THREE illegal fox hunters have been convicted of encouraging their hounds to ignore a set trail and chase a fox that had bolted in fear.
Joint master Timothy Smalley, huntsman Ian Mckie and kennel huntsman Andrew Proe were secretly filmed hunting a fox after their dogs had disturbed it.
The trio, from the College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt, had denied the accusation claiming at no point had they intentionally gone after the wild animal but were following a laid scent. But footage presented by the League Against Cruel Sports showed the fox running, the hounds giving chase and then Smalley raising his hat as a signal to his fellow hunters.
Volunteers from the charity, John Shaw and Andrew Swinburne, presented eight videos from the hunt, near Lowick, Northumberland, in February after they hid in woodland to observe the meet.
Delivering his verdict at Berwick Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Bernard Begley claimed he found parts of their evidence unconvincing and lacking veracity, and said: “You are all very experienced members of the hunt who should have known better, which increases your culpability.”
All three were convicted of hunting a wild mammal with dogs, contrary to the Hunting Act 2004. Smalley was fined £2,075 and given a £120 victim surcharge, Mckie was fined £1,150 and given a victim surcharge of £115 and Proe was fined £480 and given a £48 victim surcharge. All three men were ordered to pay £385 in costs. Mr Begley found them not guilty in relation to one other incident of fox hunting from the same day.
The League Against Cruel Sports’ chief executive, Joe Duckworth, said: “We are extremely pleased with today’s verdict. We hope this successful case will make other hunt members think twice before breaking the law and causing harm to wildlife. #
“We know that many hunts continue to regularly flout the law. Our team of professional investigators work hard in the field to capture illegal activity and work with the relevant statutory bodies to bring about prosecutions.”