A CELEBRITY chef and a leading racehorse trainer have pleaded guilty to attending hare coursing events in Ryedale.

Clarissa Dickson-Wright, familiar to viewers of the TV cookery series Two Fat Ladies, and Sir Mark Prescott watched greyhounds chasing hares near Nunnington, near Helmsley, and Amotherby, near Malton, on two consecutive days, Scarborough Magistrates Court heard.

Hare coursing is banned under the Hunting Act 2004. The court heard that the events on March 2 and 3, 2007, were organised by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club (YGFTC) and together they involved 46 trials, each with two dogs chasing hares.

John Cooper, prosecuting for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “What we have is a sophisticated, large and well-attended gathering which was consciously trying, by the methods it used – muzzling and the use of the gun in particular – to blur the distinction and avoid prosecution under the Hunting Act.”

Dickson-Wright, 61, of Midlothian, Scotland, and Prescott, 60, of Newmarket, were given absolute discharges. District Judge Kristina Harrison said any future offenders would be dealt with more seriously.

She said: “I found the previous defendants guilty of hare-coursing.

“I don’t want anybody to be under any illusion that I was doing anything other than saying what they did was wrong and it was unlawful.

“What I had sympathy with was there were complexities within the Hunting Act which made the administration of it a little difficult at first.”

Speaking for Dickson-Wright, Barry Warburton said she had been invited by the trialling club and thought the event was legal. Stephen Welford, for Prescott, said he had also been invited and that the YGFTC believed it was running a legal event, had sought advice from solicitors and a barrister and received insurance.