Dorset hunter found guilty of illegal fox hunting with dogs

A HUNTER has been found guilty of illegal hunting after he ‘encouraged’ his out-of-control dogs to kill a fox.

Mark Pearson, 64, was observed yelling ‘go on’ and ‘hunt’ to his dogs after they chased and attacked the animal during a trail hunt.

The co-master of the South Dorset Hunt was then seen carrying the dead fox out of the underbrush where it had been cornered.

Pearson was convicted of unlawfully hunting a wild mammal with dogs in breach of the Hunting Act 2004.

Magistrates heard Pearson was leading the South Dorset hunt through the Bere Regis countryside when the incident happened on December 13, 2021.

Another fox had been killed earlier in the day by the same pack of dogs, but the incident was described as an unfortunate accident by the police.

Two hours later, when the majority of the hunt was gone, hunt saboteurs monitoring the event heard the dogs barking.

An animal rights activist filmed the aftermath of the attack.

Pearson, of Child Okeford, near Blandford, can be seen in footage wearing a master hunter’s red coat dismounting from his horse and walking towards barking dogs near the gorse.

Molly Mifsud, prosecuting, told Weymouth Magistrates’ Court that Pearson failed to stop his dogs from killing the fox without knowing he was being filmed.

She said: “There was a hunt going on and the dogs went to the ground.

“The hunter’s actions prior to this time caused the death of this fox.

“These actions were all in breach of Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004.

“A person commits an offense if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog.”

Joanne Joss, one of the saboteurs, told the court she believed Pearson was encouraging the dogs.

Asked by the prosecutor what Ms Joss heard Pearson scream after he got off his horse, she said: “He got off his horse and joined the dogs in the gorse.

“He seemed to be cheering them on and I could hear him yelling ‘go on’ and when he came out of the gorse he kept saying ‘hunt’.”

Miss Mifsud asked Ms Joss how many times Pearson had ‘encouraged’ the dogs.

She said: “He was riding next to the dogs. He told them to ‘go on’ and said that four times as if he wanted them to continue where the fox was.

“He got off his horse and joined them in the gorse, we thought he was leading them.”

Mark Pearson, 64 ans et de Child Okeford, près de Blandford, quittant le tribunal de première instance de Weymouth <i>(Image: BNPS)</i>” srcset=”, =mds-article-962 962w, 1400w, .jpg?type=mds-article-620 1401w” sizes=”(max-width: 575px) 575w,(max-width: 992px) 962w,(max-width: 1400px) 1400w, (min-width: 1401px) 1401w ” title=”Echo of Bournemouth: ” class=”editor-image” style=”aspect-ratio: 2400 / 1000;”/>
<p>  Derek Perry, defending, denied that Pearson encouraged the dogs.  He said his client tried to call the dogs back and was heard shouting “let it go” at them.
<p>  Mr Perry said: “The reality is that he blew the horn to call the dogs back.
<p>    “When the dogs didn’t all obey, he got off his horse and came straight down the hill to tell them to leave him.
<p>  “The recording was taken of some fields and you can hear Mr Pearson yelling ‘leave it’.
<p>  “He doesn’t run away from the scene, he calmly picks up the body to take away and continues.
<p>  “At no time can Mr. Pearson be heard saying ‘hunting’.”
<p>  But in convicting him, presiding judge Stephen Corben told Pearson he should have checked the dogs before they put the fox down.
<p>  <img alt=(Image: BNPS)” srcset=”, =mds-article-962962w,, .jpg?type=mds-article-620 1401w” sizes=”(max-width: 575px) 575w,(max-width: 992px) 962w,(max-width: 1400px) 1400w, (min-width: 1401px) 1401w ” title=”Bournemouth Echo: Mark Pearson, 64, of Child Okeford, near Blandford. Photo: BNPS” class=”editor-image” style=”aspect-ratio: 1473 / 1047;”/>Mark Pearson, 64, of Child Okeford, near Blandford. Photo: BNPS (Image: BNPS)

Mr Corben said: “The prosecution showed us three video clips and called witnesses who provided credible and consistent evidence.

“Mr Pearson told the court he had decades of experience with dogs.

“He said he tried to stop the dogs but it looks like they were already hunting in the gorse.

“We believe that Mr. Pearson should have had complete control of his pack.

“He told us he used a special call to bring them back but it didn’t work.

“We therefore find him guilty of the illegal hunting of a wild mammal.”

Pearson was fined £6,000, victim surcharge of £190 and costs of £620.

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