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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Carlisle badger-arrest gang claim they had fox

Three Carlisle men have accused two police officers of not knowing the difference between a fox and a badger.

Badger photo
A badger

The men were all convicted at the city’s magistrates’ court in May of illegally taking a live badger – a protected species – from a wood.

But yesterday they launched an appeal against that conviction, saying the animal seen by the two police officers was not a badger, but a fox.

If they fail in their appeal they are likely to be ordered to serve the prison sentences imposed by the lower court.

Shaun Dixon, 25, of Atkinson Crescent, Carlisle, and Anthony Paul Dowell, 24, of Tramside Way, are both facing a 140-day sentence. Nathan Moorhead, 18, of Ridgemount Road, near Petteril Bank Road, Carlisle, would go to prison for 60 days.

The sentences were imposed by District Judge Gerald Chalk following a trial at the magistrates’ court, but they were put on hold as soon as the men lodged their appeals against the conviction.

Yesterday a crown court judge, sitting with two independent magistrates, heard the evidence afresh to decide whether the animal the police officers saw was indeed a badger.

They heard that the three men were stopped in a van at Burthwaite, near Carlisle, on September 20 last year.

As the van came to a halt the door opened and a net containing the animal was thrown out.

The animal ran away.

The police – both trained wildlife officers – swore it was a badger. But the men insisted it was a fox, with Dixon saying he was going to release it somewhere else after catching it in the wood.

The men were arrested after police looked inside the van and found a rucksack containing nets and wooden stakes, a spade which had fresh soil on it, a box and two terrier-type dogs.

In evidence yesterday both sides called expert witnesses to help settle the argument.

For the prosecution consultant ecologist Mervyn Anthony said badgers could be brown and white or brown and red – as described by the police officers, as well as the more traditional black and white.

Steven Lomax, a vet called by the defence, said they couldn’t. He said almost all badgers were either black or grey and white.

The court’s decision was being made later today.

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