DNA evidence used to prosecute badger-baiter

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas. Publicado en News in English.

Dog involved in badger baiting Thanks to crucial DNA evidence and forensic experts, a Lancashire man has been found guilty of attempting to take a badger and banned from keeping dogs for one year, banned from driving for six months, ordered to complete 200 hours' community service and pay £1,000 in costs.
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Thanks to crucial DNA evidence and forensic experts, a Lancashire man has been found guilty of attempting to take a badger and banned from keeping dogs for one year, banned from driving for six months, ordered to complete 200 hours' community service and pay £1,000 in costs.

The conviction was secured after vital DNA evidence was heard by Cannock Magistrates' Court, including work by a forensic expert who had previously worked on the Soham murders case.

Magistrates found Tony Billington, 37, from Bamber Bridge, near Preston, guilty of attempting to take a badger after the court heard how RSPCA inspectors discovered fresh diggings and a trail of blood across a field in Wetwood, Stafford.

Billington's vehicle had been spotted at the scene and his home was searched. Two soil-covered spades - one with a badger hair attached - and a blood-stained rag were discovered in his vehicle.

Forensic expert Pat Wiltshire, who worked on the Soham case, helped match pollen from the fields to that found on the spades. Another expert, Dr Duncan Pirrie, matched soil found on the spade to the field in Staffordshire, and found a badger hair in soil taken from one of the spades, which was sent to Bangor University for DNA testing.

James Hawkes, defending, stated that Billington admitted being involved in badger-baiting.

District Judge Derek French, said: "You have provided an implausible explanation as to why, living in Preston, you should drive for two hours to an obscure field in Staffordshire to go rabbiting."

RSPCA Inspector Ian Briggs, said: "In the past it's always been difficult to prosecute these types of cases unless people are caught in the act. With new DNA evidence and other forensic techniques available now we are able to track down the culprits and place them at the scene. This is a ground-breaking case where we have secured a badger-baiting conviction by using soil and pollen testing. It's an exciting development."

Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 it is illegal to interfere with a badger sett. The maximum sentence is six months' imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.

photo © RSPCA