A LANCASHIRE man who was caught badger digging by an undercover RSPCA inspector has avoided jail.

Gerard Monk, 27, of Millbrook Close, Wheelton, near Chorley and Paul Billington, 37, of Llydir Lane, Rossett, Clywd, were filmed digging a badger sett in woodland at Sandford, near Whitchurch in Shropshire, in May last year.

Both men fled the scene when they realised they were being watched, but were later arrested and eventually found guilty of six charges after a two-day trial.

The pair were sentenced today at Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

Both must undertake 200 hours of community service and pay £6,000 costs each. They are also banned from keeping dogs for five years.

After the case, Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “Wednesday’s hearing is the result of a prolonged investigation between the RSPCA and Lancashire police. To catch two men actually in the act of digging a badger sett is extremely rare, but the video evidence proved vital in bringing this case to court and securing a guilty verdict.

“Badger digging is inhumane and cruel, causing suffering not only to badgers, but also to the dogs used for this barbaric activity. The sentence passed by the court shows if anyone is caught badger digging faces a severe punishment.”

Lancashire Police said: “Unfortunately badger digging is still alive and well. We are committed to stamping out this activity in close co-operation with our wildlife enforcement partners, in this case the RSPCA.

“Let me make the issue absolutely clear: if you’re caught digging badgers, we will confiscate the dogs, the equipment and any vehicles used and you will be brought before the courts.”

Monk and Billington faced charges of attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, digging for a badger, interfering with a badger sett, causing a dog to enter the sett, disturbing a badger and hunting a badger.

Monk said he had been rabbiting and was digging to free his dog, while Billington also claimed to be digging for Monk’s terrier, which had run down a rabbit hole.

Billington said in court this was the first occasion the two men had ever met and they had arranged to meet as he was interested in buying a terrier bitch from Monk.

However, they were found to have badger digging equipment with them and the court heard that there were numerous inconsistencies with the pair’s accounts.

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