A FACEBOOK picture of a poacher holding a hare like a trophy helped convict him after he denied setting his lurcher on the animal, a court heard.

Adam Stockton, 21, protested his innocence throughout his one-day trial, which took place yesterday, despite “holding his hands up” and admitting the offence during a police interview.

Stockton, who lives in Sudburn Avenue, Staindrop, near Barnard Castle, County Durham, said he posed for photos while holding the hare out as a trophy because he was amazed his dog had caught it.

He claimed he was out walking with a young friend, who has been convicted of the same offence on the day in question, but had no intention to hunt for hares.

When he was interviewed, he told RSPCA Inspector Gary Palmer: “Alright, I hold my hands up. I just want to wipe the slate clean. I have dug quite a hole for myself.

“It’s a sport. I do not think it is cruel. I do not know why I do it. Some people are into football, others into motorbike racing. I don’t know why, but I am into this.”

While on the stand at Darlington Magistrates’ Court yesterday, answering his solicitor Clive Rees’ questions, Stockton said: “We were out walking and the dogs ran over the brow of a hill and got out of sight.

“When we caught up with them they had a hare apiece, so we took some photos.

“I used to hunt before it was banned. I know how coursing works, but I was not doing it.

“I really didn’t think my friend would be stupid enough to put the photos on Facebook.”

Using dogs to hunt for hares was banned by the 2004 Hunting Act. Kevin Campbell, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: “The explanation the defendant has given is so incredible that magistrates should completely disregard it.

“The fact he has admitted lying at interview means his evidence from court is also discredited.”

Stockton claimed he had permission to be on South View Farm, between Staindrop and Barnard Castle on January 7, when the offences were committed.

He was ordered to pay a £100 fine and £365 costs. His bitch, Sasha, will not be returned to him.