A HUGE country estate has been fined after a 61-year-old worker was shot in the face and blinded during a grouse shoot.

While acting as a flanker on the 10,500-acre grouse moor on the Danby Estate, on the North York Moors, Jim Harding was hit by shotgun pellets, one of which severed the optic nerve in his left eye, Scarborough Magistrates Court heard.

The court was told he had been funnelling the grouse towards the line of guns and working to stop birds flying out of the side of the drive when shooting started, before he was in position and had not put his safety glasses on.

Mr Harding has since recovered and continues to work at the estate, which is headed by the 12th Viscount Downe, includes 14 let hill farms, wedding venue Danby Castle and about five miles of the upper reaches of the River Esk.

After the incident in October 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation and charged the estate’s management, The Trustees of the Danby Moor Settlement, with a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The estate pleaded guilty and was fined £2,250 and ordered to pay £4,486 in costs by magistrates.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Julian Franklin said: “Had the estate carried out an effective risk assessment, they could have taken some simple precautions to prevent this injury.

“The simple fact is that you should never stand in front of a man with a gun, especially if he can’t see you.”

Robert Sword, manager of the estate, which is butted for up to nine guns and has driven grouse shooting between the end of August until the beginning of November. said there had been shooting parties on the estate since 1869, with about 700,000 shots fired, and the shooting of Mr Harding had been its first serious incident.

He said the estate had been congratulated on its safety procedures by an expert witness in court and that it was ranked in the top five estates in the country for safety.

Mr Sword added: “The Danby Moor Settlement deeply regrets the accident to Jim Harding in October 2014 whilst he was working as a flanker.

“The accident has been deeply felt by all at the estate, many of whom know and continue to regularly work with Jim.

“Before the accident, Danby Estate had a good health and safety record.

“The safety of the beaters and flankers has always been a matter of paramount importance to the Danby Estate, but it had not appreciated that at the time of the accident the systems and procedures in place were not sufficient.”