TWO land owners have been found guilty of hare coursing following a two-day trial during which the effectiveness of the Hunting Act was questioned.
Former racehorse trainer Peter Easterby, 79, and Major John Shaw, 56, were convicted at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court of attending and allowing their land to be used for hare coursing events in March 2007.
During the trial the court heard and saw video evidence from two animal welfare activists who secretly filmed footage during dog trials at land belonging to Easterby and Shaw.
The events were organised by the North Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialing Club, whose chairman told the court he had sought legal advice to ensure the club’s activities were within the law.
The court also heard the ways in which the events differed to pre hunting ban hare coursing, in particular that the dogs were muzzled throughout the event.
However, after deliberating the definitions given in the Hunting Act, District Judge Christina Harrison deemed the activities on the days in question to be hare coursing.
She said: “There is no doubt that everyone in this case has had extreme difficulty in wrestling what parliament meant by the act.
“I have two gentlemen here who have never been in trouble with the courts and who took every step to ensure what they were doing was legal – and yet they find themselves in this position.
“I am also extremely concerned that a police officer attended on the first day and that Major Shaw explained to him what was going on before the police officer went off happy in his own mind with what was happening. One wonders whether Major Shaw and Mr Easterby would have found themselves in this position if the police officer acted on that first day.
“If he had said to Major Shaw he was concerned about the legalities Mr Shaw would have stopped the event and I believe the same of Mr Easterby.”
Three other defendants – Elizabeth Dixon, 44, of Appleton-le-Street, near Malton, who was accused of facilitating the event and Andrew Lund-Watkinson, 56, of Pine View Lodge, Newton-on-Rawcliffe, and Jacqueline Teal, 42, of Scarborough Road, Norton, who were both accused of attending the event, had all charges against them dropped shortly before the trial on Monday (27 July).