Police found eight dead badgers in a father-of-four’s home freezer and another 28 carcasses stuffed in refrigeration units in an industrial unit, a court has heard.
Scott Milne was arrested when police, forensics officers and firefighters raided a farm as part of an investigation into suspected wildlife crime and food hygiene offences.
Officers swooped on a unit on an industrial estate in the Roche area, near Bodmin, Cornwall, on July 25 and spent several hours carrying out a thorough investigation in conjunction with Cornwall Council, Natural England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, reports CornwallLive .
A raid was also conducted at the same time at Milne’s home address.
As a result Milne, 42, of Helland, Bodmin, was charged with wilfully killing 33 badgers, possession of 37 dead badgers and failing to comply with conditions of a firearm certificate (not storing firearms securely).
He appeared at Bodmin Magistrates’ Court on November 7 facing three charges.
Milne pleaded guilty to all three charges, although admitted killing only 28 badgers, which was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Alison May, prosecuting, said eight badger carcasses were found in a freezer at Milne’s home. A shotgun, two rifles and rounds of ammunition were also found inside Milne’s vehicles, which were unlocked.
At the Roche industrial unit officers found 29 badger carcasses inside a number of freezer units, as well as canisters of vermin control substance which were not properly kept, leading to the involvement of firefighters in the operation.
Milne, who has been operating a field sports business for the past decade, admitted killing 28 of the badgers, which had died as a result of gunshot wounds.
After examination, it was found that some of the other badger carcasses in Milne’s possession had severe injuries consistent with a road traffic accident.
The court heard that Milne is licensed to shoot badgers during the cull season, but Milne admitted that the 28 badgers were shot outside of that time period, when he was not acting under his licence.
“Balance the books”
In police interview, Milne explained that his intention was to submit them during cull season for payment “to balance the books”.
Defending Milne, Michael Green said: “This is an unusual case in many ways. Mr Milne has built up an excellent relationship with nearby farmers, who have used him to control vermin and manage estates and farms.
“For landowners to allow someone with a firearm on their land, there is an element of trust there.
“He felt a pressure to meet badger cull targets to keep his licence, which contributed to him making the stupid decision to shoot badgers outside the cull period.
“It was also a lapse of judgement not to secure the vehicle [with the firearms inside] instead of bringing everything inside.
“The impact of this on his business will be catastrophic and his family will have to make considerable changes to make ends meet.
“Everything is changing for him. He knows he will lose his firearm certificate and that will have a considerable financial impact on him having to readjust.
“He has learnt a lesson from his arrest, his interview and appearing in court. That will continue to affect him. He was taking a chance and clearly took the wrong decision.”
What the judge said
Sentencing Milne, the chairman of the magistrates’ bench told him: “We were concerned with your reckless behaviour concerning storage of firearms and the potentially serious consequences for other people around.
“Although you were licensed to cull badgers these actions were done entirely outside of nay licence period.”
Milne received an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
He must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay a £122 victim surcharge and £200 costs.
A deprivation order was also made in relation to the weapons and ammunition being taken away.