THREE-times champion jumps trainer Peter Easterby has been found guilty of permitting land to be used for hare-coursing.

The 79-year-old former racehorse trainer of Great Habton in Ryedale 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 at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

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

It is a competitive sport which was banned in Britain in 2005, in which dogs are tested on their ability to run, overtake and turn a hare, rather than a form of hunting aiming at the capture of game.

Both 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.

However, his defence was dismissed by District Judge Christina Harrison, who said the advice was wrong and ignorance was no defence in law. Both men were given an absolute discharge following the conviction and no costs were awarded against them.

During the trial the court was told how the hare-coursing events were held over two consecutive days with hundreds of people attending.

The court was told beaters waving flags drove the hares past a tent where a man in a red jacket was holding on to two muzzled greyhounds, one with a red collar and one with a white collar.

As the hares passed, he let slip the dogs, which chased the animals, witnessed by spectators lining the field and creating an “arena”.

Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club, which organised the event, had put up a fence to stop the dogs and allow the hares to escape. Although the events purported to be driving hares to guns for legal shooting, the court heard the only shots fired were into the air, while the fence seemed to have been in the wrong place because the hares were running a different way.

Matthew Donkin, prosecuting, said the whole event was “hare-coursing under another guise”.

After the case Shaw said he was relieved the ordeal was now over after two-and-a-half years.

He said: “Our representatives have spent 700 hours of Parliamentary time discussing this shoddy, spiteful bill.

“This is well short of the time they spent committing our Armed Forces to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Easterby also said he was relieved the case had concluded, but added: “We predicted this.”