They were discovered by police lying face down in woodland near badger setts armed with shovels and two dogs.
But when they found themselves facing the long arm of the law, the young men denied they were out badger baiting in the South Staffordshire countryside. Claims that were yesterday rejected by magistrates.
Jake Berry, aged 20, Rhys Dwyer, 18, and 20-year-old Daniel Fry were found guilty of charges relating to the blood sport by magistrates in Stafford following a one-and-a-half day trial.
Berry and Fry, of Wolverhampton, and Rhys Dwyer, of Willenhall, were found guilty of attempting to take a badger, digging for badgers and interfering with badger setts.
The gang were arrested in Essington Wood after two PCSOs spotted two men ‘lying face down’ near a badger set in the early morning on May 4.
A third man was nearby said to be acting as a look-out. Shovels were then discovered as well as a recently-dug hole. The officers claim to have seen three men with two dogs – the men on trial – as well as a fourth man with a terrier which the court heard was seen emerging from a hole in the ground.
The court heard that he fled the scene. The three in the dock denied seeing the fourth man. They also denied the shovels were theirs.
Dwyer, of Shepherd Drive, told the court he and his friends had gone down to the woodland that day with two large lurcher-style dogs to go ‘rabbiting’. The dogs belonged to Berry, of Stubby Lane, and Fry, of Merrick Road.
Badger baiting sees dogs used to catch the badgers, which are then usually killed. Crackdowns have been launched against the blood sport in recent years by police and animal charities.
Though the trio or the dogs were not seen interfering with badgers, magistrates ruled that the set of circumstances pointed to them badger baiting.
The court heard that no badgers at the site in Essington, South Staffordshire, were harmed.
And magistrates said the defendants’ evidence was ‘inconsistent’ and did not explain why they were found with dogs and shovels so close to a badger sett.
Returning the verdict of the magistrates panel, chairman of the bench Caroline Harding told the court: “On May 4 all three defendants were on land in Essington without permission.There was a badger sett in that area which had been subjected to crowning down and two shovels were found nearby. The sett had clearly been interfered with.”
All three will be sentenced at Cannock Magistrates on Thursday.
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association
Direct Action Against All Forms of bloodsports