A MAN who was chased by police after digging out a badger sett has avoided a jail sentence.
Magistrates heard John Paul Fielden, 20, was caught by two officers in Cliviger after villagers spotted him and two friends interfering with a sett last August.
Yesterday, Fielden, of Oxford Road, Burnley, was handed a 12-month prison sentence suspended for 90 days and a one-year community order.
He was also ordered to pay £75 costs and had items found at the scene seized.
Magistrates told Fielden he only avoided jail after admitting the charge, brought by RSPCA prosecutors.
Chairman of the bench Graham Jagger said: “Had you not pleaded guilty you would have gone to prison.
“This is a serious offence and obviously the public are very unhappy with people who carry out offences such as this. You ought to know that.”
A court heard last month that Fielden and his friends fled after being chased by police when they were caught digging out a badger sett.
However, they left behind a terrier dog which was later knocked down and killed by a train.
Fielden was eventually caught by PCSO Dave Johnson and PC John Fairhurst close to the A646.
He and his friends were found to have left behind a spade, netting, a transponder and a metal ring, which magistrates were told could be used to interfere with a badger sett.
After the hearing, RSPCA inspector Dave Anforth said: “I think the sentence is what we expected because this is an offence that was possibly committed because of peer pressure.
“This is a very serious offence and it is taken seriously by the RSPCA and by courts.
“The magistrates made it clear that a custodial sentence is the preferred option for this charge.”
Another charge against Fielden of hunting wild animals with a dog was withdrawn at the earlier hearing.