A CARLISLE man who used a shovel to "bludgeon" a badger before tossing the terrified animal to his dog has been jailed.

The horrific badger baiting incident near to Aglionby was conducted primarily by  28-year-old Dale Rickerby, but he was assisted by his older brother Michael James Rickerby, 32, who was given a suspended jail term.

The brothers, of Warnell Drive, Harraby, denied any wrongdoing, claiming the badger attacked Michael Rickerby’s bull lurcher Bronson, which suffered painful facial injuries as the terrified animal fought for its life.

The Rickerby brothers denied the offence despite evidence that they had dug a deep hole to give their dog access to the badger in its sett.

During an all-day trial at the city’s Rickergate court, RSPCA prosecutor Steven Marsh described how police were able to identify the brothers after the badger was killed in the Holme Lane area of Aglionby on October 15 last year.

Tracking devices were used by those involved so that the location of the dogs underground could be pinpointed prior to holes being dug.

Dale Rickerby claimed he and his brother were in the area “legally” hunting for rabbits when they happened to see the badger, which he claimed attacked their bull lurcher. He said he used the shovel on the badger to “protect” his dog.

But the trial heard from witnesses which supported the prosecution case that the men were involved in 'digging out' the badger from the sett where it was living. Both men were convicted of illegally and wilfully killing the animal.

Dale Rickerby was also convicted of two additional offences, committed on the same day and in the same place.

The first of these was causing 'unnecessary suffering' to a protected animal, namely the bull lurcher type dog called Bronson by setting it on to the badger; while the second offence was failing to ensure the welfare of the dog.

He did this, the court heard, by failing to take reasonable steps to protect the dog from pain, suffering and injury in its encounters with other animals.

Defence lawyer Clive Rees, representing the defendants, said both were fathers to young children and both represented a “low risk” of reoffending. “Nobody could say that this was not deliberate,” conceded the lawyer.

He pointed out that neither man had any similar offending in their past. The lawyer told District Judge John Temperley that Michael Rickerby was being supported in court by a neighbour, who was battling against cancer.

The defendant offered daily help and support to his neighbour, said Mr Rees. “There’s another side to this defendant,” added the lawyer.

Passing sentence, District Judge Temperley first addressed Dale Rickerby, telling him: “You will remember that at the conclusion of the trial I found that you were primarily responsible, not only for the death of the badger; but also for the significant injury caused to your own dog Bronson.”

When the badger had emerged from the “man-made” hole that exposed its sett, Dale Rickerby “bludgeoned it over the head with the spade,” said the judge. The defendant then tossed the dazed animal to the dogs.

The judge said a background Probation Service report showed clearly that Dale Rickerby did not accept the court’s guilty verdict.

The judge jailed the defendant for 20 weeks. He also imposed an order transferring ownership of Bronson to the RSPCA.

Dale Rickerby will be banned from owning or looking after any animal for five years. When released, he must pay £500 prosecution costs.

Turning to Michael Rickerby, the judge said he had “encouraged and aided” his brother, with this including him driving another member of the group away from the scene with some of the dogs they had brought.

The judge imposed 12 weeks jail, suspended for a year. Michael Rickerby must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,000 prosecution costs. He was banned from owning or caring for any dog for five years.

Members of the defendants’ family were in court to support them.

After the trial, RSPCA inspector Ian Muttitt, from the charity’s northern Special Operations Unit, said both the dog and the badger suffered horrifically. “The dog was significantly injured; basically, the skin from the bottom of its jaw was ripped off,” he said.

“But police spotted the two males in the car quickly and luckily the dog was taken to the vets straight away and treated. It’s made a full recovery. But often they don’t receive veterinary treatment.”