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'Killer' badger diggers targeted

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29 June 2009 - BBC News

The RSPCA has said it will continue to gather evidence and prosecute men who dig out badgers and kill them. It follows the convictions last week of two men for badger digging and other offences. They will be sentenced next month by magistrates at Shrewsbury.

An RSPCA inspector secretly filmed the men, from Lancashire and north Wales, digging at a sett near Whitchurch. The video evidence was described as vital to the bringing the case to court and securing convictions.

Gerard Monk, 27, of Millbrook Close, Wheelton, Lancashire and 37-year-old Paul Billington of Llyndir Lane, Rossett, near Wrexham, north Wales, denied the offences, but were convicted after a two-day trial.

The charity is crediting the use of new forensic techniques and the increased use of covert filming for the increase in convictions.

DNA kits which can be used at suspected crime scenes also help to identify different animals much more quickly.

Ch Insp Ian Briggs of the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit said he was delighted that the two men had been convicted at Shrewsbury Crown Court last week. "The operation behind this case took some eight months in total, a lot of time, a lot of man hours and a lot of effort by the RSPCA." he said. He said officers had been watching one of the men in his home area in Lancashire. Information had led them to a badgers' sett at Pond Wood, near Ashford Grange Farm at Whitchurch.

An undercover inspector filmed the men as they dug into the sett. They left when they realised the were being filmed, but were arrested later.

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