Farmer, 60, fined for shooting at neighbour's goats with air rifle

Farmer, 60, is fined for shooting at his neighbour’s pygmy goats with an air rifle after he caught them nibbling on hedge between their properties amid long-running boundary dispute

  • Paul Baxter, 60, of Dorset, charged with firing air weapon beyond his premises
  • The farmer shot towards three pygmy goats belonging to Benjamin Young, 38
  • Baxter, neighbour to Young, claimed animals were eating his hawthorn hedge 

A farmer shot at his neighbour’s goats after the two men became embroiled in a lengthy dispute over a boundary hedge, a court heard.

Paul Baxter, 60, of Swanage, Dorset, set his sights on three pygmy goats belonging to Benjamin Young, 38, after getting fed-up with them eating what he regarded as his hedge.

The farmer pointed his air rifle weapon through the hawthorn hedge and fired towards the animals. The goats weren’t hit but were scared off.

The action led to Baxter being charged with firing an air weapon beyond his premises, an offence he was found guilty of at Poole Magistrates’ Court.

The trial heard Mr Young runs Nursery Bridge Farm in Harman’s Cross, near Swanage, Dorset, which backs on to Seekings Farm which is owned by Baxter’s 85-year-old mother.

Paul Baxter, 60, was charged with firing an air weapon beyond his premises after he set his sights on three pygmy goats belonging to Benjamin Young

The two farmers hadn’t spoken in several years due to the row over the ownership of the hedge.

Baxter’s mother had also repeatedly objected to plans by Mr Young to install agricultural buildings on his land to house his animals.

Last July, two months before the shooting incident, Mr Young posted a photo on social media of a large sign with the words ‘Sod Off’ purportedly erected on the Baxter’s side of the hedge.

Nursery Bridge Farm in Harman’s Cross, near Swanage, Dorset, which backs on to Seekings Farm which is owned by Baxter’s 85-year-old mother

Benjamin Young, 38, whose three pygmy goats belonging were reportedly munching on a hawthorn hedge which Baxter claims he owns

Mr Young also claimed that his neighbour had threatened to harm the goats before.

The court heard that on September 14 Mr Young and his mother Josephine noticed their goats at the boundary fence with Baxter stood ‘menacingly’ holding a gun.

He said Baxter was angry as he believed the goats had been eating the hedge.

Mr Young said: ‘He was standing on the other side of the fence on his own property holding the gun across his body.

‘He was about 20 metres away from me and my mum. I ran towards him out of panic and wanting to protect my mum.

‘He walked away quite hastily and I shouted that I was calling the police.

Two months before the shooting incident, Mr Young posted a photo on social media of a large sign with the words ‘Sod Off’ purportedly erected on the Baxter’s side of the hedge

‘I ran back to my mum and we both saw him walking past a gap in the hedge where my goats were.

‘At that point I saw him stick his rifle through and shoot. The goats reacted scaredly and ran off.

‘I shouted “do not shoot my goats, they are on our side of the fence.”‘

Christopher Pix, prosecuting, said: ‘There may be some dispute about where the actual boundary is but that is not for this court to decide.

‘We say that hedge is the boundary and we know he fired the gun beyond his premises as this was heard by two witnesses.’

The bench was told that Baxter, who did not give evidence in court, was interviewed by police over the incident but gave no comment.

Graham Gilbert, defending, denied his client had taken the shot and accused Mr Young, who wept in the witness box, of lying.

Mr Gilbert put to him: ‘You have never recovered the pellet either from your goats or from your property. Even if the pellet was fired, you cannot be sure that it did cross through into your property.

‘I put it to you that the reason no pellet has ever been found is because you are not correct in what you say.’

Mr Young denied this and said it was a ‘disgraceful’ accusation.

Magistrates found Baxter guilty, although he was cleared of a second charge of harassing Mr Young and his mother.

He was handed a £170 fine and ordered to pay £620 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £32.

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