Suspended sentences for barbaric trio set out to trap wild badgers
They were carrying a fox’s tail, a tomahawk axe and an air rifle to commit a ‘barbaric and medieval’ crime.
But Jake Berry, Rhys Dwyer and Daniel Fry avoided an immediate jail sentence after being convicted of offences related to badger baiting.
The three men, who denied doing anything wrong, were stopped by police and arrested after a member of the public reporting having seen the men with dogs entering private woodland in Essington.
When police arrived at the Landywood Lane scene, they saw two men lying on the ground – one of whom had their hand down a hole, a court heard.
Police claim to have also seen a fourth man at the scene with a terrier which the court heard was spotted emerging from a hole in the ground.
The court heard that he fled the scene. The three in the dock denied seeing him.
Prosecuting in the case, Mr John Peel told the court the ‘only reason for badgers to be caught alive is for the purposes of badger baiting’.
He also said that while all men had admitted entering the land without permission to hunt on the day of the offence, May 4, they each insisted they were there to hunt rabbits ‘to kill to eat’.
Defending the three, Mr Chris Stapleton said: “Let’s be clear here. No animals were injured or taken during this exercise.”
The gang was found guilty of badger digging, attempting to take a badger and interfering with badger setts after a trial at Stafford Magistrates’ Court last Thursday.
They were sentenced at Cannock Magistrates Court yesterday, and received eight months in jail, suspended for 18 months.
They were also handed an 18-month community order and told to complete 120 hours unpaid work.
Berry, aged 20 of Stubby Lane, Wednesfield; Fry, also 20 and of Merrick Road, Wednesfield and 18-year-old Dwyer, of Shepherd Drive, were all also banned from keeping dogs for two years and fined £480.
Chairman of the bench Cynthia Tipper said the offences were serious.
She suspended their jail sentence, adding: “This was a group activity and you went prepared and had dogs with you.”
After the hearing, investigating officer in the case Pc Pete Clarke, of Staffordshire Police, said: “Hopefully this will put out the right message and deter these kinds of crimes from being committed in the future.
“Wildlife crime appears to be on the increase and Staffordshire Police is determined to stamp it out.
“Anyone who sees anything suspicious, please report it to police on 101.”
Expert witness in the case Sandra Dudley, of the Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group said she was ‘very pleased’ with the sentence and hopes it will prevent people from committing such ‘barbaric’ crimes in future.
“The sentencing was quite severe but it just reflects the severity of their crimes,” said Mrs Dudley, aged 66. “It’s such a barbaric crime – it’s like we’re still living in medieval times.”
Mrs Dudley explained that in order to catch a badger, baiters usually send a terrier down into the sett, because within the habitats are ‘labyrinths of tunnels’.
The dog, fitted with a radio transmitter, will then find the badger and ‘keep backing it up’ until the animal is forced into a corner.
The terrier will then bark to those above ground, who will then dig down to retrieve the animals.
“The badgers are usually hit over the head with a blunt instrument or handicapped in some way – which can include blinding them and breaking their legs,” added Mrs Dudley.
The animal is then thrown to two or three dogs which will rip it apart until it is dead.
Mrs Dudley added that badger baiting can often see dogs’ jaws ripped apart and their ears torn off.
Bets are also often placed on which dog will kill the badger, how long it will take to kill the creature and what injuries the dogs will sustain.
“If you see a group of men with terrier dogs and shovels, I’d put money on them being there for badgers,” said Mrs Dudley.
“Please report anything to police – even if appears to be after the incident.”