FOUR men have been prosecuted for poaching in East Lancashire as part of a newly-launched crackdown.

Michael Singleton, Aaron Philpott, George Liddell and Jonathan Sullivan were snared by one of Rural Watch’s first successes.

The four were spotted trespassing on the Whitemoor Estate at Foulridge by estate manager Malcolm Cook - their vehicle aroused his suspicions and he alerted police.

They were caught hunting with dogs on the land and arrested.

All appeared before Burnley magistrates and were hit with fines after being convicted of trespassing on the estate in search of game or wildfowl.

Singleton, 26, of Glenroy Avenue, Colne, was fined £225 with £300 costs for two offences, Philpott, 29, of Varley Street Colne, was fined £200 with £300 costs for one charge.

Liddell, 31, of Brownroyd, Earby, was fined £150 with £300 costsl for one offence and Sullivan, of Sherwood Close, Nelson, was convicted in his absence on one charge. He was later brought before the court and also fined £110 with £125 costs.

Speaking after the case, Pc Mark Dibb, who has taken over as wildlife officer for the division, said: “This case shows how well the scheme can work, when members of the rural community are our eyes and ears.”

The officer has also secured the services of a new Land Rover, with the support of Lomeshaye-based garage Hillendale.

Pc Dibb has been visiting some of the most remote locations in East Lancs, to deliver warning signs to farms and other rural properties, and the vehicle will prove to be a lifeline.

“The vehicle has allowed us to access the more inaccesbile rural properties and target the remote areas which have previously suffered from criminal activity,” he added.

Under Rural Watch, members are passed information about suspicious activity via texts or e-mails and can then warn other villagers or nearby residents.