A MAN from Darlington has been jailed for causing ‘horrific and abhorrent’ suffering by forcing cockerels to fight each other.

William Henry Welch, 29, pleaded guilty to what police described as ‘one of the worst examples of cruelty’ they had ever seen and jailed for 20 weeks - hailed as a landmark sentence.

After a tip-off, RSPCA and police officers found 27 live birds, many of them bleeding from the body and head, after attending premises at Skutterskelfe, near Stokesley, North Yorkshire, as well as mobile phone footage with ‘sickening’ scenes.

Welch appeared before Harrogate Magistrates Court on charges of causing an animal fight to take place, keeping animals for fighting, and being present at an animal fight on three occasions in December 2017 and January 2018.

Jailing Welch, magistrates told him: “You put your own recreational needs before the welfare of your animals, in the most horrific and abhorrent circumstances.”

The RSPCA provided expert evidence about the condition of the birds and arranged for their safe storage and ongoing care.

During the enquiry, an examination was carried out on a mobile phone recovered from Welch, which revealed he was present at a number of other cockfights, on 19 December 2017 and 4 January 2018.

Investigators described the extremely graphic video footage on the phone as “sickening”.

Welch was sentenced to 20 weeks in jail, disqualified from keeping all animals for 20 years, and ordered to pay a total of £2,000 costs. Co-defendant William Chates, 53, of Darlington, pleaded guilty to being present at an animal fight. He was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from keeping all animals for ten year.”