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Badger baiter convicted in Scotland

A MAN became the first person to be convicted of badger baiting in Scotland last week.

Craig Morrison, 22, admitted allowing his dog to maul two young badger cubs to death in a sett during a hunting trip.

Last week, a court in Kilmarnock heard how Morrison went out equipped for a hunting trip near his home in Dalry, Ayrshire, on 29 March this year.

John Cunningham, defending, said Morrison admitted his dogs had killed the creatures.

He told Kilmarnock Sheriff Court: ‘The dogs entered the sett and the dogs removed the badgers. He accepts that. Furthermore, they were killed by the dogs. He also accepts that. There is no dispute from Mr Morrison that this was a planned hunting expedition and that he went equipped for that.’

Morrison admitted a total of three charges including one of cruelly ill- treating badgers by sending dogs into a sett near Blair Mill, Dalry.

He had initially faced nine charges under the Protection of Badgers and Protection of Wild Mammals acts.

Prosecutors accepted not guilty pleas to the remaining charges, including one that Morrison hunted wild mammals with a Patterdale Terrier, Bedlington, Whippet and Deerhound cross dogs.
Sheriff Seith Ireland deferred sentencing and requested further witness statements. He said: ‘This could make the difference between a custodial sentence or community service.’

Prosecutors requested Morrison's dogs be taken from him permanently and an order made to ban Morrison from keeping animals. They also asked the court for Morrison to be liable for the £3,000 costs of housing the dogs since they were seized from him in March.

After the case Morrison ran from the court covering his face.

Doreen Graham, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said inspectors found it difficult to gather evidence for prosecution.

She said: ‘The fact this is the first conviction of its kind shows how incredibly difficult it is to get evidence. We are delighted that this investigation has resulted in a conviction.’

She added: ‘It is alarming the number of disturbed badger setts our inspectors are coming across.’

Ian Hutchison, of the charity Scottish Badgers, said: ‘I think this is probably the first case of its kind of a man using dogs to hunt badgers.

‘I'd rather these cases weren't needed at all - but as long as people carry on like this I hope we see them in court.’

Mr Hutchison added: ‘Scotland's badgers are the most protected in the UK, possibly even the world. You can actually go to jail for three years and face unlimited fines for badger baiting. I have never yet known anyone jailed but I live in hope.’

Earlier this month a group of gamekeepers walked free when charges of badger baiting were dropped. Scott Collins, 19; Derek Kelly, 22; Adam Lennon, 21; and Greig Withers, 21, all received fines at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.