Shooting groups have said that the rural police need to be better informed about the legal powers of gamekeepers after three keepers from Swaledale in North Yorkshire were acquitted last month of confiscating the gun and other equipment of two alleged poachers.

Gamekeepers Jeremy Wearmouth, Douglas MacLean and Lewis Williams were charged with affray after they encountered two men — Michael Collins and Luke Doyle from Manchester — on 28 February 2009. Mr Williams was additionally charged with possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

On 10 December, Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Collins and Mr Doyle were found on a moorland road after two keepers — Mr Williams and Mr MacLean — saw a spotlight playing across open country. After approaching the van and speaking to the pair, the keepers confiscated an air rifle fitted with a moderator, a hand-held spotlight and a number of dead rabbits. Mr Wearmouth, the headkeeper, also arrived on the scene, and it was established that Mr Collins and Mr Doyle did not have permission to shoot on the site. The pair were then sent on their way without their gun.

Later the police received a complaint from Mr Collins and Mr Doyle about the way they had been treated and the fact that their gun and equipment had been taken from them.

The rest of this article appears in 6th January issue of Shooting Times.

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