A WIILDLIFE campaigner admitted yesterday he had cut dozens of snares and handed them in at a police station to invite prosecution.

John Gill told Newcastle Crown Court he believed the snares to be illegal, because they were self-locking, and he had wanted to have the matter resolved "once and for all".

He was appealing against a criminal damage conviction, for which he was fined £500 by Hexham magistrates, in May this year.

Gill, 51, who has been waging a war against snares since 1991, was convicted of removing 38 snares and destroying others on the Featherstone Estate, near Alston, Northumberland.

Head gamekeeper Jeremy Wearmouth maintained the traps were legal under the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981, because they were free-running, or meant to hold an animal without killing it.

However, Gill, backed by expert evidence from the RSPCA, said the snares were self-locking - designed to strangle an animal to death.

Jeremy Chipperfield, defending, said Gill had acted justifiably, because he believed he was preventing a crime. However, Jeremy Hargrove, prosecuting, said if Gill had acted purely in order to change the law, he was guilty of an offence.

Crown court recorder David Hatton's decision will be given in a fortnight.

Gill, of Front Street, Castleside, near Consett, County Durham, said if he lost his appeal he would go to jail rather than pay the fine