Borders huntsmen abandon appeal against landmark convictions

Selkirk Sheriff Court.
Selkirk Sheriff Court.

The first huntsmen to be convicted under Scotland’s fox-hunting laws in the 15 years they have been in force have abandoned plans to appeal.

Father and son John Clive Richardson, 67, and Johnny Riley, 24, became the first members of a mounted hunt to be successfully prosecuted under the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act earlier this year.

The pair, both members of the Jed Forest Hunt, based at Abbotrule, near Bonchester Bridge, were secretly filmed by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Following eight days of evidence, sheriff Peter Paterson ruled that in two incidents Richardson and Riley were in breach of the act and found them guilty of deliberately hunting a fox with dogs.

Riley, who was in charge of the hunt, was fined £400 at Selkirk Sheriff Court in July, and Richardson, described as having a lesser role, was fined £250.

Lawyers for both men said afterwards they would be appealing against their convictions.

An appeal was lodged, but court officials confirmed it has now been withdrawn.

Most the evidence during the trial focused on a video showing 34 hounds from the Jed Forest Hunt chasing a fox into a hole on farm land at Townfoothill, near Jedburgh, on February 16 last year.

After a terrier man spent 40 minutes digging at the hole, the fox then bolted and was again pursued by the dogs before disappearing out of sight of the footage into a gulley.

The defence claimed a waiting gunman shot and injured the fox after it had been flushed from cover by the hounds, that being permitted in law.

Witnesses for the crown said they saw no gunman and heard no shots when the fox was being pursued, though.

Sheriff Paterson accepted the evidence of the defence that there were two gunmen in place.

However, in a landmark ruling, he found that in two respects, the huntsmen, of Abbotrule, were still guilty of illegal hunting while carrying out pest control.