COUNTRY sports campaigners say the absolute discharge of two men in a hare coursing case highlights the need for the Hunting Act to be repealed.

However, North Yorkshire Police have defended the prosecution.

The Northern Echo reported yesterday how three-times champion jumps trainer Peter Easterby was found guilty of permitting his land near Malton, North Yorkshire, to be used for hare coursing in March 2007.

The 79-year-old was also convicted on Wednesday of attending a hare coursing event, along with Major John Shaw, 56, of Welburn, near Kirkbymoorside.

However, both were given an absolute discharge and no costs were awarded after the trial judge revealed the difficulties faced by the court in interpreting the law.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said: “This extraordinarily pointless prosecution is yet another example of why the Hunting Act must be repealed.

“To drag two people, who as the judge made perfectly clear had no intention of breaking the law, through this prosecution for two and a half years is an utter waste of public funds, as well as the time of vital and over-stretched resources such as the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the court.”

However, North Yorkshire Police, which was criticised by the trial judge after a police officer attended the event but found nothing amiss, defended their involvement in the prosecution.

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Steve Read congratulated the wildlife crime officer who led the investigation into the “very complex and challenging”


“The fact of the matter is that this investigation resulted in the conviction of the two defendants,” he said. “This case highlights the complexities of interpreting and enforcing the Hunting with Dogs Act.

“But it also proves that the Act can, with the requisite amount of skillful investigation, be enforced successfully.”

The event was organised by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club.

Nobody from the club was available for comment yesterday, but Liz Mort, from the National Coursing Club, said the organisers would now have to consider whether to hold similar events.

She said: “They obviously thought that they had found a sport which still used their dogs, but was within the law. However, the judge thought differently.

Some rethinking may now have to be done on their part.”

Mrs Mort said field trialling using greyhounds began after the Hunting Act was introduced in 2005.

She said it followed similar rules to gundog field trials where game is flushed towards guns.