Two men have been sentenced to immediate custody by a judge who has described their wildlife crimes as “medieval barbarity” with one incident caught on video showing a baby badger being skinned alive.

Ryan Harrison (d.o.b 08/07/1994) of Masefield Road, Caldicot, pleaded guilty to 15 offences and Thomas Young (d.o.b 16/12/1992) of East Pentwyn, Blaina, pleaded guilty to six offences at Merthyr Magistrates’ Court today (21 June). These offences came under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, the Deer Act 1991 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and involved cruelty to badgers, deer and boar.

Harrison and Young pleaded guilty to six joint offences in that they did wilfully kill, injure or take a badger on four different occasions, that in the Forest of Dean they attempted to take or kill a deer and also in the Forest of Dean they caused unnecessary suffering to a boar by causing it to be attacked by dogs and by stabbing the animal with a knife.

Harrison also pleaded guilty to another nine offences in that he attempted to take or kill a deer, that he attempted to wilfully kill, injure or take a badger on two occasions, that he caused unnecessary suffering to a terrier dog called Ted by failing to obtain professional veterinary care for injuries to the dog’s lip and chin, that he caused unnecessary suffering to a terrier by failing to obtain professional veterinary care for injuries to the dog’s chin area, that he caused unnecessary suffering to a boar by causing the said animal to be attacked by dogs and by stabbing the said animal with a knife, that he caused unnecessary suffering to terrier called Brock by failing to obtain professional veterinary care for injuries to the dog’s neck area and two other charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a boar, by causing the animal to be attacked by dogs.

Harrison was sentenced to 22 weeks of immediate custody, was given a lifetime ban on keeping dogs, a deprivation order was made on the dogs seized as part of this case along with all the equipment and paraphernalia seized, and was handed a two-year driving ban. Young was sentenced to 20 weeks of immediate custody, was given a lifetime ban on keeping dogs and handed a two-year driving ban.

Another man, Cyle Jones (d.o.b 09/11/1987) of Cwrt Tarrell, Newgate Street, Brecon, also appeared at the court after pleading guilty to two animal welfare charges. They were that he caused unnecessary suffering to a Patterdale terrier by failing to provide professional veterinary care regarding the dog’s injuries and also caused unnecessary suffering to a black and white female bull Lurcher by failing to provide professional veterinary care regarding the dog’s injuries. He was sentenced to 18 weeks custody, was ordered to forfeit all the dogs that had been seized as part of the case, given a lifetime ban on keeping dogs and given a two-year driving ban.

Back in the early part of 2018 BBC Wales conducted an undercover investigation into organised badger digging in Wales to produce a programme called The Secret World of Badger Baiters which was broadcast on 22 May 2018.

Individuals involved in the BBC’s undercover investigation were identified when the programme was broadcast – those being Young, Harrison and Jones – and warrants were subsequently executed at the addresses of those individuals.

A phone seized from Harrison contained numerous videos, text messages and images depicting hunting and animal cruelty offences. Video clips alone amounted to 447 with the majority of the material extreme in its nature.

The animal cruelty footage showed wildlife being killed, dogs with extensive injuries from being used to hunt animals, the voice of Harrison was heard and there were videos and pictures showing Young.

The RSPCA special operations unit also were able to view footage obtained by the BBC. One particular horrific incident involved a baby badger which had been skinned alive by dogs. The badger’s skin was split down the middle and pulled back from the body. The badger is discarded and the terrier re-entered into the sett. Shortly after the baby badger is seen to be still alive and is killed by Young hitting it with a shovel (31st March BBC footage).

Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “The RSPCA’s special operations unit has to investigate some truly gruesome acts on animals. But the prolific nature of these horrific crimes are some of the worst I – and my inspectors – have ever had the displeasure of witnessing.

“This barbaric, deliberate and calculated torture has caused wildlife and dogs to suffer immeasurably, solely for the sadistic pleasure of a handful of depraved individuals.

“BBC Wales’ initial work on this case was very important, and firmly in the public interest – paving the way for the RSPCA to undertake this investigation and bring these perpetrators to justice.

“Sadly, people who enjoy inflicting such pain and suffering on wildlife continue to offend in Wales. The RSPCA will not rest in bringing people like these to justice.

“As well as BBC Wales, we’d also like to thank the police forces who assisted us on this case – Gwent Police, South Wales Police, Dyfed Powys and Gloucestershire Police.”