ONE man has been jailed and three others given suspended prison sentences after they were caught badger baiting in North Yorkshire.

All four have also been banned from the keeping dogs for five years and the three not locked up were banned from the county for a year.

They were among a group of men who had travelled from Hartlepool to a badger sett near Hovingham which they started digging up on January 11.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said they put an underweight Jagd terrier with an untreated eye infection and painful eye ulcers into the sett.

But a member of the public spotted what they were doing and alerted police.

By the time officers arrived the dog, called Brock, was seriously injured on its face and muzzle.

It has been treated by vets and will be rehomed.

Clint Dodd, 23, Michael Dodd, 28, both of Thornhill Gardens, Hartlepool, Daniel Joyce, 29, of Granville Hartlepool and Connor Pounder, 23, of Speeding Drive, Hartlepool, all admitted digging for badgers, interfering with a badger sett and causing unnecessary suffering to Brock.

Michael Dodd, who was already subject to a suspended prison sentence for driving whilst disqualified, was jailed for 14 weeks.

The other three were given a 10-week suspended prison sentence at Scarborough Magistrates Court.

A fifth defendant, Shaun Brown, 28, of Runciman Road, Hartlepool, failed to attend court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Inspector Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police and Head of the national Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group said: "I hope this sentencing result sends a clear message that badger persecution will not be tolerated. You interfere with badger sets, you receive a custodial sentence – it’s as simple as that."

“This case has been led by one of North Yorkshire Police’s new Wildlife Crime Officers, PC Rory Sadler and it’s great to see such a positive result.

I’d also like to praise the actions of the member of the public who reported the sett disturbance. It’s really important that people are vigilant to wildlife crime and we start working on our legacy now to develop the next generation.”

RSPCA Inspector and National Wildlife Officer Coordinator, Geoff Edmond, said: “The RSPCA works very closely with North Yorkshire Police to achieve best practice when investigating rural and wildlife crime.

"Significant results are now being seen in the courts. This case sends a strong message that crimes like this involving cruelty to badgers and injuries to the dogs involved will be investigated and dealt with seriously at court.

"Badger related crime is horrific, unnecessary and will not be tolerated."