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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 15:05 GMT
Rabbit poachers' old law reprieve
A rabbit (library)
The men apologised to the farming for trespassing
Two men caught taking rabbits and trespassing could have been deported overseas for seven years had an old English poaching law been upheld.

Hereford Magistrates instead fined Mark Adams and Andrew Butts, both from Bargoed, Caerphilly, 385 each after they admitted the offences in August.

Under the 1828 Poaching by Night Act, the two men could also have been sentenced to three months hard labour.

The court heard they had been shooting the rabbits to feed to their pet hawks.

Hereford magistrates were told how Adams, 44, and 37-year-old Butts were stopped by police at 0400 GMT on 19 August with 19 rabbits.

Three of the animals had been shot on the land at Hoarwithy near Ross-on-Wye belonging to a farmer called Mr Williams.

After the police woke him up, Mr Williams said he did not know either of the men and had not given them permission to shoot on his land.

In their defence, the court was told the men had been shooting on the land with a friend a few weeks before who did have permission and had assumed it would be fine.

Dead chicks

They shot rabbits regularly to either eat themselves or feed to their four birds of prey - two sparrow hawks and two red-tailed hawks, the court heard.

Some of the rabbits they caught were also exchanged with a farmer in Wales for dead chicks which they also fed to their birds.

Adams and Butts told the court they had apologised to Mr Williams for being on his land and for the police waking him up at 0400 in the morning.

They admitted trespassing and taking three rabbits without the landowner's permission.

Under the 1828 law, they could have faced three months in jail or three months hard labour until they had paid any money owed to the courts.

If they did not pay they could have been "transported beyond seas for seven years or be kept to hard labour in the common gaol for two years".

In recent years the law was amended to advise magistrates to impose a fine instead.

Adams and Butts were both fined 45 for taking the rabbits, 225 for trespassing and were ordered to pay the court 115 in costs.

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