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

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

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

Mr Whitaker, who suffered reddening to his left cheek, later told police 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, there had been a confrontation and the farmer hit him. Johnstone admitted assault by beating.

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 there was a dog running loose.

In mitigation, John Mewies said when Johnstone had arrived, all 137 of his sheep had gone from the field, a wall had been knocked down and they were all on neighbouring land.

“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,” said Mr Mewies.

Mr Mewies added 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.

He said Mr Whitaker had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and as a result, had suffered a slight injury.

Magistrates told Johnstone, of Skipton Old Road in Colne, they had some sympathy for his situation, but he had admitted assault.

He was fined £40 and was ordered to pay £100 compensation to Mr Whitaker, a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs.