A COUNTY Durham teenager has been permanently scarred after being shot in the face while out poaching late at night.

South Durham Youth Court heard the 15-year-old was hit by an air rifle pellet while out lamping – hunting nocturnal animals using lights - for rabbits with two other teenagers and their dogs.

Prosecutor Deborah Hodge said that while the defendant's dog was kept on a lead, one of the other dogs caught and killed a rabbit.

The youth, from the Bishop Auckland area, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to a charge of trespassing on land at night and taking/destroying a rabbit.

Liam Brison, defending, said the three youths were walking along a public footpath at Eldon when the incident happened shortly after 11pm on November 22.

“Each had their dog with them – they had walked there many times with hand held torches.

“The other two let their dogs off the leads. The lads did not think they were trespassing, but the dogs have then gone into a field which is private land.”

He said the charge had been brought on the basis that it had been a joint enterprise, even though it was not the defendant's dog which had caught the rabbit.

“It would then appear someone has shot an air rifle twice towards his head. One of the pellets whizzed passed his face, the other hit him,” added Mr Brison.

He said one of the youths shone a torch in the direction of the shots to see someone reloading the air rifle.

“He started taking further shots and they ran off towards Eldon,” he said.

The injured youth went to hospital “bleeding profusely,” added Mr Brison.

He told the court police inquiries were continuing into the shooting incident.

“It appears two males are blaming each other – I am not sure what is going to happen, but it is an unsatisfactory situation.”

The teenager also pleaded guilty to stealing a sat-nav and tools worth a total of £2,625 from a car parked in Leeholme, near Coundon, between October 19 and 21.

Mr Brison said it had been a mad couple of months for the youth.

“He does not have a long record but has amassed matters in the last couple of months. One thought about what has been going on in his life is he has run a bit wild trying to impress associates.”

Adjourning sentence until January 7, chairman of the bench, Les Abbott said: “Once you are on that slippery slope there is no return, but you have an opportunity to stop it. You know what the alternative is and I can assure you, you will not like it."