Court trial begins for anti badger cull activist

A protester has appeared in court accused of flouting an injunction designed to protect farmers involved in the badger cull.

The injunction was obtained by the NFU in 2013 when the badger culling trials began in Somerset and Gloucester.

In court on 15 December the NFU claimed that activist, Jay Tiernan of the Coalition of Badger Action Groups, had shown a  “wilful and serious” disregard for the injunction order.

Urging the judge Sir David Eady to impose a deterrent punishment on Mr Tiernan, lawyers for the union claimed 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, added: “It is submitted that his disregard for the court’s orders is insolent, wilful and serious.”

Mr Tiernan, who represented himself in court, is fighting the union’s claims, arguing that his actions were reasonable and that he had not breached the order. The injunction was granted to the NFU against protest groups at the High Court in August last year 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 zones”.

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, Mr Tiernan filmed a Taunton farmer shortly after he had shot and killed a badger, and then uploaded the video to YouTube, Ms Michalos told the court.

While the activist does not deny doing this, he says he did so because the badger had not been “bagged and tagged” in accordance with “best practice guidelines” set out in the culling licence.

However, the farmer said he did not immediately bag the body because the protester was present and he believed it safest to do it elsewhere.

Ms Michalos argued it was not up to Mr Tiernan to act as a “self-appointed vigilante” and that he must have known his presence was not wanted and that he was “harassing” the farmer.

The union alleges further breaches took place on 17 September this year, claiming Mr Tiernan trespassed on 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.

It also says he picketed within 25m of the NFU’s Taunton offices on the same day and that he should have posted a copy of the High Court order on websites where other protesters would see them – allegations which Mr Tiernan staunchly denies.

Addressing Sir David on the issue of what sentence Mr Tiernan should receive, Ms Michalos said punishing him would set an example to other protesters opposed to the cull.

She added: “As to the need to secure future compliance, the issue here is not merely the conduct of Mr Tiernan, who has indicated by his conduct that he has no intention of obeying the injunction.

“There is a wider issue of widespread flouting of the order and harassment of farmers, landowners, occupiers and cull participants.

“It is important that any sentence of this court indicates that compliance with a court order is not optional.”

Sir David has now reserved his decision on the case until a later date.


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