FOUR members of the Middleton Hunt have admitted illegal fox hunting, and three have been handed fines of up to £300.

Huntsman Tom Holt, 27, of Leavening; whipper-in Shaun Marles, 28, of Herefordshire, terrierman Lee Martin, 43, of Birdsall, and amateur terrierman Brian Cuthbertson, 63, of St Peter’s Street, Norton all pleaded guilty to hunting a wild mammal with a dog.

Magistrates in York sentenced the men to fines ranging from £100 to £305 at a hearing on Tuesday, August 13, after investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports videoed the hunt killing a fox which had hidden in a stack of bales near Full Sutton in December 2012.

The animal was trapped in the bales for more than 25 minutes, the League’s films showed, and hunt staff used terriers, sticks and hounds to flush the fox out.

When it escaped, it was killed by the waiting hounds, rather than being shot, and the huntsman was filmed blowing the traditional call for a kill on his hunting horn.

Paul Tillsley, head of investigations at the League, was one those who filmed the incident and said they were pleased with both the result and the guilty plea.

He added: “This case is one of several from our work during the last hunting season, but a new season is just beginning. We can only hope that successful cases like this will make hunts think twice about continuing to blatantly flout the law, and start adapting their practices to hunt false trails, leaving animals well alone.”

Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said the hunt accepted the incident had broken the law:

“The Middleton Hunt has accepted that the fox should have been shot in accordance with the exemption rather than killed by hounds."

Pleading guilty was the sensible thing to do as it had minimised the time and money spent on the case, he added.

The fines handed down were: Tom Holt, £200 fine plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs; Shaun Marles, £100 fine plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs; Lee Martin, £100 fine plus £20 surcharge and £85 costs.

Brian Cuthbertson was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

Two further charges of permitting a dog to be used in the course of a hunting offence, and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, against each of the four men were dropped.