A CASE against an Alnwick man accused of illegal hunting has collapsed after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him.
Robert McCarthy, 35, of The Kennels, Cannongate, had denied the charge of hunting a wild animal with a dog, contrary to the Hunting Act 2004.
Mr McCarthy, a huntsman with the Percy Hunt, was alleged to have been chasing a fox with a pack of dogs while on horseback at Bradford Kairns, near Belford, on November 12 last year.
But on day two of the three-day trial, at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court in Bedlington, District Judge Stephen Earl said the prosecution had failed to put forward sufficient evidence to convict Mr McCarthy.
Outside of court, a relieved Mr McCarthy said: “I am just very disappointed it got this far, I am disappointed it has come to court.
“I have hunted legally since the ban came in. I am doing a professional job and I shouldn’t have to go through this.”
He admitted the last nine months had been tough.
“The support has been absolutely tremendous, first class. It has been very difficult for me, and also my staff. It has not been easy.”
The case was thrown out after the court had heard evidence from Sonia Redpath and her mother Lynne Peachey yesterday, on day one of the trial.
The incident had happened outside Mrs Redpath’s Golden Hill home and she told the court she had seen a fox which appeared to be “extremely frightened” and “weaving” up against a fence.
She recalled how she heard the sound of dogs, horns, and the galloping of a horse before Mr McCarthy came into vision and rode down towards the house.
Mrs Redpath assumed he was chasing the fox and tried to stop the pack. She said the fox ran away into an area of gorse and then the rider “chased it”.
She told the court Mr McCarthy was “ya-ing” and encouraging the dogs towards the fox.
But Mrs Redpath did say Mr McCarthy had “intercepted” the hounds.
However, her mother had said the fox had gone to ground by the time Mr McCarthy was in sight.
Defending, Robert Woodcock QC, said today that Mrs Redpath’s evidence was “deeply tainted” and “unreliable” while Mrs Peachey’s was “more favourable” to Mr McCarthy “than proves the case against him”.
He added there was no evidence to suggest that Mr McCarthy had deliberately pursued the fox and his actions were nothing more than him following a trail.
He urged the judge to dismiss the case on those grounds.
Judge Earl said: “The prosecution has failed to put before me sufficient evidence that a tribunal could convict. On the basis of that, the submission is well founded.”