Two men were yesterday, Wednesday 2 September, given suspended prison sentences and banned from keeping dogs after they were caught in the act of badger digging* by an undercover RSPCA inspector.
Gerard Monk and Paul Billington were filmed digging a badger sett in woodland at Sandford, near Whitchurch, in Shropshire, on 11 May 2008. They fled the scene after realising they were being watched.
Both men were subsequently arrested and were found guilty of six charges.
The pair were both sentenced to a four-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, 200 hours of community service and a five-year ban on keeping dogs. Monk and Billington were also ordered to pay the full £6,000 costs each at today’s hearing at Shrewsbury Magistrates Court.
Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “Today’s hearing is the result of a prolonged investigation between the RSPCA and Lancashire Police. To catch two men actually in the act of digging a badger sett is extremely rare, but the video evidence proved vital in bringing this case to court and securing a guilty verdict.
“Badger digging is inhumane and cruel, causing suffering not only to badgers, but also to the dogs used for this barbaric activity. The sentence passed by the court shows if anyone is caught badger digging faces a severe punishment.”
CI Briggs added: “Sadly badger digging remains a serious problem in our countryside and one we are proactively targeting in order to bring those involved in this cruel activity to justice. “Badgers are a protected mammal by law, therefore it is a criminal offence to disturb their setts or to purposefully kill or injure a badger. We hope this case will act as a warning to anyone thinking about digging a badger sett. If we catch them, we will prosecute them.”
Badger digging remains a serious problem
PC Duncan Thomas, Lancashire Police’s wildlife officer, said: “Unfortunately badger digging is still alive and well. We are committed to stamping out this activity in close co-operation with our wildlife enforcement partners, in this case the RSPCA.
“Let me make the issue absolutely clear: if you’re caught digging badgers, we will confiscate the dogs, the equipment and any vehicles used and you will be brought before the courts.”
Monk, 27, of Millbrook Close, Wheelton, Lancashire, and Billington, 37, of Llydir Lane, Rossett, Clywd, both appeared at Shrewsbury Magistrates Court earlier this year where they were each found guilty of six charges:
* attempting to kill injure or take a badger
* digging for a badger
* interfering with a badger sett
* interfering with a badger sett by causing a dog to enter the sett
* interfering with a badger sett by disturbing a badger whilst it was occupying a sett (all five offences contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act 1992)
* hunting a wild mammal namely a badger contrary to the Hunting Act 2004
Monk claimed he had been rabbiting and was digging to free his dog, while Billington also claimed to be digging for Monk’s terrier, which had run down a rabbit hole. Billington claimed in court this was the first occasion the two men had ever met and they had arranged to meet as he was interested in buying a terrier bitch from Monk. However there were numerous inconsistencies with the pair’s accounts. They were also found to have badger digging equipment with them.