10 February 2015
By Brian Daniel
A case of interfering with a badger sett against Northumberland huntsman Ian McKie has been dropped
A Northumberland huntsman accused of interfering with a badger sett has walked free from court after the case against him was dropped.
Ian McKie, joint master and huntsman with the College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt, was taken to court accused of damaging part of a badger sett close to the hunt’s kennels last year.
However, the charge was discontinued after prosecutors concluded the identity of the person responsible for the alleged offence could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Mr McKie has now told us of his surprise that the case had got as far as it had given a “complete lack of evidence” and at the “considerable” expense he had been put to.
He also voiced surprise that “a member of the community and countryside” had gone to police – sparking the prosecution – rather than come to him with concerns.
The 57-year-old, who lives at Lanton near Wooler, was due to appear before Berwick magistrates to face a charge of interfering with a badger sett by damaging a part of it with intent or being reckless as to whether his actions would have that consequence.
The alleged offence was said to have occurred at Downham Farm, Mindrum, on November 11 last year.
However, in court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) asked that the case be discontinued.
The court ordered that Mr McKie’s costs be paid for out of central funds.
A CPS spokesperson told us: “As a result of initial police enquiries, the defendant was summonsed to appear at Berwick Magistrates’ Court for a first hearing on January 28 this year.
“During a formal review of the case on January 21 by a CPS prosecutor, it was assessed that the identification of those involved in the dig could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt and that a realistic prospect of conviction was therefore unlikely.
“In light of this, the crown took the decision to ask that the case be formally discontinued at the first hearing.”
Mr McKie told us he had not committed the offence.
“We were surprised that it had got so far. There was a complete lack of evidence.
“It took a conversation between the prosecutor and our solicitor to realise that it had gone too far and should be discontinued purely through lack of substantial evidence.
“There is costs involved and unnecessary costs at that and court costs as well as police time.
“There has been a considerable amount of work done on our behalf and a considerable amount of time taken up with the police authorities which has all been completely unnecessary. It has put a lot of people to a lot of trouble unnecessarily.”
He added: “We were surprised at the time particularly for a local member of the community and the countryside going to such lengths.
“If they have got a problem normally, people would come and talk to me about it.
“But they felt they wanted to go to the police, that is their prerogative.”
Mr McKie claimed the complainant had told police he had seen somebody interfering with the badger sett but had not specifically mentioned him.
The huntsman says police then asked him to help them with their enquiries before he was ultimately charged.
Mr McKie was one of three members of the College Valley hunt convicted of illegal hunting at the Berwick court last October.
The trio were secretly filmed by two League Against Cruel Sports investigators as they led a meet near Lowick last February.
They pleaded not guilty and were convicted following a trial.
The College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt came into existence in 1982, when The College Valley Hunt amalgamated with the North Northumberland.
The College Valley Hunt was founded in 1924 while the North Northumberland began in 1920, although its predecessor the Glendale predates World War One.
The Hon Freddie Lambton kept the Glendale going during the Great War while the North Northumberland hounds were the property of the Joicey family of Ford and Etal until the 1982 merger.
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