A FARMER has been convicted of aiding and abetting a farm worker to interfere with a badger sett.

Work carried out with a tractor-mounted flailing hedge cutter had a dramatic effect on the entrances to the sett on an embankment next to the coastal path at Tan Lan, Gronant, a court heard.

The location is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Steven Leverett, 41, of Ty’n y Morfa, Gwespyr, tenant farmer of the land, denied the charge but was convicted at Flintshire Magistrates’ Court at Mold.

He said he had no idea there were badgers there and said he had asked an experienced contractor simply to trim back the trees and hawthorns and not to create the mess that he later found there.

But he was convicted after magistrates concluded the damage was caused recklessly, rather than intentionally, and that he knew the badgers were there.

He was given a three-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £800 costs.

Prosecutor, Andrew Warman, said there was an active badger sett on the embankment where trees and brambles had been cut back in January. As a result there was clear damage to the badger sett.

He claimed it was unrealistic for Leverett to claim he did not know that there were badgers at the location.

Leverett, he said, had attended a meeting in February 2009 attended by coastal rangers, badger experts, representatives of the Countryside Council for Wales and the landowner’s agent to discuss a screen hedge and fencing to protect wildlife from walkers on the coastal path.

There was then a site meeting where breaks in the hedge to allow access for machinery and stock were discussed to avoid disturbing the badgers.

North Wales Police wildlife officer Sergeant Rob Taylor took a series of photographs which showed an entire badger tunnel had collapsed.

Leverett said he had never seen a badger there and while badgers had been spoken about in general terms he had no idea that there were badgers on the embankment.

He had asked the contractor to cut back the trees and brambles but the work had got out of control and it did look a mess.

In evidence, he said he would not have wanted them cut back to the extent they were, because they provided good shelter for the cattle.

Leverett told his barrister Michael Whitty that he was very disappointed at the work that had been carried out.

After the trial, Sergeant Taylor said that the hard flailing of the hawthorns had a massive impact on the sett.

“It was not proved that he had done it deliberately but the reckless nature of the cutting back had damaged the sett.