A FARMER and former magistrate has been fined for trapping and shooting a badger which dug up his garden.
The RSPCA yesterday warned people against killing the animals after dairy farmer and former High Sheriff of Dyfed Richard Harold James, 77, caught the badger in a self-locking snare near his Pembrokeshire home and blasted it to death at close range with a shotgun.
The ex-JP was given fines and costs totalling almost £3,000 by Swansea Magistrates yesterday for killing a protected animal and using a snare to trap it.
He shot the animal twice near his home at Home Farm on the Stackpole Estate in Pembrokeshire just before last Christmas.
James then threw the animal onto a slope leading on to National Trust land.
It was witnessed by National Trust worker David Jarman who works on land near Home Farm. He went back to his office and called in the RSPCA.
James, former chairman of the Clynderwen and Cardigan Farmers Co-Operative, later told an RSPCA inspector who questioned him about the killing: “What about the damage badgers cause us?”
John Tarrant, prosecuting, said the RSPCA brought the case because it felt not to have prosecuted would have diminished legislation protecting badgers irrespective of the Welsh Assembly Government’s planned cull of the creatures in West Wales in an attempt to eradicate bovine TB.
And after the case, RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “We hope this case will send the message that killing badgers without a licence is illegal.
“The Welsh Assembly Government may be pursuing a cull under special measures in its bid to prevent bovine TB but the fact is badgers are still protected by law and unlicensed killing of them will lead to court.
“Do not take the law into your own hands.”
Tim Hayden, (corr) defending, said his client had no previous convictions, had co-operated fully with the RSPCA and had an impeccable record of distinguished public service in West Wales.
He produced photographs of the defendant’s garden and described the damaged caused by the badger as “extensive and messy”.
He added: “There had been a problem for some time which he had tried to address using an electric fence and sonic devices none of which worked.
“He felt if such damage was being caused to his property that he could, and he accepts now he was in error, take action in this way.”
He said James shot the badger twice because he wanted to make sure he was killing it humanely.
Mr Hayden told magistrates: “Whichever side you are on, the Welsh Assembly Government has decided to take action to eradicate a large proportion of badgers in the county where the defendant lives by first trapping then shooting them.
“I think that is something the court should bear in mind when coming to its sentence.”
Mr Hayden then asked the court to consider a conditional or absolute discharge.
But the magistrates imposed the full amount of costs £1,461.21 (including two vets’ post mortem examinations) and fined James £1,000 for killing a protected animal and £500 for using a snare to trap it.
Mr Hogben said afterwards the near £3,000 total was a clear signal to anyone tempted to unlawfully kill badgers that the courts would take the matter “very seriously”.
After hearing that James got £3,000 a month from his role as consultant in his family dairy farming concern, the magistrates gave him 28 days to pay the £2,961.21 fines and costs. Mr Hogben added: “Our advice to people who have trouble with badgers digging in their garden is first to consult with a local badger group.
“There are badger proof fences that can be used or various sonic devices and one method is to feed badgers so they will not bother digging in to a garden to get worms or other food.”