Llanberis man guilty of interfering with badger sett

35-year-old John Riley, from Llanberis, has pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett, and has been fined a pitiful £242 at Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court. He must also pay prosecution costs of £400.

Riley had previously pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea ahead of trial. He was charged with sett interference “by causing a dog to enter it with intent or being reckless”. The incident took place on 10 April 2023.

Such a lenient sentence will hardly deter Riley from targeting Britain’s wildlife again. And this news is yet another stark reminder that the UK’s badgers are the most persecuted of animals.

Targeted on all fronts

Despite being one of the UK’s most iconic animals, badgers are never safe in their setts. They are targeted from multiple angles by various different people with a bloodlust for killing them.

Protect the Wild’s Glen Black previously wrote:

“Interfering with and blocking badger setts is illegal under both the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and Hunting Act 2004. Nonetheless, they are still frequently targeted. In the case of hunting, terriermen will frequently block sett entrances to stop a fox attempting to protect itself by hiding inside the sett. However, setts are blocked and interfered with for other equally grim pastimes such as badger baiting.”

There’s been a resurgence in badger baiting in recent years, and unfortunately Protect the Wild regularly reports on this disgusting blood ‘sport’. Badger baiting is where men send terriers – usually fitted with GPS collars – down a sett to find a badger and attack her, either to draw her out or hold her at bay. Once the badger is cornered by a dog, men use spades to dig the poor animal out. The men then set their dogs on the badger, who will suffer a slow and agonising death as she is ripped up. Sometimes the badger isn’t killed, and is sold to underground baiting rings.

In December 2023 we reported on Scottish gamekeeper Ryan Martin, who was convicted on 5 December of causing unnecessary suffering to three dogs under his care and of keeping or training dogs for the purposes of animal fights. He set his dogs on foxes and badgers, filming the attacks to make money. He was also given a pitiful sentence: 175 hours of unpaid work and a ban from keeping animals.

An SSPCA investigator said of the sentencing:

“No animal deserves to be injured or killed in the name of sport, or left to die a slow painful death. Without a custodial sentence, our fear is that Martin, and others who are involved in animal fighting, won’t stop offending.”

In October 2023, 23-year-old ex-jockey Brandon Lawlor was jailed for eight weeks, after being found guilty of badger baiting in a prosecution brought by the RSPCA. Footage found on his phone was described as “absolutely horrific” by the charity.

RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor described the footage to the court. Taylor said:

“All the way through the footage the badger can be heard screaming in pain and it is extremely distressed, with the dogs heard panting also. At around eight seconds, when [dog] Toby has lost interest and has left the badger, a male voice can be heard to say something like ‘here Toby, Toby get it, get it.’ The dog can then be seen joining the first dog in attacking the badger again.”

We have reported on numerous more incidents of cruelty to badgers before this, such as the brothers who bludgeoned a badger to death with a spade.

Activists outside NFU annual conference in Birmingham, Feb 2024. Protect the Wild

State-sanctioned slaughter

You might think that because badgers are, in theory, protected under the Protection of Badgers Act, our police, justice system and government might try harder to keep them safe. But the current government has overseen the mass killing of England’s badgers through a decade-long badger cull initially launched as a four-year trial. Under this murderous government policy, 70% of badger populations have been shot in different ‘cull zones’ throughout England. The reason? To combat bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cows. But anyone with sense will realise that to combat bTB, farmers and the government need to look at the effects of industrial farming and poor biosecurity rather than scapegoating badgers.

So far, at least 220,000 of England’s badgers have been legally killed in this state-sanctioned slaughter. And under new rules that are set to be brought in, we are likely to see the legalisation of the murder of 100% of badgers in specific areas of England from 2026.

  • With a government all too willing to annihilate the badger population, and with a court system that hands the most paltry sentences to those who illegally kill them or send dogs into their homes to terrorise them, the fate of the UK’s badgers looks very bleak.



  • Learn more about the crimes against badgers, and how to Recognise, Record, and Report them, at our Protectors page Badgers and the Law