South Scotland

Borders fox-hunting trial video footage 'showed law breach'

Video of a fox being dug out of a hole and chased by a pack of hounds showed a breach of Scots legislation, according to a wildlife crime police officer.

James Hood, 52, told Jedburgh Sheriff Court that while it was illegal to deliberately hunt a wild mammal with a dog there were some exceptions.

He was giving evidence at the trial of John Clive Richardson, 66, and Johnny Riley, 24, of the Jedforest Hunt.

The father and son deny deliberately hunting a fox with hounds last year.

The offence is alleged to have taken place near Jedburgh in February 2016.

The court had previously seen footage filmed by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports.

'Blind spot'

Commenting on the video, Mr Hood said: "A fox can be flushed by dogs from cover to guns.

"My opinion from the footage of the two incidents is that the fox is pursued by a number of hounds across open ground with one or two horsemen and other persons present.

"The pursuit is beyond what is allowed in the exception."

The footage showed the fox disappearing into a "blind spot" or "dead ground" with the dogs in hot pursuit so what happened to the fox was not captured on film.

The court was told that lawyers acting for two huntsmen intend to lead evidence during the trial saying that the dogs were flushing the fox towards a gunman who was in the dead ground area where he shot the fox.

Trial adjourned

However, Mr Hood - who has since retired from the police force - said he could not hear any gunshots on the videos during the incidents or see any sign of gunmen.

He also visited the scene at Townfoothill near Jedburgh in March 2016 - three weeks after the alleged offence - and discovered the carcass of a fox in the dead ground area.

All that was remaining was a vertebrae and three legs intact and round the paws there was some red fur.

Mr Hood said a post-mortem examination was carried out on the carcass and there was no evidence that the fox had been shot.

He agreed under cross-examination from defence lawyer David McKie that he could not say for certain that it was the same fox which the video had shown being pursued by the dogs.

The trial of the two men, both from Abbotrule, Bonchester Bridge, has been adjourned until next month.

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