A MAN has been convicted of using dogs to kill a fox in the first case under the Hunting Act to be brought to court by the RSPCA.

Paul McMullen, 36, of Musker Drive, Bootle, Liverpool, was found guilty at Chester Magistrates Court of hunting a wild mammal with dogs.

McMullen, who represented himself, committed the offence at an active badger sett in a field off Ferma Lane, Great Barrow, on January 11 last year.

He was fined £750, ordered to pay £5,000 costs and told to forfeit his dogs, a terrier and a lurcher, to the care of the RSPCA.

Six dogs taken to the field, including McMullen's animals, are being looked after by the charity.

At earlier hearings last year, three other offenders, Mark Kenneth Walsh, 18, of St Augustine's, Netherton, Liverpool, Paul Kelly, 21, of Outer Forum, Norris Green, Liverpool, and a juvenile were sentenced for their part in the hunt.

The court heard how a member of the public had contacted the police, having seen the men in the area.

McMullen admitted being there but denied taking part in any illegal activity. He denied digging into the sett and said he had only come on the fox when it was attacked by two of the other offenders' dogs.

Sentencing McMullen, lead magistrate Michael Trevor-Barnston said: 'You did attend the site with three others, you did have two dogs of your own and you did intend to hunt.

'Evidence of digging and spades were found close by, along with the body of a vixen which had been substantially mauled.'

RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs said: 'We are delighted with the outcome of this case. The ability to make animals suffer for sport is barbaric and we are glad to see the court has given a very clear and authoritative judgment on this.

'New legislation, under the Hunting Act 2004, was put in place to stop people setting animals upon each other for human entertainment.'