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Sheriff delays the verdict of accused Scottish huntsman

A LEADING huntsman faced a wait until today – December 10th - to discover whether he has broken Scotland’s fox-hunting ban.

Jedburgh Sheriff Kevin Drummond delayed delivering his verdict on Trevor Adams, 46, explaining it was the first prosecution of its kind and he wanted to study the legal arguments.

Adams - who was joint master of Scotland’s largest hunt, the Buccleuch - stood trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court charged with deliberately hunting a fox with 20 dogs at Courthill, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, on 16 October, 2002, shortly after the Scottish foxhunting ban came into effect.

The case is regarded as a test of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, introduced only two months before the alleged offence.

Mr Adams, 46, who was accompanied to court two weeks ago by Allan Murray of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, denies deliberately hunting a fox with hounds.

The Sheriff Court was told that Mr Adams’s hounds were chasing a fox when there were no armed huntsmen nearby. Under the legislation huntsmen are allowed to use hounds to flush out a fox, but the captured animal must be shot dead instead of being killed by dogs.

Ian Hutcheson, a farmer, told the court that he was alerted to the Buccleuch hunt, one of the oldest in Scotland, when he heard hounds baying. He got into his Jeep and drove to the top of a hill to see what was happening.

"It was basically hunting from what I saw and heard. The hounds were going hell for leather after something. I phoned the police because I thought hunting was banned, like the rest of Scotland thought," he said.

Mr Hutcheson, 50, who said that he had previously allowed hunts to ride across his land but now believed that the sport was "outdated", added that he was angry to see horses and dogs on his land.

Earlier, Constable David Small, of Lothian and Borders Police, said that part of his duties on October 16 was to attend the hunt to remind people of the legislation. He said that there were about 20 people on horses and two men carrying shotguns on a quad bike and an all-terrain vehicle.

Mr Adams, of Eildon, near Melrose, told police that he had been on horseback and in charge of the hounds.

He said that during the hunt the hounds were no more than 300 yards away from him. "They were hunting the scent of a fox and I couldn’t get near them and take the direct route as I would have damaged Mr Hutcheson’s crops. Had I been able to cross Mr Hutcheson’s land, I would have been able to stop them quicker. Neither I nor any member of the hunt was intentionally chasing foxes with the hounds."

Sheriff Drummond was due to deliver his verdict on Friday, 10 December. Mr Adams faces a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in jail if found guilty.