Anti-badger cull protester, Jay Tiernan, has been handed a six-month suspended jail sentence and faces legals costs of £25,000 after harassing West Country farmers in defiance of a High Court order.
Passing sentence judge, Sir David Eady, said the campaigner had to pay the price for his “deliberate and defiant” contempts of court.
Mr Tiernan, described as a representative of the Coalition of Badger Action Groups, was found guilty of nine breaches of the court order and ordered to pay the NFU’s £25,000 legal costs on a punitive basis.
But the judge did not send Mr Tiernan straight to jail, commenting that he had apologised and although his actions had been distressing for the farmers involved, they had not involved violence or damage to property.
“The evidence shows that some of this behaviour has been nasty, frightening and vile and that running throughout it is a theme of cocking a snook at the law and evading the injunction.” Christina Michalos, NFU
The NFU said farmers had been left in fear by Mr Tiernan, who was bitterly opposed to the badger cull in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire.
He had harassed one farmer by filming him and posting the video on YouTube, had trespassed on another’s land and had picketed near the NFU’s Taunton offices.
Christina Michalos, for the NFU, told the judge: “It is submitted that his disregard for the court’s orders is insolent, wilful and serious.”
Mr Tiernan, the barrister claimed, had on one occasion acted as “a self-appointed vigilante”.
The injunction was granted to the NFU against protest groups in August 2013 after the government sanctioned culls in a bid to stop the spread of bovine TB.
The union described a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” being waged against those involved in the cull, including the targeting of farmers in a bid to get them to withdraw their land from “cull zone”.
Ms Michalos said: “The primary concern of the NFU is to prevent the harassment of farmers and those involved in the badger cull scheme.
“The evidence shows that some of this behaviour has been nasty, frightening and vile and that running throughout it is a theme of cocking a snook at the law and evading the injunction.”
She said some of those involved in the cull had been followed along country lanes and some had discovered trackers fitted to their vehicles, while others had received abusive text messages.
After the injunction was issued in October last year, a camouflage-clad Mr Tiernan filmed a Taunton farmer shortly after he had shot and killed a badger, and then uploaded the video to YouTube, the court heard.
On September 17, he trespassed on to private farmland in Minehead, Somerset, where he again carried out filming and blew a whistle with the intention of disturbing badgers so they would flee the cull zone.
He also picketed within 25m of the NFU’s Taunton offices on the same day and failed to post a copy of the High Court order on websites where other protesters would see it.
Sir David Eady said all nine allegations of contempt levelled against Mr Tiernan by the NFU had been proved.
A contrite Mr Tiernan apologised to the court and said he also wanted to say sorry to the NFU and one of the farmers targeted.
Despite having very limited income and resources, he told the judge: “I am prepared to make any reparation that I can make”.
Imposing the suspended sentence, the judge said: “The breaches do not involve violence or damage to property and Mr Tiernan has apologised.
“However, the breaches were clearly deliberate and defiant of the court order at the time…the offences certainly seem to reach the custodial threshold”.
Mr Tiernan was ordered to pay the NFU’s legal costs on the punitive “indemnity” basis.