Two men have been sentenced for being part of a gang which poached 22 pheasants from a farmer’s field.

Agroup of about a dozen people travelled in two cars with air rifles and catapults to the field at Mountnessing Hall Farm, Billericay.

Joseph Coster, 21, and James Harbour, 19, both admitted trespassing with the purpose of poaching.

Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard police officers on patrol in Mountnessing Road spotted the cars travelling in convoy at about 1.30am on October 7.

When the cars were stopped, some of the gang fled the scene. Officers called for help from the force’s dog unit which managed to track some of the group down.

When police searched the cars, they discovered dead pheasants, rifles, catapults and lamps.

The owner of the birds was not initially known, but farmer Richard Cooper came forward after police issued an appeal in the Echo, the court heard.

Harbour was accompanying his cousin and brother on the night in question.

Mark Pearson, representing Harbour, said: “He foolishly agreed to go with them and stay in the vehicle when the others went off.

“He accepts he was involved, even if he didn’t shoot any of the animals.”

Lauren Jennings, representing Coster, said: “He accepts his stupidity and the inconvenience caused to the landowner.

“He felt sick when he watched it and regretted being there.”

Harbour, of Pound Lane, North Benfleet, was ordered to do 60 hours of unpaid work.

Coster, of Symonds Lane, Maidstone, has been given a curfew from 8pm to 6am for 12 weeks and must wear an electronic tag.

Both defendants were ordered to pay £180 each in compensation and costs.