common sense”.

The law in Scotland was changed 16 years ago to ban the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.

Father and son John Clive Richardson, 67, and Johnny Riley, 24, became the first members of a mounted hunt to be successfully prosecuted last June since the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act came into force.

The pair, members of the Jed Forest Hunt, based at Abbotrule, near Bonchester Bridge, were also filmed by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Following eight days of evidence, sheriff Peter Paterson ruled that in two incidents Richardson and Riley were in breach of the act and found them guilty of deliberately hunting a fox with dogs.

Riley, the man in charge of the hunt, was fined £400 at Selkirk Sheriff Court and Richardson, described as having a lesser role, was fined £250.

Ms Bellamy was unavailable for comment.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “It is the duty of the crown to keep cases under review and, after full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, the procurator fiscal decided there should be no further criminal proceedings and that the case would be more appropriately dealt with by way of an alternative to prosecution.”

Direct measures can range from warnings to fines of up to £300 or orders to do a maximum of 50 hours’ unpaid work.