A CELEBRITY chef will be tried next April in connection with alleged hare-coursing.

Clarissa Dickson Wright, 60, is accused of hunting hares with dogs and attending a hare-coursing event at Nunnington, Helmsley, on March 2, and two similar offences at Amotherby, near Malton, both North Yorkshire, on March 3. She has pleaded not guilty by letter.

Six others also stand accused, including racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott, who pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

A pre-trial hearing was held yesterday at Scarborough Magistrates' Court when a two-week trial was set for April 14. A pretrial review will be held on March 3, but the defendants are not expected to attend.

Sir Mark and Miss Dickson Wright are being prosecuted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Richard Furlong, of the IFAW, said it had video evidence showing hares being beaten out of bushes and chased by dogs.

The Crown Prosecution Service is dealing with five defendants, including 78-year-old former racehorse trainer Miles Henry Easterby, known as Peter, of Habton Grange Farm, Great Habton, near Malton.

He is accused of permitting land to be used for and attending hare-coursing. John Shaw, 54, of Welburn Manor, Welburn, near Kirkbymoorside, is charged with the same offence.

Andrew Lund-Watkinson, 56, of Pine View Lodge, Newton-on- Rawcliffe, near Pickering, and Jacqueline Teal, 42, of Scarborough Road, Norton, Malton, are accused of attending a hare coursing event.

And Elizabeth Dixon, 44, of Appleton- le-Street, Malton, is accused of knowingly facilitating a hare-coursing event.

Miss Dickson Wright, who lives in Inveresk, East Lothian, is a former barrister who found fame as one half of the former Two Fat Ladies celebrity chef team.

Geoff Edmond, chief inspector for the RSPCA's York group, was also present to observe the proceedings.