Badger trial: the verdict on way

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FIVE men and a youth who have been accused of the “horrific” killing of two badgers will learn their fate on Monday.

On the final day of evidence at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday, prosecutor Sobia Ahmed said the defendants had been involved in killing the badgers, and two unborn badger cubs, either by actively encouraging dogs or engaging in a “spectator sport” of badger baiting in a farm near Malton.

However, representatives of Pickering man William Anderson, 26, Alan Alexander, 32, James Doyle, 34, Richard Simpson, 37, Paul Tindall, 33, and a 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, maintained that their clients were innocent.

It is alleged that a terrier was placed into a badger sett in Paradise Farm, near Malton, on January 30, and that a tracking collar was used to locate the badger’s underground chamber.

Miss Ahmed said that holes were then carefully dug in the earth to get to the badgers, which were then savaged by lurchers before one was shot.

She added: “It is clear that something quite horrific and serious occurred at Paradise Farm. This wasn’t a walk in the park with dogs. The crown have established that the badgers were killed by a badger bait.

“Two witnesses say there were eight to nine people in a the field, with four of them stood around the dogs and badgers and four or five engaging in banter and laughing.

“Two dogs had a badger between their mouths playing a tug of war with it. No-one does anything to intervene.”

Miss Ahmed said the introduction of a ninth man, who the defendants refused to name but claimed had been at the scene with a Daihatsu vehicle, had been little more than a “red herring”.

“He was introduced at late stage to divert attention from what they are said have done,” she added. “All of the defendants have been discredited. There is no reason to believe them at this stage of proceedings.”

Two other men, Christopher Holmes, 28, and Malcolm Warner, also 28, have admitted wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers, and interfering with a sett on the basis that they had a secondary involvement in the offences.

Clive Rees, representing Alexander and Anderson, said that both of his clients had tried to stop the badgers being killed.

Anderson has admitted shooting the badger, but claimed he had only done so to put it out of its misery while Alexander said he had tried to pull his dogs off the animal when he realised what was going on.

Mr Rees said: “No-one is going to say digging for badgers is a good thing. The question is was it deliberate? In my submission the Crown have failed to prove that.

“They tried to take control and did what they could to deal with the dreadful situation they found themselves in.”

Vicky Lancaster, representing Doyle, said her client had always maintained that he had been inside a Range Rover for the entirety of the incident.

She added: “Was he there? Can they prove that? I submit they can’t.

“He heard a noise like an animal in distress. He tried to block it out of his mind. His reaction may not be one that others would adopt, but he has told the truth from start to finish.”

Stuart Young, representing Simpson, Tindall and the 17-year-old, said his clients should be acquitted of all charges.

He said Simpson, an experienced huntsman and former gamekeeper, had pulled his dog off one of the badgers when it briefly got hold of it.

He claimed that an injury to the dog’s nose had been sustained while foraging, rather than in a badger bait and that his client had not participated in what he called a “barbaric and criminal act”.

He added: “There is no evidence from any witnesses that contradicts his version of events.”

Mr Young said Tindall, one of the men photographed in the field by renowned wildlife artist Richard Fuller just after the badger was shot, had provided a “clear and accurate version of events.”

He added: “The total evidence only supports his being there at the end of the bait.”

A verdict is expected to be delivered on Monday afternoon in Scarborough.