Sheriff says hunting law is ‘difficult to interpret’

A former master of the Jedforest Hunt in the Borders has been found not guilty of illegal fox hunting at Jedburgh Sheriff Court. 42 year old David Lee Peters who denied deliberately hunting a wild mammal on land near Dunion Hill in the Scottish Borders on 17th December 2019 was found not guilty earlier this week.

On delivering his verdict, Sheriff Peter Paterson criticised the Act saying it was “difficult to interpret”, adding: “There are many other difficulties of the Act which are not relevant for today's consideration”.

In the 19 years since the Act was introduced, there has only been one successful prosecution for mounted fox hunting. The League Scotland has been working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure the law is strengthened and loopholes closed in order to prevent hunts evading prosecution. 

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “The verdict comes as absolutely no surprise. The law is woefully inadequate which is illustrated by just one successful prosecution in almost two decades. 

“Another not guilty verdict under this flawed piece of legislation, and yet again Sheriff Paterson recognising how difficult it is to prosecute, emphatically endorses our view that the law which supposedly bans hunting in Scotland needs strengthening.

“It is in no one’s interests to waste endless hours of court time debating whether or not hounds were deliberately allowed to chase a fox - the law needs to be far clearer than it is currently to allow effective and time efficient prosecutions of those who continue to ride roughshod over the law.”

The Scottish Government has repeatedly committed to bring forward a Bill to strengthen current legislation and really ban fox hunting in Scotland. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 has faced relentless criticism for a number of loopholes in the law which has made prosecution almost impossible, allowing hunts to continue hunting very much as they did before the law passed. The forthcoming Bill was dropped due to time constraints as a result of Covid but is expected after the election in May.

Robbie Marlsand added: “We are very pleased that the Scottish Government has repeatedly committed to introducing a Bill to close loopholes in the existing law and we would urge them to make this a priority in the new Parliament.”

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 Ends

Notes to editor

 

  1. The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).
  2. Video footage from 17th December 2019 can be downloaded here and still images here.
  3. Media enquiries to Louise Robertson on 07930 539832 / [email protected]