A fox-hunting devotee has won his appeal against a conviction for blocking up badger setts to give huntsmen and hounds a better chance of reaching their quarry.
Lee Anthony Martin, 45, blocked entrance holes to the badgers’ warren in woodland near Malton, North Yorkshire .
The aim was to prevent the fox escaping from a chasing pack during the Middleton Hunt, which was due to meet on March 29 last year. Martin was arrested and charged with interfering with a badger sett. Such offences are punishable under the Badger Protection Act if it can be proved that the sett was active at the time of the blockage.
The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) took Martin to court after gathering video evidence of several entrance holes being blocked in Evers Wood, Scrayingham.
Martin denied the allegation but, following a two-day trial in February, Scarborough magistrates ordered him to carry out 120 hours’ unpaid work and pay £970 costs after finding him guilty of interfering with the sett.
Martin and his legal team appealed the conviction on the grounds there was no evidence that badgers were using the sett.
During the appeal hearing at York Crown Court, Judge Rodney Jameson QC heard evidence from independent experts on behalf of the pro-hunt Countryside Alliance and LACS.
Members of the animal-welfare group took video footage showing signs of digging outside the sett which they said proved it was active. They even had night footage of a badger peering down one of the holes.
But the footage only showed that the sett was habited up to March 26 and between April 1 and 5. Crucially, there was no evidence that the sett was in use on the day of the hunt.
Mr Jameson QC, who was sitting with magistrates, said that although it was obvious that Martin had blocked entrances to the sett, “we do not think that the evidence alone can prove there were signs of current use by a badger”.
He said that on this basis the appeal was granted and he revoked Martin’s sentence.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “This has been a huge waste of time and taxpayers’ money.”