Two Fernie Hunt employees are found guilty of digging fox out of sett
Two Fernie Hunt employees have been convicted of breaching the ban on hunting with dogs.
Huntsman Derek Hopkins and terrierman Keith Allen were yesterday found guilty of being involved in digging out a fox hiding in a burrow so it could be chased by hounds.
Hopkins was ordered to pay £2,115 in penalties, while Allen has to pay £1,565.
The case was only the third successful prosecution of a fox hunt for breaching the 2004 Hunting Act.
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Representatives for the Fernie Hunt said it was considering an appeal.
Magistrate Ron Harris told the court in Harborough: "We accept the evidence that they were chasing a live scent and marked the fox underground.
"You were using dogs to hunt a live mammal."
During the seven-day trial, magistrates were shown footage, shot at long range by the League Against Cruel Sports, of men digging at the site, which was also a badger sett.
It was filmed on January 27, last year, after the hunt met at Thorpe Langton, near Market Harborough. The men, who denied the charges, said they were taking part in a legal trail hunt and they intended to trap the fox in a net and shoot it.
But magistrates found the pair guilty of hunting a wild mammal contrary to the law and digging a badger sett or being reckless that their actions would damage it.
Hopkins (45), of Welham Road, Great Bowden, was fined £600 for attacking the badger sett.
He was fined £250 for illegal hunting and ordered to pay £1,250 costs.
Allen (51), of Nether Green, Great Bowden, was fined £400 for damaging the sett and fined £250 for illegal hunting and ordered to pay £900 costs.
Neither man wanted to comment after the hearing.
Joint Master of the Fernie Hunt Joe Cowen said: "We are very disappointed at the verdicts. We will be considering an appeal."
Adrian Simpson, of the Countryside Alliance, said: "It has been a very complicated trial.
"It is only the third time since February 2005 that a fox hunt has been convicted of breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Both men believed they were acting within the law."
But Leicestershire police wildlife officer Neil Hughes said: "We prepared the case and the magistrates agreed with us. I do not take pride in prosecuting employees, I believe that someone from the hunt should have come forward to answer the charges."