A FATHER and son are facing jail after being convicted of using dogs for badger baiting.

John Murray, 56, and his son John junior, 33, bred vicious terriers in the back gardens of their neighbouring homes.

They trained the dogs for fighting before using them for badger baiting, the illegal blood sport in which dogs are pitched against badgers dug from their setts.

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The pair were convicted after a 10-day trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court following an investigation by the Scottish SPCA.

The animal welfare charity began a probe after the Murrays were spotted acting suspiciously with dogs on a hillside in February 2012.

Officers swooped on their homes in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, and removed a number of items believed to be related to badger-baiting, including dogs, shovels and metal cages used to catch animals.

During the trial the court heard from an expert witness from the SSPCA, Mark Rafferty, who said that the dogs removed from the house had injuries likely to have occurred in fights with badgers.

The court also heard evidence from Murray junior's ex-wife Michelle Ralton, 29, who said the pair had trained dogs to hunt by blooding them from a young age.

She also identified the Murrays in a photograph, taken by a reserve manager who had spotted them while out walking, on a hillside standing around a hole.

She told the court: "These dogs were bred in that way so they would kill. They were not pets. They would let the pups get a taste of blood and that was part of their training.

"If a dog wasn't what they liked, then they would bring in other dogs who were better and breed them to get what they wanted out of the dogs.

"The dogs were kept for digging badgers. They would put the dogs down the holes until the dog got to what was in the hole and whatever was in the hole was fair game. If the dog didn't kill it then they would."

She added: "When they came back they would tell stories and talk to each other about what had happened."

In defence of the pair, a younger brother and son, Kevin Murray, gave evidence and said that on the day the pair were seen on the hillside near Lanark he was at home with his father who was ill.

However, depute fiscal Kate Fleming said there was enough evidence to convict the pair of the charges.

She said: "The evidence of Michelle Ralton gave a positive identification of the two on the hillside. Further evidence proved that the shovels and cages removed from the property are items used in activities such as badger baiting."

Defence lawyers Sandy Morrison and Andy Thompson both argued that there was not enough evidence to convict their clients.

However, Sheriff Douglas Brown disagreed and found the pair guilty of three charges under the Protection of Badgers Act.

He deferred sentence until next month and will also consider a motion by prosecutors to seize the pairs' six dogs and ban them from keeping dogs.

SSPCA Deputy Chief Superintendent Tom Gatherer said: "We are pleased Murray snr and Murray jnr have been found guilty following our investigation.

"Badger baiting is a serious offence and the court will now decide on the appropriate sentence."