A HARE-COURSING trial has been heralded as a landmark victory by North Yorkshire police.

The Press reported yesterday that three-times champion jumps trainer Peter Easterby had been found guilty at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court of permitting land to be used for hare-coursing.

Now the police officers behind the trial have been described as a “credit to the force”.

Steve Read, North Yorkshire’s acting assistant chief constable, has praised the officers behind the case and has claimed it as a national first.

Easterby, a 79-year-old former racehorse trainer, of Great Habton, near Malton, was also convicted of attending a hare-coursing event near Malton in March 2007.

He was convicted along with Major John Shaw, 56, of Welburn, who faced the same charges before Scarborough magistrates.

Mr Read said: “This case highlights the complexities of interpreting and enforcing the Hunting With Dogs Act.

“But it also proves that the Act can, with the requisite amount of skilful investigation, be enforced successfully.

“North Yorkshire Police officers are trained to deal with wildlife crime as part of their development. And our specialist wildlife crime officers are a credit to the force.

“This case also highlights the fact that, although we would never have sufficient officers to monitor every rural activity in a policing area which is the largest in England, we are very willing to conduct the necessary professional investigation when presented with evidence indicating that offences have been committed.

“To put it into context nationally, I believe this is the first successful prosecution pursued by a police force in England and Wales under Section 5 of the Hunting With Dogs Act since it came into force in 2005.

“I therefore congratulate the wildlife crime officer who led the investigation into this very complex and challenging case.”

Hare-coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and other sight-hounds, which chase the hare by sight and not by scent.

Shaw and Easterby denied the charges and claimed they were not aware that what was taking place on their land near Malton was illegal.

Shaw had been advised by a leading barrister that what he was doing was legal.

Both men were given an absolute discharge following the conviction and no costs were awarded against them.