A LEADING member of Peterborough’s Fitzwilliam Hunt has been fined for a breach of anti-hunting laws.
Gamekeeper John Bycroft (67), who is the terrier man to the Fitzwilliam Hunt, was found with another man using terriers to flush foxes from underground dens.
But he fell foul of the law after putting a live pregnant vixen in a tiny barrel because he “didn’t have the heart” to shoot her.
The Hunting Act demands that foxes flushed out of their dens are immediately shot dead by a competent person.
Police came across the two men only after being alerted to the sound of shooting in a field in Fen Road, Holbeach on April 25 last year, Spalding magistrates heard.
Officers found Bycroft and Jamie Round (24) nearby with an open horsebox with a plastic barrel inside. The barrel measured just 75cms high and 30cms across and contained a live fox.
The court heard Bycroft intended to release the fox elsewhere, but police ordered her to be freed on the spot.
Bycroft, of Weston Hills Road, Low Fulney, denied one offence under the Hunting Act 2004 and one under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but both were proved at the end of a two day RSPCA prosecution.
He was ordered to pay a total of £2,065 – comprising fines of £525 for each offence, £1,000 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
Jobless Round, of Penny Hill, Holbeach, denied identical offences. He was acquitted of the Hunting Act charge but found guilty of the Welfare Act charge, which involved confining the fox in a barrel with insufficient light, space, ventilation and a suitable environment to exhibit normal behaviour. Round was fined £165 and must pay £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
The court heard that Bycroft had written consent to be on the neighbouring land.
Magistrates found neither man breached the trespass element of Hunting Act law, but Bycroft alone breached the provision requiring him to shoot the fox as soon as reasonably practical.
Solicitor Daven Naghen said Round did not have a gun and expected Bycroft to shoot the animal.
Solicitor Rachel Stevens said Bycroft is held in high regard as a gamekeeper.
She said Bycroft felt shooting the fox would have caused unnecessary suffering to her cubs.
There were ground nesting birds on the site where she was captured and he wanted to release her elsewhere.
No one for the hunt was available to comment.