Trevor Adams, the first person to be charged under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, has been cleared today in a case which is widely viewed as a test for cases to come.
Adams, who is a joint-master and huntsman with the Duke of Buccleugh Hunt, was reported to police by farmer Ian Hutcheson. Hutcheson had seen Mr Adams flushing out foxes with dogs and, interpreting his actions as contravening the anti-hunt legislation in Scotland, called the police.
Mr Adams had claimed he was only using the dogs to drive the foxes towards people waiting with guns to shoot the animals as part of the pest control service which his hunt provided.
Today at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Kevin Drummond found that Mr Adams was acting within the law, and at no times were the hounds out of control. He said: “It was said that Parliament has indicated by the terms of this legislation that the shooting of foxes in promoted and the accused had taken care to comply.”
Adams said outside the court: “I am glad that justice has prevailed and I will continue my job as a huntsman and will continue to offer the pest control service the landowners and farmers have requested from us.”
The Scottish Countryside Alliance was thrilled with the verdict, and Joe-Scott Plummer, spokesperson for the Duke of Buccleugh’s foxhounds said: “This confirms our belief that the fox control service that we have been offering landowners and farmers has been undertaken within the bounds of the law.”
The Middle Way Group said that today’s decision just adds to the growing confusion about what is and is not allowed, in both Scotland and in England.
“The acquittal today of huntsman Trevor Adams of the Duke of the Buccleugh’s Foxhounds follows the admission by DEFRA yesterday that certain forms of pursuit of wild mammals with dogs is still legal,” explained a spokesperson.
“This latest development has added to the confusion by including yet another category – ‘searching’ – in a growing list of hunting activities which remain unaffected by a ban.
“Yesterday, DEFRA lawyers confirmed that ‘chasing away’ wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales also remains legal under the Hunting Act 2004.”
Such confusion is bound to lead to more uncertainty over what is and is not allowed, the Group argued, which is a result of faulty and incomplete legislation.
It urged both the Scottish Executive and the House of Commons to rethink their legislation to reflect people’s uncertainty and clear up any possible misinterpretations in the future.