A Hawick man has become the second person to be convicted under the fox-hunting act.
Stephen Scott, who was the first to face charges under the 18-month-old legislation, was fined £300 at Jedburgh Sheriff Court last Friday.
But, his two co-accused — brothers Ian and Paul Marshall, of Burnfoot Road and Wilson Drive respectively — walked free after procurator fiscal Graham Fraser accepted not-guilty pleas. All three men had initially faced several charges relating to foxes and badgers.
Scott, of Galalaw Road, admitted sending a lurcher and two terriers into a fox set near his home town last January. Two foxes fled from the set on Flex Farm and one was caught by the lurcher.
Mr Fraser told the court: “The farmer noticed the terrier dogs running loose and saw them entering the fox set. He approached the accused and saw a fox close to the set in its last throes of life.
“The accused was then told to get off the land by the farmer,” added the fiscal. During police interviews Scott, a 21-year-old forestry worker, admitted responsibility for his dogs and the death of a fox.
Since the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was introduced in 2002, in an attempt to outlaw foxhunts, there has only been one other successful conviction. David Murray, from Dundee, was fined £150 after pleading guilty to allowing his two dogs to chase foxes on a Tayside beach – no fox was killed.
On Friday, Sheriff Kevin Drummond had to clarify several points of the act with prosecutors before retiring to deliberate.
Sentencing Scott, the sheriff said parliament had provided the court with an option of jailing him for up to six months – but since this was his first offence a fine of £300 seemed more appropriate.
The sheriff told Scott: “It is now an offence to hunt a wild mammal with a dog. You had no permission to be where you were, and you took no steps to make sure the fox was properly despatched – it was not killed outright and took some time to die.”
Following the case, Lothian and Borders Police wildlife officer Mark Rafferty said he was pleased with the conviction and hoped it sent out a message to others who continue to hunt with dogs.
He said: “I’m happy that there is a real commitment to prosecute and we will continue to enforce the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act. Fox-hunting takes a number of forms – whether it is organised hunts or people acting on their own – and the legislation is there to protect animals. We are currently investigating several breaches of the law and we will do everything within our power to bring prosecutions.”