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Evidence of Illegal Activity

This page gives a summary of the things you need to be aware of, if you are looking for evidence of illegal activity in relation to badgers. It is a general advice page to help you understand what counts as evidence (and it is not a definitive statement of the law).

Importantly, if the evidence will be used for a court case, it must be collected in very strict accordance with well-understood legal guidelines. These guidelines will be understood by your local Police officers, by the Badger Trust, by your local badger group or a reputable solicitor who has good recent experience of wildlife-related crime.

Remember

People who commit badger-related crime are criminals - who may also have convictions for violence, money-laundering, drugs or vehicle-related crime.

Never attempt to tackle suspected culprits. Also be aware that some criminals may use "high-tech" equipment, such as night-vision systems, which may allow them to see you well before you can see them.

Instead of taking personal risks, carefully take details of their vehicles and pass these on to the Police. Remember that these vehicles may have false or disguised licence plates, so note vehicle types, colours, distinguishing marks and so on.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, Look after yourself to look after the badgers.

Main Offence of "Interfering with a Badger sett"

This may include one or more of the following actions:

  • By damaging the sett or part thereof
  • By destroying the sett
  • By obstructing access to any entrance to the sett
  • By causing a dog to enter to enter the sett
  • By disturbing a badger when it is occupying a sett

What is a "Badger Sett"?

One way in which solicitors try to get people "off" the charge of interfering with a badger sett, is to argue that it isn't a sett or that badgers aren't using it. Accordingly, it needs to be proved that the area in which interference took place was a badger sett.

Accordingly, you will need evidence to prove that the sett is occupied. This may include:

  • Find an expert and examine the sett
  • Find if there are any observations of the sett before and after the incident
  • Consult the records of local Badger Groups and Wildlife Trusts
  • Look for recent signs of badgers:
    • paths
    • bedding
    • paw prints
    • latrines
    • scratching posts
    • badger hair
    • badgers' diggings
  • Ask the expert to check for signs of foxes or rabbits

As a caring person you might think something is obvious to you, but the solicitor or barrister acting for the defendant will look for absolutely anything to get their client off or for anything which can raise enough doubt in the mind of a magistrate, judge or jury to get them off.

Remember too that one particular firm of solicitors "specialise" in trying to get those people accused of badger-baiting found not guilty; so they will know and use every rule in the book to try and get an acquittal. Don't some people earn a living in a grubby way?

What happens at "the scene"?

At the Scene:
  • Try to observe the actions of the men andtheir dogs.

  • See what types of dogs they are using, and examine them for injuries. If appropriate arrange for the Police to take the dogs into Police possession.

  • Do not tamper with sett, but observe the extent of the digging.
  • Look for and arrange for the Police to take into possession any equipment. Given the fact that DNA evidence may well be used in court, it is VITAL that equipment is seized before they are allowed to clean it.
  • Locate any cars or vans, and arrange for the Police to search them and to take them into Police possession.
  • Be aware that the power to arrest suspects comes mainly from the:
    a) Cruelty to or abandonment of dogs (1911 Animals Act)
    b) General Arrest Provisions (Section 25 PACE 1984)

Crime Scenes

Just like on all the famous murder cases, the defendant will try and argue that any forensic evidence which ties him to the scene of a crime was caused by "contamination".

You need to be exceptionally careful not to contaminate the scene.

Too many people at the sett can damage evidence of the suspect's footprints, hair/fur, blood, spades and digging tools, radio tracking equipment, dog collars and muzzles, chains, sacks, gloves, and so on.

Forensics

Modern forensic techniques (such as DNA analysis) may be used to show that a single badger hair in a defendants van or on his clothing or elsewhere has actually come from a badger.

As a prosecutor, you would argue that this proves the badger was present in the defendants van or he had contact with the badger, which proves an offence took place.

His defence might be that the hair was introduced by a "sloppy" approach to the crime scene when a local badger watcher examined the van with a police officer; and badger hair from the badger experts jacket fell on to the seat of the vehicle.

On particularly clever prosecution showed that a defendants dog had been in the sett; and that it had a mass of badger hair in its stomach. As the DNA of the badger hair in the stomach, matched the DNA of the badger at the sett, this proved that the dog must have been in contact with that badger. The defendant was convicted and banned from keeping dogs for a number of years.

Digital Techniques

Modern digital cameras are often used by badger watchers to get really good high-quality pictures/videos of badgers in relatively poor light. Whilst such pictures may be very interesting and informative; they may not be inadmissible as "proper" evidence - unless it can be shown that the pictures have not and could not have been tampered with! This is the same logic by which all those modern speed cameras have to be loaded with a cassette of traditional film every time they are used to catch speeding motorists.

In terms of gathering admissible evidence, "old-fashioned" traditional cameras which use film may well be the better option for court purposes.

That said, if the only camera you have is a digital one, then DO use it; as there is a chance that some good might come from the pictures. Even if the evidence can't be used in court, it may prove vitally important to the Police who may find it exceptionally useful to track down the offender.

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