29th June 2017
Two huntsmen from the Scottish Borders have been found guilty of breaching fox-hunting law.
It is the first conviction of a traditional fox hunt under legislation introduced in Scotland in 2002.
Johnny Riley, 24, and his father, John Clive Richardson, 67, of Bonchester Bridge, were fined £400 and £250 respectively for deliberately hunting a fox with dogs near Jedburgh last year.
They plan to appeal against the decision.
During their trial, the pair had denied breaching the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
Their defence lawyer David McKie said they had worked within the terms of the legislation by using hounds to flush out a fox from cover to waiting guns.
However, depute fiscal Fiona Caldwell argued the two men had clearly broken the law at Townfoothill near Jedburgh on 16 February last year.
She said evidence had shown it had been a "deliberate course of acts culminating with those responsible for the hunt, hunting the fox with dogs".
The verdict was welcomed by the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland which supplied video footage to the trial.
Its director Robbie Marsland said: "Today’s guilty verdict is the first successful prosecution for mounted fox hunting in Scotland and while we’re delighted with the outcome, and our role in this, we remain of the view that the law needs strengthened.
"The Scottish government has committed to consult on the hunt ban following a review by Lord Bonomy, who clearly stated there was evidence of lawbreaking by Scottish hunts."
He said the guilty verdict had confirmed that to be the case and said they looked forward to working to help "strengthen the law".
However, the Countryside Alliance voiced disappointment at the conviction claiming the huntsmen had been subjected to "trial by television".
It said footage which had been given to the BBC had put pressure on police and prosecutors to take the case forward.
Director Jamie Stewart said: "Scottish mounted packs not only adhere to the law but also work under an enhanced protocol."
He said the organisation was disappointed with the verdict and would await the full transcript of the judgement before making further comment.
PC Andrew Loughlin, wildlife crime officer for the Scottish Borders, said: "Wildlife crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we will always take action against those who breach wildlife laws.
"I would ask those who undertake countryside pursuits to keep their dogs under control as they will be held accountable should their dogs chase or kill wild mammals.
"We continue to work with our partners to tackle the issue of illegal fox hunting and would encourage anyone who witnesses this activity to get in touch with police via 101."
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