Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 11:32 UK

Horse trainer guilty of coursing

Peter Easterby
Peter Easterby is a three-times champion jumps trainer

A champion racehorse trainer and another man have been found guilty of allowing illegal hare coursing on their land in North Yorkshire.

Peter Easterby, 79, was convicted at Scarborough Magistrates' Court alongside Major John Shaw, 56.

The pair were found guilty of permitting land to be used for the activity as well as attending a hare coursing event in March 2007.

The activity where dogs chase and kill hares is illegal under the Hunting Act.

Both men denied the charges and claimed they did not know hare coursing was illegal.

They were given an absolute discharge and no costs were awarded against them.

The district judge also criticised the police after being told an officer had attended the event's opening day.

There is absolutely no doubt that everybody in this case has had extreme difficulty trying to wrestle what exactly Parliament meant
District Judge Christina Harrison

During the trial, the court was told how the hare coursing events were held over two consecutive days with hundreds of people attending as well as a police officer.

The court heard how a policeman turned up on the farmland owned by Shaw but thought everything was legal.

Shaw had been advised by a leading barrister that what he was doing was legal.

However, his defence was dismissed by District Judge Christina Harrison who said the advice was wrong and ignorance was no defence in law.

Police criticism

The judge was critical of how long the case took to come to court and how it had been initially handled by the police.

She said: "There is absolutely no doubt that everybody in this case has had extreme difficulty trying to wrestle what exactly Parliament meant.

"I have got two gentlemen here who have never been in trouble before and, as far as I can see, took every step to ensure what they were doing was lawful but they are in this position.

"I am extremely concerned that a police officer attended on the first day of Major Shaw's event."

The judge added: "I think this could have been prevented by the police taking some action on that day.

"I would have thought police officers in North Yorkshire must have been briefed, and even if he wasn't fully up to date with the position there must have been more senior officers who would be."

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