TELEVISION chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright and racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott have escaped punishment after pleading guilty to hare coursing charges.

The pair received absolute discharges despite admitting attending two hare coursing events in North Yorkshire.

Neither defendant appeared at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday for the private prosecution brought by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The star of Two Fat Ladies and the Newmarket-based trainer admitted attending hare coursing events on March 2 and 3, 2007, at Nunnington and Amotherby, between Helmsley and Malton.

The court heard the events were organised by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club (YGFTC).

John Cooper, prosecuting for the IFAW, said: “During the course of both these events the dogs were muzzled, but that does not stop the damage and harm to the wildlife they chase and harry.

“Simply because the dog has a muzzle around its mouth may mean it can’t bite any quarry it might catch, but does not mean it cannot injure that animal.”

In mitigation for Prescott, Stephen Welford said his client was invited by the YGFTC, which believed it was running a legal event. He said the club sought advice from a firm of solicitors and leading counsel beforehand.

Barry Warburton, for Dickson- Wright, said his client had also been invited and thought the event was legal.

But District Judge Kristina Harrison said any future offenders would be dealt with more seriously.

She said: “I hope that this case makes it perfectly clear to anybody who wants to undertake this type of event – forget about what an expert says is hare coursing, forget about what hare coursing was before.

“If what’s happening fits within the definition set down by Parliament within the Hunting Act, it’s hare coursing.”

No costs were ordered.