29th June 2017: Jedforest Hunt Master and Huntsman Clive and Johnny Richardson have been found guilty of an offence under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 after an extended trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Employees of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) had covertly filmed members of the Jedforest foxhounds on land surrounding Townfoothill near Jedburgh, on 18th February 2016, and made allegations of illegal hunting. Thereafter, the LACS forwarded highly edited footage to BBC Scotland to broadcast as factual evidence of illegal hunting.
Defence solicitor David McKie declared LACS witnesses Terry Hill and Peter Cross as unreliable and with no credibility. Both paid employees of the LACS testified that they had not seen any person carrying a gun at the incident until two such individuals were pointed out in their own recordings. While Terry Hill reluctantly accepted their presence a hostile Peter Cross continued his denial. Neither accepted the presence of the gunman who testified to shooting the fox despite his appearance on film. The flushing of foxes with hounds to be shot is legal in Scotland if the conditions of the exemptions within the 2002 Act are met.
Jamie Stewart, Director Scotland at the Countryside Alliance, said:
“We are increasingly concerned that innocent people are being dragged through the courts at the behest of animal rights activists, with taxpayers having to pick up the bill. Clive and Johnny Richardson have been subjected to the most horrendous sixteen months and have been subject to trial by television. The LACS hierarchy knew exactly what they were doing when they bypassed Police Scotland and went straight to the BBC. The resulting public pressure forced Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Prosecution Fiscal Service to take forward the case.
“Clive and Johnny Richardson had informed Police Scotland as to their activities ahead of the event and willingly produced statements from all of those present, including one from a retired police officer with over thirty years’ service, including responsibility for the investigation of wildlife crimes. Scottish mounted packs not only adhered to the law but also work under an enhanced protocol. We are disappointed then that Sheriff Patterson has found in his summary decision that some of the actions within the events of 18th February 2016 as having breached the legislation. We await the full transcript of his judgment before making further comment
“Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service must urgently review their relationship with animal rights groups like LACS. Allegations made by partial witnesses based on unauthorised covert surveillance are no basis for a sound prosecution.”