A POLICEMAN has taken on the responsibility as the lead of a national badger protection group.

Inspector Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police agreed to take on the high-profile role in the national Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group, which has been set up to reduce the number of instances of 'badger persecution' and 'badger baiting.'

In his new role, Insp Kelly is expected to take charge of the group, which is part of the UK's National Wildlife Crime Unit.

He will be responsible for raising awareness, improve the investigation process and improve reporting of badger-related crimes.

According to police, badger persecution is one of the six national wildlife crime priorities.

The 'priority' covers badger baiting and also the disturbance or destruction of badger-made tunnels (setts).

Insp Kelly said: “It’s a great responsibility to take over as plan owner for the Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group. Let me be clear from the start that I’m here to make a difference.

"I want to encourage partnership working, which is something I have a real belief in. Since 2013 there have been more than 30 convictions for badger crime in the UK, which just goes to show the hard work already going on nationwide in this area, and I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved in the delivery group over that time.

"Here in North Yorkshire, we are leading the way in improving how wildlife crimes like badger persecution are dealt with.

"In recent years we have had some high-profile convictions for badger persecution, including in February 2019, a man who failed to check a snare which led to a badger death, and in May 2018, a man who carried out forestry work at an active badger sett.”

Insp Kelly's appointment into his role comes after five men were handed a six-month jail term for using dogs to attack a sett in East Yorkshire.

The men were prosecuted under the criminal act of badger persecution.

He added: "Badger baiting involves the digging out and killing of badgers in their sets. Both the dogs and the badgers suffer severe, often fatal, injuries. It’s a barbaric crime – there’s no other word for it. There’s no place for this crime in our country, and I’m determined to put a stop to it. By working together with partners, and encouraging people to report these crimes, we can do just that."

Members of the public witnessing instances of badger baiting or badger persecution are advised to contact police on 101.