The prosecution of former champion racehorse trainer Peter Easterby and farmer John Shaw for allowing hare coursing to take place on their land ended today (29 July) with both defendants granted an absolute discharge.
No fine or costs was awarded against either man at Scarborough Magistrates Court.
Three other defendants — Elizabeth Dixon, 44, of Appleton-le-Street, near Malton, who was accused of facilitating the event and Andrew Lund-Watkinson, 56, of Pine View Lodge, Newton-on-Rawcliffe, and Jacqueline Teal, 42, of Scarborough Road, Norton, who were both accused of attending the event, had all charges against them dropped shortly before the trial on Monday (27 July).
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) campaigners Joe Hashman and Michelle Bryan brought video evidence to the court which they had filmed undercover at an event hosted by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Training Club Mr Easterby and Mr Shaw’s land on 2-3 March 2007.
The court heard Mr Hashman used binoculars with an inbuilt camera to record what he said was hare coursing. The defendants’ claimed no coursing took place.
District judge Christina Harrison found that the activities of the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trial Club on Mr Easterby and Mr Shaw’s land on 2-3 March 2007 were illegal coursing as defined by the Hunting Act 2004.
And despite agreeing that Mr Shaw and Mr Easterby had only given permission for the land to be used for legal activity she had to convict the pair under the Act and gave them the most lenient sentence possible.
The judge commented: “…there is no doubt; however that everyone has had extreme difficulty in interpreting what parliament meant [by the Hunting Act]”
Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said: “This extraordinarily pointless prosecution is yet another example of why the Hunting Act must be repealed.
“To drag two people, who, as the judge made perfectly clear had no intention of breaking the law, through this prosecution for two and a half years is an utter waste of public funds, as well as the time of vital and overstretched resources such as the police force, Crown Prosecution Service and the Court.
“More importantly, two people who have done absolutely nothing wrong are now apparently criminals in the eye of the law.”
Under the wording of the Hunting Act every person who attended the event, including the two IFAW antis, could be accused of hare coursing, even if they were not aware anything illegal had taken place.
A private prosecution against celebrity cook Clarissa Dickson Wright and racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott who were also at the event is to be heard at Scarborough on September 1.