Police have praised a weekly newspaper in County Durham after its investigations helped expose a case of illegal hunting with dogs.
Adam Stockton, from Sudburn Avenue, Staindrop, was found guilty of hunting a wild animal with a dog alongside a juvenile from the same village who cannot be named for legal reasons.
It followed a lengthy investigation by the Teesdale Mercury which had been monitoring the pair’s actvities for some months before passing on the information to the police.
The pair were eventually convicted after the juvenile posted a series of images and comments on Facebook relating to the crimes.
Comments from the juvenile included: “Coursed 2 deer 2nyt, just missed 1 and ran a hare, LOL. I’ll get them sum time”; “Can’t wait 2 hit Stainton Grove 2nyt lamping – kill the lot.”
Some of the photographs showed Stockdale holding up the dead animals like trophies.
Stockton’s case was heard at Darlington Magistrates’ Court, where he protested his innocence, despite having admitted the offence to an RSPCA officer when he was first arrested.
But when he appeared before magistrates, Stockton said he and the juvenile had been walking when their dogs disappeared over a hill.
He said when they caught up with the dogs, they had both killed hares so they took photographs.
Stockton was ordered to pay a £100 fine and £365 costs. His dog, Sasha, which was taken from him at the time of his arrest, will not be returned.
Andy Reddick, chief superintendent at Durham Constabulary, praised the Mercury’s investigation. He said it had been a “successful operation and a good end result.”
Teesdale Mercury editor Trevor Brookes said: “In the countryside, there’s sometimes a perception by a small minority of people that everything wild is fair game.
“The law clearly says otherwise and frankly some of the pictures posted online were shocking. Working in a small community, it can be difficult to stand up and be counted when it comes to issues like these, so it’s pleasing we did.
“I’m also glad the police took the time to get in touch and thank us for our efforts – it’s not often a reporter gets the chance to solve a crime.”