Two men have been banned from keeping dogs after admitting using the animals to hunt wild hares.

Alexander Stewart, 35, was given a community payback order for 100 hours of unpaid work and Jackie Stewart, 42, was fined £1,000 after earlier pleading guilty at Forfar Sheriff Court to wildlife offences carried out between October 16 and November 8, 2020, the Crown Office said.

A vehicle, three mobile phones and a set of binoculars were seized from the two men, who were both banned from having dogs for six months.

The men, from Aberdeen, were caught after a local farmer and his father recognised Alexander Stewart’s blue Subaru from previous coursing incidents in the Forfar area, prosecutors said.

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They were arrested and taken to Dundee police office along with three boys who were with them.

Jackie Stewart’s phone was seized from one of the boys and was found to contain a series of voice notes and messages.

Alexander Stewart’s phone was found to hold several voice note messages.

One message from October 16 said he had bought a dog to kill hares. Another on October 20 said he was buying a Subaru to go poaching, prosecutors said.

A further message on November 1 said he had been poaching in Aberdeen. His phone also had a photo of a young boy holding a dead hare beside a lurcher on October 30.

Jackie Stewart’s mobile phone revealed a text message from November 3 that said ‘a first chase killed it over down a road’.

It also contained a video of him with Alexander Stewart and the boys on November 8. The two men can be heard discussing the decline of hares in the area due to the population dying out.

Fiona Caldwell, head of the Crown Office wildlife and environmental crime unit, said: “I welcome the conviction and sentence of Alexander and Jackie Stewart.

“Hare-coursing is a cruel and wholly illegal act.

“The Crown will continue to work to ensure that anyone who hunts hares with dogs is brought to justice.

“We would encourage anyone who may have information on hare-coursing to contact the police.”