Tayside and Central Scotland

Hunting dog DNA convicts hare coursing trio

Forfar Sheriff Court
Image caption Forfar Sheriff Court was told the men claimed they were only searching for a missing dog

A man has been jailed for hare coursing after the first conviction in Scotland secured by DNA evidence taken from a hunting dog.

Colin Stewart, 31, along with friend Raymond Higgins, 45, and a 16-year-old male, were caught using dogs to hunt hares near Kirriemuir, Angus, in March of this year.

Stewart was jailed for four-and-a-half months at Forfar Sheriff Court.

The men, who are all from Aberdeen, admitted hare coursing charges.

The court was told police found the three dogs they were using and took swabs for DNA analysis.

Post-mortem examinations carried out on the hare they had killed revealed DNA matching one of the dogs.

Police later examined a video camera found in their van at Ladywell Farm, on the outskirts of Kirriemuir, and found footage of the incident.

Depute fiscal Fiona Caldwell said the men had been engaged in "cruel sport" when police intervened, after being contacted by a witness.

'Extensive evidence'

Police attended and stopped the men in a van nearby, where they claimed they were searching for a missing dog.

Ms Caldwell said: "It was then put to them that persons matching their description were seen coursing hares earlier, which they vehemently denied.

"They were noticeably evasive after that point."

Two of the three dogs were in the van and Colin Stewart asked to retrieve the third which was in some nearby trees.

She added: "Shortly afterwards he made good his escape from the trees and was not traced."

Additional units and a police dog were called in to trace Colin Stewart but he was not found.

Police later found footage of the Aberdeen men posing with dead hares and discussing the Kirriemuir incident on a video camera, and "extensive evidence" that Stewart and the teenager had been involved in previous offences.

Sheriff Pino di Emidio jailed Colin Stewart for 135 days while the teenager was given a community payback order with one year's supervision.

Both were banned from having custody of any dog for a year.

Higgins was fined £400.

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