A COLNE farmer punched a dog walker who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, magistrates heard.

Farmer Stuart Johnstone, 46, arrived at his rented land in Baxter Wood to find his sheep nervous and distressed in a neighbouring field, the court was told.

Seeing Matthew Whitaker with two labradors, one off the lead, Johnstone challenged him, punching him once in the face.

Mr Whitaker, who was left with reddening to his left cheek, took a picture of Johnstone and told him he would be reporting him to the police.

He later told officers he had checked the field for livestock before crossing on the public footpath and keeping his younger dog on a lead.

Johnstone had shouted at him, telling him to get his dog on a lead. There was then a confrontation at a stile and the farmer hit him.

Johnstone, who admitted assault by beating, had his main farmland in Colne, but rented additional land in Crosshills, Skipton magistrates heard.

The court heard he had suffered in the past from rubbish being left in the field and, on the afternoon of December 14, had received a call telling him that there was a spaniel dog running loose.

In mitigation, John Mewies said when Johnstone arrived, all 137 of his sheep had gone from the field, a wall had been knocked down and they were all on neighbouring land. Mr Mewies said: “Thankfully, there was no injury to the sheep, but he could see they were all traumatised and cowering in a corner of the neighbour’s field.”

Mr Mewies said although Mr Whitaker’s dogs had not been responsible and there was no excuse for Johnstone’s behaviour, he asked magistrates to put themselves in his position. Mr Mewies said Mr Whitaker had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Magistrates told Johnstone, of Skipton Old Road, Colne, that they had some sympathy for his situation. But he was fined £40 and was ordered to pay £100 compensation to Mr Whitaker, a £20 victim’s surcharge and £85 costs.