Northern Ireland

Badger baiting accused face court

Image caption The men were charged as part of an investigation into badger baiting

Three men have appeared in court over alleged badger baiting.

The defendants are all accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a terrier dog and badger and interfering with a badger sett.

At Newtownards Magistrates Court were Graham Arthur Officer, 40, from Rose Park, Donaghadee and brothers Chris and Ryan Kirkwood, aged 21 and 19, from Island Street, east Belfast.

Another defendant did not appear in court for medical reasons.

He is Darren Millar, 39, from Rainey Way Belfast.

Ryan Kirkwood is also charged with resisting police.

The defendants spoke to say they understood the charges.

A police constable told the court this was "an extreme and disturbing case".

She added that the USPCA said it was the worst case of animal cruelty in many years.

District Judge Mark Hamill said the men were to desist from any type of hunting related activities and were warned to stick to their bail conditions which also included a 9pm to 7am curfew, and continued bail of £500.

The men were arrested by police as part of operation Meles, their investigation into badger baiting across Northern Ireland.

A number of properties were searched in the Banbridge and south Armagh areas.

The accused are to appear in court again on 8 June.