BADGER baiters who were caught interfering with a sett in north Northumberland and found with vile videos of animal cruelty on their phones have been sentenced today (Thursday).
Callous Christopher Hindmarsh and accomplice Justin Lang have been disqualified from keeping dogs for three years and will have to pay 260 each for costs.
They will also have to serve a 12-month community order and a year-long supervision order and have to carry out 120 hours' unpaid work. A three-month curfew order from 10pm to 6am has also been handed to them. Their phones and dogs plus a spade, hammer and a battery used in the badger baiting, were confiscated.
The pair were discovered by police at a wood near Warkworth on July 30 last year.
Officers were there to check two badger setts, which had been attacked a number of times between November 2006 and that month.
But wildlife crime officer, PC Andy Swinburne, who was working with the help of Northumberland Wildlife Trust and local residents, heard voices and dogs barking in the wood.
A four-wheel drive vehicle was found parked beside the larger sett, and fearing that baiters were carrying out an attack, he called for back-up.
Before help could arrive, however, Hindmarsh and Lang walked out of woods, accompanied by four dogs.
Two of the terriers appeared to be injured, and it was later revealed that one of the dogs had an old wound to its jaw which was consistent with being in contact with a badger.
A further check of the setts revealed that some entrances had been blocked, while holes had been dug to allow terriers to get in.
During the ensuing investigation, Hindmarsh, of Alwinton Square, Ashington, had bragged in sickening mobile phone texts about capturing and killing badgers. He had also previously joked with police officers about his role in the revolting 'sport'. The 28-year-old was also found with graphic video footage featuring a badger being attacked by dogs.
And Lang, 24, of Norham Road, Ashington, was found to have a video containing a fox being attacked by terriers.
The pair admitted offences of damaging a badger sett, obstructing access to a sett and causing a dog to enter one, while Hindmarsh admitted a further charge of attempting to kill, injure or take a badger.
They had been due to stand trial over five days after initial pleas of not guilty.
Addressing the pair at Alnwick Magistrates Court, Judge Earl said: "The reality is it is very often seen as being a victimless crime. But it isn't a victimless crime. The animals are the victims and so too is the wider community because of the emotive feeling that this brings to our society."
He added: "When one derives an element of pleasure from doing this sort of thing, it evokes revulsion.
"Anyone who says that it is just a dumb animal is dumb themselves.
"Therefore, it is appropriate that a sentence is passed that has an element of deterrence to it and it sends a message out to the wider community who like to indulge in this sort of thing that it will not be tolerated."
PC Swinburne said that he was pleased with the district judge's decision.
He added: "Badger baiting is a barbaric past-time which is still prolific across much of the UK today.
"People involved can, at times, travel considerable distances in order to take part in their pursuits, which are, in the majority of cases, for their own personal gratification.
"Little or no regard is shown for safety, welfare or suffering that can be endured by the badgers themselves and also their own dogs which are involved with these illegal activities, many of whom sustain serious injuries which can often go untreated by professional establishments to avoid detection and ultimately result in their death or destruction.
"Similarly the badger's life is also often ended in horrible circumstances, either at the hands of the dogs or the baiters themselves."
He said that Northumbria Police work alongside agencies such as the RSPCA under the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) to combat and investigate all wildlife crime. Members of the public are encouraged to report any incidents of this nature.