A gang of badger baiters were caught on hidden cameras using dogs on an illegal hunt for the wild animals, a court heard yesterday (Tuesday).

Christian Latcham, 32, Thomas Young, 26, Cyle Jones, 31, and Jamie Rush, 27, were filmed on two pinhole cameras worn by an undercover investigator.

A court heard the four men loaded a pick-up van with shovels and dogs to go to a "pre-areanged" location to dig for badgers in the countryside.

Prosecutor Jon Tarrant said: "There is ample evidence here that they were attempting to take a badger."

The group did not know they had been joined by the undercover journalist - known as John.

Giving evidence, the BBC journalist said Young introduced him to three other men before they set off on the hunt on March 24 last year.

He said: "The discussions were that Thomas, Christian and two other individuals were going to west Wales to a pre-designated location and that they were going to be digging for badgers."

The journalist said the men met at Latcham's House where he had a garage transformed into" kennels" - with cages and dogs.

They then set off from the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, to the Llanddewi Velfrey in Pembrokeshire.

The undercover investigator said the men discussed that they would "dig for billies/badgers" on the journey.

He said when the men arrived at a field they donned "wellies and countrywear" and put collars on the dogs to track their whereabouts.

He said: "They explained to me what would happen when they put the dogs down into the tubes, as they called it. Into the set.

"They explained about monitoring the dog in the ground."

The court heard when the dog stopped underground the men began to dig.

He said: "When it stopped I was told that was when we would dig down.

"When we dug down there wasn't anything with that dog.

"We repeated this cycle for a number of hours."

The court heard that larger dogs were brought to the holes "in readiness" to attack the badgers.

The journalist said the men had "banter" about how the dogs were performing.

They then decided to refill the holes - to stop any negative feedback from the farmer.

The court heard the men moved to a second location where the journalist spotted a badger He said: "It wasn't just me who saw it. One of the other guys saw it as well.

"They said it was probably moving from one set to another."

The court heard the journalist was "absolutely sure" it was a badger.

He said: "There were some expletives that we had missed it. Then we moved over to that area to dig."

Merthyr Tydfil magistrates sitting at Cardiff Crown Cour, heard the group carried out "extensive digging."

One hole was so deep that Latcham's head could not be seen above the ground as he stood in it.

Latcham, of Porth, Rhondda, Young, of Caerphilly, Jones, and Rush, both from Brecon, Powys, deny attempting to kill, injure or take a badger.

The men were arrested after a TV probe by BBC Wales Investigates.

The court heard "no badger was actually caught by the defendants".

The case, heard by District Judge Neil Thomas, continues.