Three men have been jailed after WhatsApp messages revealed a string of offences against wildlife.

Matthew McWilliam Junior,  Jethro Smith and, at a later date, Harry Noble appeared at Folkestone Magistrates Court for sentencing.  All three men had previously pleaded guilty to a string of welfare offences. Daniel Frier acted on behalf of the RSPCA.

RSPCA Special Operations Unit officer Pippa Boyd said: “After investigating another individual for wildlife offences in East Anglia we found a Whatsapp chat that appeared to be a large hunting group. There were a number of messages in the group from Harry Noble.  A warrant was executed at Noble’s address in March 2019 and his phone was seized. Messages revealed comments, photos and videos related to offences against badgers and foxes. He also recorded voice notes and posted messages about his friends who he went out with for ‘a bit of a sport’ with their dogs.“In some of the videos, dogs can be seen setting upon a badger. The conversation also relates to setting the dogs on foxes and hare.”

This discovery led to three further warrants at properties in Ashford, Maidstone and New Romney, in October 2019. A total of four dogs were seized.

In July, District Judge Barron sentenced McWilliam to a total of four months in prison and disqualified him from owning any animal for life. He was deprived of his three dogs  – who will be rehomed by the RSPCA – and was ordered to pay £2,000 costs.

Smith was sentenced to four months in prison in July and was deprived of his dog. He was also disqualified from owning any animal for life and ordered to pay £4,450 costs.

Noble was sentenced in September to four months in prison and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs. He was also disqualified from keeping dogs for life.

Sergeant Darren Walshaw of Kent Police’s Rural Task Force said: “We work closely with the RSPCA on a range of animal welfare issues, providing support and evidence capture in order to assist them in securing convictions. In this instance an intelligence-led approach was taken which led to successful convictions for offences under the wildlife act. These individuals actions were not only criminal but barbaric and cruel.

We are committed to working with the RSPCA to send a message to those participating in illegal blood sports that their actions will not be tolerated.”

More information can be found in the RSPCA Newsletter. Featured in Dogs Today Magazine and Kent Live.