A MASTER of Hounds accused of breaching the ban on foxhunting in Scotland was cleared last Friday of deliberately breaking the law hunting with hounds.
Trevor Adams, 46, joint master of the Duke of Buccleuch's Foxhounds, was charged with hunting a fox with 20 hounds, two months after the sport was outlawed in Scotland. But a sheriff found that he was "searching" for foxes, not hunting them.
Under the ban imposed north of the border, hunts can use hounds to flush foxes from cover to be shot by waiting marksmen. They only break the law if they deliberately chase and kill a fox in open country.
Adams appeared at Jedburgh Sheriff Court charged with deliberately hunting a fox with 20 dogs at Courthill, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, on October 16, 2002. The case was the first time someone had gone on trial for an alleged breach of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
In what was considered a test case, Sheriff Kevin Drummond ruled Trevor Adams, 46, had not broken the law introduced in 2002. Sheriff Drummond said: "I have found he was searching for foxes for the purpose of flushing them from cover in order that they might be shot. He acted to ensure that that was done."
Alex Fergusson, rural affairs spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the ruling vindicated hunt supporters who warned that the legislation was "unenforceable and unnecessary. This ruling has shown that it will be virtually impossible to prosecute anyone, as flushing out foxes for the purpose of control has been proved to be entirely different from hunting for all legal purposes."
Buccleuch Foxhounds spokesman Joe Scott-Plummer said: "This confirms our belief that the fox control service that we have been offering landowners and farmers over the past two-and-a-half years has been undertaken within the bounds of the law as we and our advisers have interpreted it.
"All hunts in Scotland had to restructure as a result of the legislation and, in consultation with police forces, agreed a form of pest control permitted by the act." "The hunting community in Scotland are a vital part of the rural economy and a necessary operation for farmers and landowners.
"We hope that they will continue to contribute to the rural community in this way for many years to come."
The Crown had argued that after the hounds passed two marksmen carrying shotguns without a shot being fired, they were effectively hunting. But Sheriff Drummond said it was up to the Crown to establish that an accused person had deliberately hunted a wild mammal with dogs.
All 10 Scottish hunts are still operating, and twice as many foxes are being killed each year by the ‘fox control’ method of flushing them to waiting guns. So the ban, designed to ‘protect’ foxes, has led to many more being killed.