A WILDLIFE campaigner has welcomed the sentencing of four men for offences under the Badger Act 1992 and Animal Welfare Act 2006 after they were found interfering with a known badger sett in Hovingham.

Clint Dodd, 23, Michael Dodd, 28, both of Thornhill Gardens, Hartlepool, Daniel Joyce, 29, of Granville Avenue, Hartlepool, and Connor Pounder, 23, of Speeding Drive, Hartlepool, all pleaded guilty to the offences of digging for badgers, interfering with a badger sett and causing unnecessary suffering to a Jagd terrier which they were using to send down the badger sett.

A fifth defendant, Shaun Brown, 28, of Runciman Road, Hartlepool, failed to attend court and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

A member of the public spotted a group of men close to a known badger sett in Hovingham on January 11and called police. When officers arrived, they found four of the men digging the sett and scanning the ground with a tracker trying to trace a dog which was currently in the sett.

The terrier dog, Brock, was underweight and found with serious injuries to his face and muzzle as well as painful ulcerations to his eyes and an untreated eye infection. He was treated by local vets and will now be rehomed.

The four men were disqualified from keeping dogs for five years and ordered to pay costs. Clint Dodd, Joyce and Pounder were all given a 10-week suspended sentence and an order not to enter North Yorkshire for 12 months.

Michael Dodd was already in receipt of a suspended sentence for driving while disqualified and was consequently jailed for 14 weeks. The four men were sentenced at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court last Monday.

Badger expert witness Jean Thorpe said: “I would like to thank the resident who recognised what was going on and phoned the police.

“To come all the way from Hartlepool to kill protected wildlife is is hard to understand. The sett was illegally dug when sow badgers have their cubs so any pregnant females will have been particularly distressed.

“I wished the sentences were harder for wildlife crime but it was a good result and they are now convicted wildlife criminals.

“Just to remind anyone out in the countryside that if they see men with terriers and spades to phone police and we can stop this horrific practise from happening.”