Huntsmen fined for digging badger sett near Chulmleigh

Seward Folland pictures during the incident by Devon Hunt Saboteurs

Seward Folland pictures during the incident by Devon Hunt Saboteurs - Credit: Devon Hunt Saboteurs

A pair of hunt followers have been ordered to pay more than £1,600 in fines and costs after being found guilty of interfering with badger setts.

Seward Folland and Nathan Bowes were trying to dig out a fox which had gone to ground in a badger sett near Chulmleigh when they were filmed blocking entrances.

They were acting as terrier men for the Eggesford Hunt and were trying to force the fox to ground through the one remaining point of exit so they could dispatch it.

The two men claimed that the sett was deserted and no longer in use but monitors from the Devon Hunt Saboteurs filmed a badger on the site later that evening.

Folland, aged 75, of Puddington near Tiverton, and Bowes, aged 26, of The Bothy Kennels, Brixworth, Northampton, denied interfering with badger setts.

They were found guilty by Deputy District Judge Roderick Hine after a trial at Exeter Magistrates Court earlier this month.

Folland was fined £200 with a £32 statutory surcharge and Bowes was fined £400 with a £40 surcharge and they were each ordered to pay £500 costs.

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The judge said their convictions were based on the grounds of 'recklessness rather than deliberate interference', and said they failed to carry out proper inspections of the setts as they were in a 'hurry to get the fox out'.

He said Bowes, who has a previous caution, took the lead role and noted that the impact of their convictions may have a more damaging effect on them than the fines.

During the two-day trial, Mr Greg Gordon, prosecuting, said four monitors from the Devon County hunt saboteurs were watching the Eggesford Hunt when they filmed the two defendants in woodland on November 24, 2019.

The two men had gone into woodland in pursuit of a fox that had been spotted during a trail hunt and which was thought to have gone to earth in an interlinked group of holes.

Mr Gordon said it is not in dispute that the footage showed them blocking the entrance of the setts with earth, debris and nets. The issue was whether the sett was active and being used by badgers.

Mr Gordon said the defendants used spades to block entrances while blocking another exit with a net.

The video filmed by the monitors showed them telling the two men they were digging into a badger sett and Folland and Bowes replying that it was not active.

Mr Gordon said motion-activated cameras picked up two badgers at the sett later that night and one 'puts his head in' before moving off.

A prosecution expert examined the scene and said the sett was in current use because bedding was removed, badger hairs were spotted and there was a strong odour at the entrance despite a severe storm a few days before.

Bowes, who was a kennel man for the Eggesford Hunt at the time, told the court he was there to 'humanely dispatch' a fox which had gone to ground.

Folland, a terrier man for the hunt with 45 years’ experience, said Bowes laid nets to 'bolt the fox in the net to be humanely destroyed'.

Mr Alex West, defending both men, said Folland had made a mistake and said the conviction for Bowes would be significant as he still works in the field of hunting.

After the case the Devon County Hunt Saboteurs released still images from their surveillance videos which showed a badger at the sett and the two men digging.

A spokesman said: “We're delighted with today's verdict; however, this conviction is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Bowes and Folland admitted to digging out foxes 2-3 times a week for the Eggesford Hunt, and it's clear for all to see that the ban on foxhunting is inadequate, and is not properly policed.

“We are calling on the police to take heed of this conviction and take allegations of hunting crimes seriously.”

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