Two Aberdeen men have been sentenced after admitting using dogs to hunt wild hares.
Alexander Stewart was given a Community Payback Order with 100 hours of unpaid work and Jackie Stewart was fined £1000 after having previously pled guilty at Forfar Sheriff Court to wildlife offences carried out between October 16 and November 8 2020.
The court granted the prosecutors motion for the forfeiture of a vehicle, three mobile phones and a set of binoculars. The men were also banned from keeping dogs for six months.
The court heard that in the early morning of Sunday November 8 2020, a local farmer spotted a blue Subaru vehicle belonging to Alexander Stewart pulling out of a junction at the crossroads of Powmyre and Kinalty. The farmer recognised the car from earlier hare coursing incidents in the area.
The farmer contacted his father to tell him what he had seen. He also contacted the police to report what he had seen and supplied the details of the vehicle.
The father drove to the Redwell Farm and the Balindarg area where he thought it would be more likely hare coursers would go to course.
When he arrived, he saw Alexander Stewart’s car parked on the road facing him. He stopped and noted the registration number before driving past.
He saw two individuals within the field to his right. One of them had a tan coloured lurcher type dog on a lead. He was in no doubt that they were hare coursing.
Seconds later three police officers arrived at the scene and saw Jackie Stewart and a boy were running towards the Subaru. Alexander Stewart was in the car with two other boys.
Alexander and Jackie Stewart were detained. Both men and the car were searched, and a mobile phone and a pair of binoculars were seized from the car.
The men were arrested and taken to Dundee Police Office.
The boys were taken to Forfar Police Office where they were searched, and Jackie Stewart’s mobile was seized from one of the boys.
The mobile phones were sent for analysis.
Alexander Stewart’s phone was found to hold several voice note messages. One from October 16 said that he had bought a dog to kill hares.
Another on October 20 said that he was buying a Subaru to go poaching. A further message from November 1 said that he had been poaching in Aberdeen.
His phone also had a photo of a young boy holding a dead hare beside a lurcher on October 30.
Jackie Stewart’s mobile phone revealed a text message from November 3 that on November 1 ‘a first chase killed it over down a road’.
It also held a video of him with Alexander Stewart and the boys on November 8 2020.
The footage is blacked out as the phone is put into a pocket, but the sound keeps running.
Alexander and Jackie Stewart can be heard discussing the decline of hares in the area due to the population dying out from them being killed.
Speaking after the sentencing, Fiona Caldwell, head of the Crown’s Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit said: “I welcome the conviction and sentence of Alexander and Jackie Stewart.
“Hare coursing is a cruel and wholly illegal act.
“The Crown will continue to work to ensure that anyone who hunts hares with dogs is brought to justice.
“We would encourage anyone who may have information on hare coursing to contact the police.”