SCARBOROUGH was at the centre of a “barbaric” court case in which four men were imprisoned following a “horrific” incident of badger baiting.
The nation’s media descended upon Scarborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday for the sentencing of seven men responsible for the death of two defenceless badgers. Four were jailed.
The badgers, one of which was heavily pregnant with two cubs, were ripped to pieces by dogs during the savage incident at Paradise Farm, near Malton, in January 2011.
In what has been deemed “the worst case of badger baiting seen” by the investigating RSPCA officer, district judge Kristina Harrison heard how the defendants used a Bedlington Terrier with a tracking collar to locate the badgers in their underground sett.
Prosecuting, Sobia Ahmed told the court how Pickering man William Anderson, 26, along with Alan Alexander, 32, Richard Simpson, 37, Paul Tindall, 33, Christopher Holmes, 28, Malcolm Warner, 28, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, all of York, were seen by witnesses to be “having a laugh” and “enjoying what was going on”.
They then dug down into the animals’ chamber before pulling the badgers out and setting their lurchers on them.
Anderson, Alexander, Simpson, Tindall and the youth all denied charges of wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers, interfering with setts and hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
However, following a nine day trial at Scarborough Magistrates Court in December, judge Harrison convicted all five men.
Yesterday Anderson, Alexander, Simpson and Tindall were sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment.
They were also ordered to pay £750 costs and £100 compensation, while the 17-year-old was dealt a youth rehabilitation order.
Judge Harrison said: “The best thing I can do is say the people of Yorkshire will not tolerate badger baiting in their midst.
“It is barbaric, it is abhorrent. Anyone convicted of this type of offence will receive a custodial sentence of imprisonment.
“This is intended as a clear signal to anyone who seeks to engage in this behaviour.”
Holmes and Warner had previously pleaded guilty to wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers and interfering with setts.
Judge Harrison said she saw their guilty pleas as showing “an element of remorse” and sentenced them each to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, plus 200 hours unpaid work, £250 costs and £100 compensation.
Speaking after the sentencing Geoff Edmond, Scarborough’s RSPCA inspector, said: “This case is the worst case of badger baiting I have had to deal with in a long career with the RSPCA.
“I will always recall the day when I had to dig out of a hole a pregnant badger that had died after being ripped to death by dogs.
“This is horrific, barbaric animal cruelty.
“Fortunately through a long period of partnership working with the police and badger groups this matter has been brought before the court and today four of the defendants have gone to prison with a custodial sentence.
“As the district judge has said this sends a clear message out. This will not be tolerated in North Yorkshire. We will continue to work closely with the police to tackle this crime head on.”
The case came to light after the defendants were caught in the act by wildlife photographer Robert Fuller, who took photographic evidence of the incident.
He said: “Hopefully this case has highlighted the awful fact that badger baiting still takes place.
“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that there are people who breed dogs such as those involved in this case specifically to hunt large wild animals.
“These bull lurchers are like greyhounds on steroids and people use them to take deer, foxes and even domestic cats for sport.
“I can’t pretend it was easy having to give evidence in court but it was important and I’d do it again if I had to.”
Equally delighted with the sentence was Sergeant Paul Stephenson, who investigated the case. He said: “I think this has been an absolutely excellent result. The judge mirrored the feelings of the public in the convictions.
“People will not tolerate such barbaric, violent acts against such defenceless animals.
“It has taken a long time to get these people before the court but it has been a worthwhile exercise and one which North Yorkshire Police will pursue in every case against similar acts of violence.
“Thank you to the witnesses in this case, the prosecution team and the RSPCA for all their efforts. Without them this court case would not have been possible.”
After sentencing the men Judge Harrison praised the efforts of North Yorkshire Police and the RSPCA.
She added: “Another warning to people who wish to engage in this type of activity in North Yorkshire; our police on that day reacted expeditiously.
“They were there at the scene after a very short space of time. A warning to others; they will do it again, they will arrest you and put you before court. If you are convicted after prosecution you know what will happen to you.”