A man has admitted illegally killing nearly 30 badgers and keeping their carcasses in freezers, write Mike Smallcombe and John Bett.

Scott Milne, 42, was charged with wilfully killing 33 badgers and possession of 37 of the dead animals, but he only admitted killing 28 - which was accepted by the prosecution.

Milne, from Bodmin, Cornwall, also admitted failing to comply with conditions of a firearm certificate, in relation to a gun found in his car.

Now Milne, a father of four, has been handed a 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Bodmin Magistrates' Court heard that Milne was arrested when police, forensics officers and firefighters raided a farm due to suspected wildlife crime and food hygiene offences.

The force swooped on a unit on an industrial estate on July 25 and spent several hours carrying out a thorough investigation.

A raid was also conducted at the same time at Milne's home address.

Alison May, prosecuting, said eight badger carcasses were found in a freezer at Milne's home.

A shotgun, two rifles and rounds of ammunition were also found inside Milne's vehicles, which were unlocked.

At the Roche industrial unit officers found 29 badger carcasses inside a number of freezer units, as well as canisters of vermin control substance which were not properly kept.

Milne, who has been operating a field sports business for the past decade, admitted killing 28 of the badgers, which had died as a result of gunshot wounds.

After examination, it was found that some of the other badger carcasses in Milne's possession had severe injuries consistent with a road traffic accident.

The court heard that Milne is licensed to shoot badgers during the cull season, but Milne admitted that the 28 badgers were shot outside of that time period.

Read more: Rise in 'persecution' of badgers in Somerset, campaigners claim

In police interview, Milne explained that his intention was to submit them during cull season for payment "to balance the books".

Defending Milne, Michael Green said: "This is an unusual case in many ways.

"Mr Milne has built up an excellent relationship with nearby farmers, who have used him to control vermin and manage estates and farms.

"For landowners to allow someone with a firearm on their land, there is an element of trust there.

"He felt a pressure to meet badger cull targets to keep his licence, which contributed to him making the stupid decision to shoot badgers outside the cull period.

"It was also a lapse of judgement not to secure the vehicle [with the firearms inside] instead of bringing everything inside.

"The impact of this on his business will be catastrophic and his family will have to make considerable changes to make ends meet.

"Everything is changing for him. He knows he will lose his firearm certificate and that will have a considerable financial impact on him having to readjust.

"He has learnt a lesson from his arrest, his interview and appearing in court. That will continue to affect him. He was taking a chance and clearly took the wrong decision."

Sentencing Milne, the chairman of the magistrates' bench told him: "We were concerned with your reckless behaviour concerning storage of firearms and the potentially serious consequences for other people around.

"Although you were licensed to cull badgers these actions were done entirely outside of any licence period."

Milne received an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay a £122 victim surcharge and £200 costs.

A deprivation order was also made in relation to the weapons and ammunition being taken away.