Sheriff dismisses 'no case to answer' plea by gamekeeper
A SHERIFF has dismissed a submission by the solicitor of a Moray gamekeeper that he has no case to answer against allegations that he set illegal snares to trap mountain hares.
The trial of former Lochindorb estate head keeper David Taylor will now resume at Inverness Sheriff Court on October 4.
Solicitor David McKie made his plea earlier this month after depute fiscal Ian Smith dropped the case against Taylor’s colleague Kevin Begg then called him as a witness to give evidence for the prosecution.
Mr McKie made his no case to answer submission after Mr Begg’s evidence on the basis that there was insufficient evidence that Taylor had set the snares and secondly he referred to legislation governing the protection of animals in the wild.
Referring to the Conservation of Natural Habitats Regulations 1994 Mr McKie told the Sheriff: “If parliament intended to stop the use of snares to trap mountain hares it would have said so.
“The word snare, which is spread liberally across wildlife legislation, is absent (from the 1994 Act) therefore it must not be the intention of eliminating snaring as a method of taking and killing mountain hares.”
The case is seen as a landmark case in Scotland.
Taylor (64) of Relugas Kennels, Dunphail and Kevin Begg (45) of Keeper’s House, Lochindorb had denied setting illegal snares that were non-selective on April 14, 2009 on land near to Lochan-t-Sidhien and the B9007 roadonLochindorb Estate for the purpose of taking or killing mountain hares.
Both men were charged following a complaint by a hillwalker about the presence of snares on the hill at Lochindorb Estate which prompted an investigation by Northern Constabulary Wildilife Officer Eric Sharkey and the SSPCA.
Begg in his evidence told the trial he could not say with certainty who had set the snares which the Crown claim are illegal.
He said sometimes he and Taylor set snares together and sometimes they did it on their own.
Challenged by the fiscal if he had set snares without Taylor’s consent Begg said: “He would know I set snares but wouldn’t know where I set them.”
Sheriff Abercrombie deferred consideration of Mr McKie’s plea of no case to answer to consider the matter.
On Friday Mr McKie and Taylor were excused from attending court and Taylor was represented by local solicitor John MacColl.
Sheriff Abercrombie in a brief statement said he had reached a decision and would give his written findings later.
But he told Mr MacColl: “I am satisfied there is no merit in the no case to answer submission and refuse the submission.”