Former Burnley jockey jailed after badger baiting footage is found on mobile phone by RSPCA
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The ‘absolutely horrific’ film, which was recorded in Burnley in June 2021, was described by an RSPCA inspector as ‘very difficult to watch and to listen to.’
Brandon Lawlor, (23) of Lowerhouse Lane in Burnley, pleaded guilty to one offence contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act 1991 after he appeared at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on September 21st following a prosecution by the RSPCA. There had been a warrant out for his arrest.
Magistrates were told that police found the disturbing footage on his mobile phone on 13 August 2021 after he was being investigated - along with another man - for non-related offences.
Two dogs, including a 14-month-old bull lurcher called Toby, were seen attacking the badger on the head, throat and back, with a male voice encouraging them on.
Following an investigation, RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor, along with the charity’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) and Lancashire Police’s Ribble Valley Rural Task Force visited the defendant’s house on October 19th 2021.
The court heard how they went into the living room and saw Toby being held on a lead. The dog, who was wearing the same type of collar as that seen in the mobile phone footage, had a significant scar which ran lengthwise along almost the entire length of the top of his head.
On the left hand side of the lower jaw and surrounding area there were 22 individual scarred puncture wounds, and on the right hand side there were nine. More recent scarring and scabbing was seen underneath the dog’s left hind paw and lower leg.
Another man who was at the property with Lawlor told the officers the injuries had been sustained while out lamping and ratting.
Inspector Taylor was concerned about Toby’s welfare and he was seized by the police and taken by the RSPCA to be seen by a vet.
In her evidence to the court, inspector Taylor described the mobile phone footage. “It was filmed in the dark but two dogs can be seen attacking a badger as initially, when the recording begins, a bright light can be seen being shone on the animals,” she said.
“The footage is very difficult to watch and to listen to, it is absolutely horrific. All the way through the footage the badger can be heard screaming in pain and it is extremely distressed, with the dogs heard panting also.
“At around eight seconds, when Toby has lost interest and has left the badger, a male voice can be heard to say something like ‘here Toby, Toby get it, get it.’ The dog can then be seen joining the first dog in attacking the badger again.
“The men heard to be present during the recording made no attempt or effort to get the dogs under control and prevent them from fighting and attacking the badger.”
Her colleague, inspector Chris Haywood from the RSPCA’s special operations unit which investigates wildlife crime, also gave evidence. He said: “In my opinion, and based on previous experience, these wounds were caused by close combative contact with a badger.
“In 34 years of dealing with dogs I have never seen these types of injuries on any other breeds other than lurchers, bull lurchers and terriers and known them to be caused by any other means than by a badger.”
In his evidence, the vet who examined Toby on October 20th said the scars on his head, muzzle, throat and chest, represented skin injuries that had healed and had therefore occurred at least four weeks prior to his examination. “In my opinion, Toby would have been caused to suffer in the absence of timely and appropriate veterinary care at the time of skin injury,” he said.
“With regards to the video footage, the person present at the time the two dogs were attacking the badger failed to take reasonable steps to intervene and bring the dog under close control in order to prevent him from continuing to fight with the badger, thereby failing to protect these animals from injury, pain and suffering.”
In mitigation, the court heard that Lawlor had been a jockey who had come over from Ireland after his career had ended because of injury. He said he accepted that badger baiting was abhorrent and apologised for his actions.
Toby was cared for by the RSPCA. The whereabouts and owner of the other dog seen in the video are unknown.
Speaking after sentencing, inspector Taylor said: “This case has taken a long time to conclude but I’m pleased that both men who were involved in this case have been held to account for their actions. Illegal badger baiting causes significant pain, suffering, huge distress and even death to the animals involved, all for the enjoyment of people who take part in it and shockingly, find pleasure in such activities.
“We would urge anyone with information about incidents like this to report them to the RSPCA or their local rural crime team.”
The other man in the case, who admitted to owning Toby, was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and disqualified from keeping animals for five years in February of this year.
Lawlor admitted the following offence: That on or about June 23rd 2021 in the vicinity of Burnley or elsewhere within the jurisdiction you did injure a badger or attempt to, contrary to s.1(1) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1991.