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Family of fox hunt protesters fined after taking own film to police

Couple and daughter found guilty of threatening behaviour during clash with huntsmen in Perthshire.

Fox hunt: The family followed and filmed people on Snaigow Estate (file pic).
Fox hunt: The family followed and filmed people on Snaigow Estate (file pic). John Giles/PA Wire/PA Images

A family of masked saboteurs have been found guilty of causing fear or alarm to members of a fox hunt in a ground-breaking legal case.

Colin and Beverly Milne and their daughter Amy Lilburn were convicted of acting in a threatening or abusive way on an estate owned by one of Britain's richest families.

Ironically, the clash with the huntsmen only came to light when the trio reported their suspicions about the legality of the hunt and showed video footage to police, before being locked up themselves.

They were detained in custody over a weekend and found guilty after a week-long trial on Wednesday, although the sheriff also criticised the police's failure to investigate their claims about the hunt on Snaigow Estate.

Perth Sheriff Court heard how the trio were dressed in "paramilitary" gear and had snoods pulled up and hats pulled down to mask their faces as they confronted members of the hunt.

Sheriff William Wood said: "It is my view you went overboard and were reckless about the consequences. If you are not behaving reasonably then you have to take the punishment.

"Any reasonable person would feel threatened by your conduct, even in the context of a fox hunt in which you say you were seeking to monitor events.

"Any person would suffer fear or alarm due to the persistence of your conduct. You all accept you entered Snaigow Estate while you were masked.

"You were certainly wearing snoods that covered your faces and hats that came down to your brows. You also accept you filmed members of the public.

"You gave that footage to the police. You also accept you followed Mr Broad and his son for an extensive period. This was a joint enterprise. The outcome and impact on other people had not been fully thought about by you.

"It doesn't seem to me that your conduct could be said to be reasonable in any way. You followed them over a distance of ten to 12 miles, for a period of one to two hours.

"You lay in wait for them at a private road. You followed them on foot and continued to follow them even though there was no hunt in progress. You continued to film them when there was nothing to film.

"I will take account of the somewhat surprising decision by the police not to investigate the circumstances and the time you have spent in custody."

He fined offshore labourer Mr Milne, 49, and toilet attendant Mrs Milne, 39, £200 each and admonished unemployed Lilburn.

All three live in Toutie Street, Blairgowrie, Perthshire and were found guilty of causing fear or alarm to Angus and Edward Broad on March 13 last year.

Defence solicitor Jim Bready previously told the court: "It was clear from the reaction of the huntsmen at the time and also from how the Milnes behaved that there was no prospect of danger to them.

"The conduct of the Milnes was impeccable in the situation even under the most extreme provocation. The one thing they seem to abhor more than anything is violence.

"The way the Milnes were conducting themselves didn't give them any cause to have fear or alarm. They tried to conduct themselves carefully.

"They simply did not anticipate the sinister notion of being masked. There are many innocent situations where people can be masked.

"They did not anticipate that what they were doing was criminal. It was all done with the best intentions."

Solicitor David Holmes argued the conduct of the trio had been reasonable as they believed they were interfering with a potentially illegal hunt.

During the trial, gamekeeper Peter Nicol said the decision was taken to abandon the hunt after a masked person, dressed all in black, crept up behind a fellow huntsman.

The 2800-acre Snaigow Estate, about four miles east of Dunkeld, is owned by the Cadogan family. The Earl of Cadogan was listed as Britain's second wealthiest peer with a £6bn fortune in 2009.

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