Badger baiter jailed after gang caught red-handed on estate

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THREE men appeared in court yesterday after they were caught red-handed by police badger baiting on private land.

Police apprehended Matthew John, 26, John Buckley, 24, and Gareth Willams, 29, digging out a protected badger sett on the Harewood Estate, Leeds.

Johnson, of Somerville Drive, Seacroft, Leeds, was jailed for ten weeks after the court heard he refused to do unpaid work as he believed he had done no harm to the community.

Buckley, of Tarnside Drive, Seacroft, and Williams, of Mowbray Court, Seacroft, were both given community orders and 200 hours unpaid work after they also pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett.

They were arrested on June 30 last year after their vehicle was reported to police in Wetherby, who operate a ‘Farm Watch’ scheme to combat rural crime.

At the time of their arrest the men had dug two deep holes out of the sett and had four dogs with them as well as badger baiting equipment including locator collars fitted with radio transmitters and trapping nets.

A 14-year-old local boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also arrested from the scene and charged with interfering with a badger sett. He was given a referral order by the court.

It’s believed the men were stopped before any badgers belonging to the sett were harmed.

Insp Paul Dwyer, of Wetherby and Harewood Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This case should serve as a deterrent to anyone who believes it’s acceptable to participate in this criminal and barbaric activity.

“Through our Farm Watch network we were notified about the suspicious vehicle at an early stage and we were able to catch these men red-handed, one of whom was arrested as he stood chest deep in a hole he’d dug out of the sett.

“I’d like to thank the Badger Trust for their assistance with this prosecution and the strong message sent by the court by jailing one of these men as well as permanently confiscating their dog and baiting equipment.”

District judge Roy Anderson told Johnson he had no option but to jail him after his solicitor, Stephen Welford, said his client did not believe he had done anything to harm the community and would not comply with a community order.

He said: “You refuse point blank to comply with any order. In view of that wilful decision I have to send your straight to prison.”

Johnson was told one of the dogs, a terrier named Star, would not be returned to him. Equipment and mobile phones were also confiscated.

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