A TERRIERMAN for Middleton Hunt has been given a community sentence after he was found guilty of deliberately blocking up a badger sett during a meet last year.

Lee Martin, 45, of Birdsall, near Malton, denied blocking a badger sett in Evers woodland, near Malton, during a meet of the Middleton Hunt at Scrayingham in March, last year, when he appeared at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court this week. But he was found guilty after a two-day trial and was sentenced to 120 hours of community service and ordered to pay £970 in costs.

The case was brought against him under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act based on evidence drawn up by investigators employed by the League Against Cruel Sports, who passed their findings to North Yorkshire Police and wildlife officer PC Jez Walmsley, based at Malton.

Martin, who was working as a terrierman for the hunt on the day in question, first appeared before Scarborough magistrates last year when he denied the allegation that he had interfered with the sett by obstructing and restricting entrances to it on March 29, last year.

Martin’s lawyer, Stephen Welford, questioned whether the sett was “active” at the time and also took issue with the time involved in obtaining the evidence and letting Martin know about the allegations.

The three magistrates, chaired by Paul Sudworth, heard from Martin Hawes, of the CPS, that three investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports were involved in surveillance of the sett using trail cameras and camcorders to coincide with the last Middleton Hunt meeting of the season.

One investigator, Simon Dally, said they had carried out monitoring activity in relation to badger setts in North Yorkshire and one particular hunt they monitored was the Middleton Hunt.

“We received intelligence that individuals associated with the Middleton Hunt were interfering with badger setts in that wood,” he said. He and his colleagues said that from the evidence they gathered the sett was active, including badger hairs on the ground, claw marks, faeces from latrines and bedding. But, they alleged, on the day of the meet, the badger sett entrances had been blocked by soil, which had been trampled in.

During the hearing, the court watched film footage taken by the concealed cameras and saw how the evidence was then passed to the League Against Cruel Sports’ prosecution office. They also heard how Martin was seen in the area at the time of the hunt’s meet riding a quad bike.

The court also heard that during the meet there was a police “presence”.

Mr Welford challenged the League Against Cruel Sports investigators as to why they did not take their concerns to the police at the time. He was told of the need to check the evidence before they could proceed further.

Ryedale wildlife campaigner Jean Thorpe, of Malton, told the court she had been to see the badger sett under investigation and it was “active”.

Mr Welford said: “We are surprised and disappointed ... and we will now consider our position as far as an appeal is concerned.”