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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Barbaric and abhorrent': Judge condemns badger baiters who laughed as their dogs ripped animals apart

-Alan Alexander, 32, Richard Simpson, 37, and Paul Tindall, 31, and William Anderson, 26, were jailed for 16 weeks
-Christopher Holmes, 28, and Malcolm Warner, 28, were handed 12-week custodial sentences suspended for 12 months

By Charles Walford

Warning: Graphic content
A wildlife photographer Robert Fuller managed to take this picture showing one of the men snatching at a badger in the dog's mouth

Four thugs who were caught laughing as their dogs tore wild animals to pieces have been jailed for their part in ‘barbaric’ and ‘abhorrent’ badger baiting.

Scarborough Magistrates’ Court heard how a group of six men and a teenage boy dug out and killed two badgers from a sett on farmland at Howsham, near York, in January last year.

Sobia Ahmed, prosecuting, said dogs played tug-of-war with one of the badgers before it was shot in the head and slung into undergrowth, while a pregnant badger was torn to pieces and bled to death.

Mr Fuller presented his photos of the gang badger baiting in the hope that they would help convict the men

Alan Alexander, 32, Richard Simpson, 37, and Paul Tindall, 31, all from York, and William Anderson, 26, from Pickering, North Yorkshire, were jailed for 16 weeks at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court after being found guilty of wilfully killing a badger, hunting a mammal with dogs, digging for badgers and interfering with a badger sett.

Alexander and Simpson were also convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

Another two men, Christopher Holmes, 28, and Malcolm Warner, 28, both from York, were handed 12-week custodial sentences suspended for 12 months after they pleaded guilty to wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers and interfering with a badger sett.

District Judge Kristina Harrison said she was sending out a clear signal to anybody involved in such activities that they would be sent to prison.

'Barbaric': Richard Simpson, left, and Alan Alexander, right, arrive at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court to hear their sentence

A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a youth rehabilitation order after he was also found guilty of wilfully killing a badger, hunting a mammal with dogs, digging for badgers and interfering with a badger sett.

Sentencing the men and the teenager, Ms Harrison said: ‘Badger baiting is regarded as a barbaric sport and the public feeling is one of revulsion.’

She continued: ‘The people of Yorkshire will not tolerate badger baiting in their midst. It’s barbaric, it’s abhorrent and anyone convicted of this kind of offence will receive a custodial sentence.

‘This is a clear signal to anybody who seeks to commit this kind of behaviour.’

'Abhorrent': Paul Tindall, pictured left, and William Anderson, right, arriving for sentencing

Ms Ahmed told the court that two witnesses, including wildlife photographer Robert Fuller, heard the sound of dogs barking excitedly and a badger squealing in distress and went to investigate.

When they reached the scene, they saw two large dogs attacking a badger.

Ms Ahmed said: ‘They had hold of it in their mouths and were shaking it violently. They said the dogs were playing tug of war with the badger.’

Mr Fuller today recalled how the men ‘laughingly’ encouraged the beasts before they spotted Mr Fuller and fled the rural scene by the River Derwent, near Howsham in North Yorkshire.

After some time, the badger was shot dead by Anderson and the men, who had become aware of the witnesses and tried to cover their tracks by throwing the dead badger into the undergrowth.

They then buried a second dead badger - a pregnant animal which had been torn to pieces by the dogs - back into the hole from which it had been dug.

Ms Ahmed said witnesses called the police and the men and teenager were arrested a short time later.

Police and RSPCA inspectors who visited the scene found animal intestines and badger foetuses scattered around and areas of congealed blood, believed to be from where the badger had been shot.

When they recovered the two badgers, one was found to have been shot at close range and had a fractured skull and jaw.

The group of men stuffed this dead badger back into its sett in attempt by the men to conceal the crime

The other had part of its abdomen missing and injuries consistent with being attacked by a dog.

Mr Fuller, 38, later gave his pictures to the police and RSPCA and they were used to convict the gang.

When they investigated, the authorities established the men had killed three adult badgers and three unborn cubs.

Ms Ahmed said the pregnant badger suffered 'a sustained attack by a number of dogs that had caused the badger to be torn to pieces and eventually it bled to death' while the other had a 'gunshot wound to the head immediately after a severe and sustained attack by a number of dogs'.

Ms Ahmed described the operation as a 'sophisticated enterprise' in which the men used equipment to track down the badgers.

Mr Fuller, who lives in Thixendale, North Yorksshire, was praised by the trial judge as ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’.

Alexander, Anderson, Simpson and Tindall were told they would serve eight weeks of their sentences before being released on licence.

They were each ordered to pay £750 costs and £100 compensation.

Each of the four defendants was handcuffed and led out of the crowded courtroom by security guards while members of their families sobbed.

Holmes and Warner were told to pay £250 costs and £100 compensation and the 17-year-old was told he would be placed under supervision for 12 months and would have to undertake a number of programmes, including one run by the RSPCA, as part of his youth rehabilitation order.

Mr Fuller today recalled of how he encountered the gang while he was out looking for otters with friend Ged Farmer last January.

He said: "In all there were 13 dogs, eight men with five guns and, as was later established, three dead badgers and three unborn cubs.

'I asked Ged to go and call the police while I took photographs of what was going on.

'I was scared about being seen but I was so sickened by it that I wanted to get pictures of the men being caught in the act.

'One badger gave up and the men just shot it dead.

'This gang were so brazen about what they were doing, it was almost as though they didn’t care.
'I knew that my pictures might be used as evidence in the future and I’m glad they help catch these men.'

He added: 'What I saw that day shocked me. Badgers are tough animals. They will fight when under attack, but generally they are not aggressive.

'What turns my stomach about badger baiting is that they were doing it for the sheer thrill. The men I watched were laughing.'

Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA Inspector Geoff Edmond said: ‘This is the highest level of animal cruelty. It’s people who have organised to go into the North Yorkshire countryside, dig out and cruelly bait badgers.

He added: 'The significance of what Robert Fuller did cannot be underestimated. It is not often a judge commends a witness and he thoroughly deserved it.

'I’ve been a wildlife officer for 20 years and this is the worst, most horrific and barbaric case I have seen.'



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