Borders huntsmen go on trial accused of breaking fox-hunting laws

Jedburgh Sheriff Court
Jedburgh Sheriff Court

Two members of a Borders hunt have gone on trial accused of breaching fox-hunting laws.

Timothy Allen, 41, and Shaun Anderson, 28, have been charged with deliberately hunting a fox with a pack of dogs while out with the Buccleuch Hunt.

That offence is alleged to have been committed on land surrounding Whitton Farm, near Morebattle, on December 20 last year.

Their trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, starting today, October 8, is another major test of the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals Act.

Allen and Anderson, both of Eildon, near Melrose, confirmed they are sticking to their not-guilty pleas.

Giving evidence, Robbie Marsland, 61, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said he feels the current legislation needs tightening up, so he has hired a team of field workers to covertly film the country’s 10 regular hunts “to check their patterns of behaviour”.

Mr Marsland said he suspects that loopholes in the legislation are being exploited to allow traditional fox-hunting to take place, so he hopes to gather as much evidence as possible to convince the Scottish Government to strengthen the existing legislation.

He added that his investigators had attended around 20 hunts between last October and February, reporting incidents to the police on eight occasions.

Farmer Thomas Edgar, 49, confirmed he had been contacted by Allen about the Eildon-based hunt coming onto his land at Whitton Farm to carry out fox control.

Asked how many lambs he loses a year to foxes, he replied: “It won’t be less than 100 a year. Sometimes it is more than that. They are pretty persisent.

“There are financial implications, and it is pretty devastating for the sheep.”

Three days have been set aside for the trial, looking likely to be only part heard for now as two witnesses due to give evidence are unavailable.

It is understood that film evidence submitted by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports will form the crux of the case against the two huntsmen.

It will be the latest test of the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals Act recently subjected to a review by Lord Iain Bonomy.

The main purpose of the act is to ban the deployment of dogs to chase and kill wild mammals. However, it also makes exceptions allowing the limited use of dogs in specified situations and for foxes to be killed by guns.

Father and son John Clive Richardson, 68, and Johnny Riley, 25, became the first members of a mounted hunt to be successfully prosecuted in June last year since the act was introduced north of the Border.

The Jed Forest Hunt members were filmed by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports too.

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

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

There have also been a successful prosecutions under the act of individuals not taking part in recognised hunts.

The latest trial, again being heard by Mr Paterson, continues.