HUNT SUPPORTERS have welcomed the acquittal of Trevor Adams, the first huntsman to be charged under Scotland”s anti-hunting laws.

Mr Adams, huntsman with the Buccleuch Foxhounds, which operates in the Scottish Borders, walked free from Jedburgh Sheriff Court last week after Sheriff Kevin Drummond ruled that he had not deliberately hunted a fox with 20 dogs, as charged, at Courthill, near Kelso, on Oct 16, 2002.

In what was seen as a test case, the Sheriff ruled that the dogs were not out of control at any time. Mr Adams had denied the charges of deliberately using the hounds to hunt foxes, saying instead that the dogs had been used to flush out foxes so they could be shot.

In his judgment, Sheriff Drummond said there was no deliberate hunting of a fox with dogs in this case.

Speaking after leaving the court, Mr Adams said: “I am very relieved by the Sheriff’s ruling. Having never been accused of a crime before, I am very glad that justice has prevailed and I am looking forward to getting on with my life.

“I will continue with my job as a huntsman for the Buccleuch Foxhounds and will continue to offer the pest control service that the landowners and farmers have requested from us.

“I am personally very pleased that our interpretation of the new form of hunting has been supported by this judgement.”

Since the introduction of the anti-hunting law in Scotland, the country’s 10 hunts have reinvented themselves as pest controllers, with hounds used to flush foxes towards a line of guns.

Mr Adams found himself in court after tenant farmer Ian Hutcheson called the police because he believed that the group was hunting illegally. Mr Hutcheson had denied the hunt access to his land at Courthill.

Joe Scott-Plummer, a spokesman for the Buccleuch Foxhounds, said the judgement confirmed the hunt”s belief that the pest control service it offered was within the bounds of the law.

But junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael said that Mr Adams would not have been acquitted if the case had occurred in England or Wales.

“Scottish law permits use of a pack of dogs to chase a fox, provided that at the end, the fox is shot, rather than killed by the hounds. The law in England and Wales is different and under the Hunting Act 2004, using dogs to chase fox (or other wild mammals) will be banned from Feb 18,” said Mr Michael.