A joint Master of the Middleton Hunt has been cleared of allegations that he illegally hunted a fox with hounds during a meet in Ryedale last year.

Tom Holt, 28, of Leavening, near Malton, had denied a charge of hunting a wild mammal with dogs at West Knapton on February 19 contrary to the Hunting Act 2004.

After the hearing at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court, Mr Holt said he was “very pleased” with the verdict delivered by district judge Helen Cousins.

And Adrian Simpson, for the Countryside Alliance, said the Crown Prosecution Service, “seriously need to consider the evidence provided by organisations such as the League Against Cruel Sports.”

He said: “These were obviously spurious allegations about hunting made by the League against an individual who has had to suffer unease for nearly 12 months before the case came to court.”

He pointed out that this was the second such case in two weeks in Yorkshire in which the allegations had failed to be proved.

Paul Tillsley, the League’s head of investigations, who was in court for the one-day trial, said he was “disappointed” with the result because they felt there was sufficient evidence to show a fox had been pursued.

During the trial, solicitor advocate Stephen Welford defending Holt, submitted there was no evidence on which he could be convicted because the Act made it clear that any action had to be intentional and that was not the case as far as the allegation was concerned.

That submission was rejected by the judge but after hearing evidence from the defendant and cross-examination of him by the prosecution she pointed out the prosecution had to satisfy her that she was sure of the guilt of Holt beyond reasonable doubt.

Film footage taken by investigators from the League, two of whom gave evidence, showed a fox running across a field.

Shortly afterwards some hounds were seen going in the same direction.

Two and a half minutes later Holt was seen to canter along the same field but the judge said there was no evidence to show that Holt was aware of a fox.

Nor was there any evidence to show that Holt was doing anything to encourage the hounds, she said.

“I cannot infer any intention to pursue a fox and particularly in the light of the evidence I don’t find any.

“I am not satisfied to the point I am sure so I find Mr Holt not guilty.”

Holt had stressed that during the day the hounds and the hunt had been following three trails of scent which had been laid down and he had not seen any fox.

Martin Hawes, prosecuting, alleged during cross examination of Holt that he had seen the fox and that when the hounds actively pursued it he had taken a deliberate decision to “hang back” from them.

“The reason you were hanging back was because you could distance yourself and then be able to say it must have been an accident,” said Mr Hawes who added: “The reason you were hanging back is because you knew what was going on with the hounds and the fox.”

To both questions Holt replied: “Not true.”

Earlier, when questioned by his lawyer, Holt had explained that the dogs, who were following one of the scented trails, had gone ahead of him because he had been obstructed by a drainage ditch and that he had not seen any fox run across a field.

*Before that trial began the judge was told that another trial involving a third member of the Middleton Hunt would not be going ahead.

Barry Andrews, 33, of Birdsall, near Malton, was accused of interfering with a badger sett in woods at Bossall, Malton, by restricting the entrance in March last year.

Andrews, who had denied the allegation at a previous hearing, was due to stand trial next week but the court heard that the case was being discontinued. No reason was given to the court.