A TRIAL of three men who were charged with illegal fox hunting in Ryedale has been dismissed after the magistrate ruled that there was “no case to answer”.

Jason Marles, 35, formerly of Snainton, but who now lives in Chumleigh in Devon, Sean McClarron, 50, of Snainton, and Damian Readman, 39, of Snainton, were on trial at Scarborough magistrates court on Thursday.

They had been charged with hunting an animal with dogs, contrary to the Hunting Act 2004, near Wilton, in November.

All three men, who are members of the Derwent Hunt, pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing earlier this year.

The court was shown video evidence gathered by Thomas Woodward, a local man who watches the activities of the Derwent Hunt “to ensure they abide by the hunting ban” when going out ‘drag hunting’ or ‘trail hunting’ - activities which involve artificial scent trails.

The video showed the huntsmen, wearing red jackets and sitting on horses, waiting in a copse with a pack of hounds.

It then showed the hounds chasing a fox along a hedgerow in the adjacent field.

Prosecution lawyer Shawn Morales alleged that the fox had been purposely startled from the copse by ‘terriermen’ on a quad bike, and then pursued by the hounds and two of the riders.

David James, for the defendants, responded that, owing to the topography of the field and the direction in which the hounds were pursuing the fox, it was more likely that the fox had been accidentally startled from a separate copse.

He also said that none of the footage showed the riders pursuing a fox, and that the footage of the riders indicated that they followed the hounds several minutes after the fox was spotted.

“To suggest that is an active pursuit is fanciful,” he said.

The prosecution said the defendants had questions to answer as to why the hounds were held for ten minutes then suddenly released “just before a fox was seen”, and also why all the men denied knowing the ‘terriermen’ who had been with them on the day.

But magistrate Ian Nicholson agreed with the defence’s submission that there was no case to answer due to insufficient evidence.

He gave five reasons for this, including that the video didn’t show the fox emerge from the woodland, that there was no evidence of the fox being flushed out, and the “behaviour and manner of the riders was not consistent with looking for active pursuit."

He told the defendants: “You arrived with good character and you leave with good character.”