Burnley man caught hunting badgers at old power station site

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A BURNLEY man has been convicted of hunting badgers with dogs on the site of an old power station in Altham.

Jeffrey Johnson (34) told Hyndburn magistrates he had been digging close to a badger sett as his terrier had got trapped after chasing a rabbit down a hole. He denied having any interest in badgers but was convicted after a trial.

Johnson, of Forfar Street, was fined £270 with £265 costs. The court heard an X-registered four-wheel drive vehicle seized at the time of the incident in June 2010 was still in a police compound.

Mr John Wood (prosecuting) said Johnson was seen in a 3ft. deep hole with a spade in his hand by badger enthusiast Mr Stephen Broadbent, who was carrying out a regular check on the sett.

Mr Broadbent, a member of Lancashire Badger Group and the Badger Trust, said there was a highly excited Jack Russell-type terrier running round the site.

Mr Boadbent challenged Johnson and another man as to what they were doing and Johnson said something about digging for a fox. They ran off before the police arrived.

The 4x4 was seized by police and it was the next day that Johnson went to the police station to inquire about the vehicle which he said belonged to his girlfriend.

Johnson, a part-time window cleaner and father-of-three, told the court he was walking his dogs, the terrier and a lurcher, in the area and they had been chasing rabbits. He said the dogs ran off and he found the lurcher near the entrance to what he now knew to be the badger sett.

Johnson could hear his dog crying underground and when it did not respond to his calls decided to go home for a spade so he could try to dig it out. He blocked the entrance to the sett so the dog would not get out and run away in his absence.

Johnson said he came back with a friend and while he was digging the dog emerged from the sett and his friend caught it.

He claimed Mr Broadbent swore at him and his friend and chased them away. He said he had not wanted a confrontation and walked back to Burnley.

“When I was a teenager, a farmer took a terrier off me near there when we were chasing rabbits and I didn’t want anything like that happening again,” he said. “I knew the power station was private and didn’t want any confrontation with anybody.”