A MAN has been cleared of assault after throwing a dead partridge at his gamekeeper in a dispute over a game shoot.

William Elder, 60, was cleared of two counts of assault following a trial at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, February 22.

Mr Elder, who owns Stancombe Farm in Askerswell, was involved in a dispute with his gamekeeper Daniel Burden over the running of a £15,000 game shoot on November 11, 2021.

With his clients  paying almost £2,000 each for the day's shooting, he was concerned some of them hadn't bagged enough birds and would ask for their money back.

Mr Elder, who was stood with the clients, berated gamekeeper Mr Burden and the shoot ‘beaters’ over the radio - causing some of them to walk off in protest.

‘Beaters’ are used to ‘flush out’ birds in the direction of the shoot.

Later, the 60-year-old farmer and Mr Burden came together at the farm with both men accusing each other of acting aggressively.

Mr Elder claimed his gamekeeper threatened to 'belt' him and shoot captain Steve Smith had to come between the pair.

A court heard that Mr Elder then threw a partridge he was holding at Mr Burden, hitting him on the leg. In retaliation, the gamekeeper picked up the dead bird and threw it back at his boss.

Mr Burden, who is in his 40s, claimed the farmer 'chest bumped' him and then kicked him several times in the legs.

The second charge of assault related to an incident on the same day with a teenage game ‘beater’ - who accused Mr Elder of kicking him in the backside.

Mr Elder denied both allegations of assault but admitted to throwing the patridge out of sheer frustration.

He claimed the teen was 'extremely aggressive' and had a beater's flag raised above his head so he kicked out in self-defence.

He said: "He started shouting at me that I don't know anything about running a shootand 'we're gonna do you'. He pushed past me, hitting me with his shoulder, and I pushed him away with my boot on his backside."

The hearing heard that the incident happened towards the end of a day of shooting on Stancombe Farm in the village of Askerswell, Dorset.

Mr Elder has run shoots on his 700 acre farm for 35 years and the event in question was one of the first to be held after the relaxation of Covid rules.

Chairman of the bench Robert Ford said they had two contradictory statements regarding the alleged assault of Mr Burden and so they could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that it happened.

With the alleged assault on the teenager, Mr Ford said they accepted Mr Elder was a man of good character and that he believed he perceived a threat and the push was proportionate.