MAGISTRATES today ruled that they did not have sufficient powers to sentence a builders' merchant who admitted killing and burying hundreds of greyhounds on land at his home.

David Smith, 57, pleaded guilty before Durham magistrates to breaching Environment Agency regulations.

About 20 placard-bearing protesters from Greyhound Action gathered outside the court to draw attention to the alleged suffering and slaughter of dogs in the greyhound industry and to call on people not to attend or bet on the sport.

Smith admitted a single charge of disposing of waste - dead dogs - without a permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations.

It was alleged in a national newspaper that the father-of-three, of Seaham, County Durham, could have killed and buried up to 10,000 greyhounds at ten a time, but the magistrates heard that the number was substantially less, although no precise figure could be established.

Smith told the court he had disposed of the dead animals with the knowledge of the RSPCA, police and local council.

The magistrates decided their maximum powers of a fine of up to £20,000 or six months in prison were insufficient and said Smith would be committed to Durham Crown Court.