Four men caught going “rabbiting” on private land laughed and jeered at the gamekeeper who caught them as they left court.
They claimed they were unaware they were trespassing but admitted pulling a footbridge to pieces to use as a ballast after their vehicle got stuck in the mud at Holker Estates, Cark.
Ricky Dane, 23, of Rosebery Avenue, Morecambe, William Bowman, 28, of Woodyard Lane, Foston, Derby, Steven Joseph Charles Dixon, 31, of Keswick Road, Lancaster and Frank James Docherty, 21, of Lochside Crescent, Montrose, Angus, all appeared before Furness Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
All admitted unlawfully entering land with a lamp for the purpose of taking or destroying game. They also pleaded guilty to criminal damage to a wooden bridge to the value of £200 belonging to Michael James Gray. Both offences took place on February 22.
Mr Peter Kelly, prosecuting, said: “The four men left Lancaster at about 11pm and decided to come to this area to go rabbiting. They headed north and entered land at Holker Estate at Cark. There were several signs saying it was private land. They went through a gate onto a track to a location known as Barley Field. The vehicle became stuck and to get it out they took apart a footbridge that allowed workers to cross. It was used as a ballast to provide traction for the vehicle.
“Members of the estate became involved after being alerted by the lights and the noise. The gamekeeper alerted the police and the men were arrested. They told police they were looking for rabbits. They were asked if they had permission and admitted they didn’t but they had become lost and didn’t know where they were.”
Mr Andrew Gallagher, representing all four defendants, said: “Their reasons for being there that night differ slightly. All four accept that they were on private property and they had a lamp in the vehicle.
“Clearly the vehicle got stuck. There hadn’t been any poaching. All four were arrested and all four were spoken to. All four have come to court and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”
The quartet were all fined £70 for going equipped with the lamp and £130 for the criminal damage. They were also told to pay £50 compensation, £85 court costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
As they left court the four laughed, jeered and pointed at the gamekeeper sat in court and said: “See you later.”
Holker Estates manager Chris Hewitt said: “Poaching can be a serious threat to those working on the land and managing the countryside. It also affects the rural economy and the wildlife.
“We were pleased at the quick and effective police response and the fines handed down by the courts. Hopefully that will act as a deterrent to others.”