26
Feb
15

£1K reward for info on buzzard found with horrific leg injuries

Sledmere buzzard1 Jan 2015A reward of £1,000 has been offered to anyone with information about a buzzard which was found with horrific leg injuries.

The bird was found, alive, on 21st January 2015 on the Sledmere Estate in Yorkshire. One of its feet was missing, causing Humberside Police and the RSPB to suspect it was a victim of illegal trapping.

The leg damage was so severe the buzzard had to be euthanised.

Bob Elliot, RSPB’s Head of Investigations said: “Setting spring traps in the open is a criminal practice, which harms birds of prey in the most horrible way. These devices are the raptor equivalent of a land mine – deadly and indiscriminate. I would urge anyone with information about this incident to contact the police immediately“.

This bird was initially taken to Jean Thorpe’s Ryedale Rescue facility – we recently blogged about Jean’s work (here) and mentioned that she was fundraising to help support her efforts in this raptor persecution blackspot – you can still donate HERE.

RSPB press release here

ITV news article here

Sledmere buzzard2 Jan 2015

23
Feb
15

Scottish Government launches poisons disposal scheme

PoisonThe Scottish Government has today launched it’s promised ‘pesticides disposal scheme’ – a free service allowing those who are still in possession of these banned substances an opportunity to get rid of them without fear of consequence.

This scheme was initiated by former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse whilst he was still in office.

We have mixed views about the scheme.

On the one hand, it’s a proactive approach to rid Scotland of highly toxic substances that are still being used, illegally, with devastating effect on some of our raptor species, notably golden eagles, red kites, peregrines and buzzards. Only yesterday we blogged about the latest victim  -a poisoned peregrine found on a grouse moor (see here).

On the other hand, many of these poisons have been banned for years, and even being in possession of them has been an offence since 2005 (Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005), so why, ten years later, are the criminals who are still in possession of these poisons being given yet another opportunity to escape justice?

The bigger concern of these two views undoubtedly has to be that these poisons need to be removed, and that concern outweighs the lesser concern that the criminals won’t be punished, so from that perspective we welcome the new scheme.

However, what we want (expect) to see as a result of the scheme is that anybody caught with these poisons after the scheme has ended MUST be given a more serious sentence for their crime. We fully expect that even after this scheme has ended, there will still be substantial amounts of these poisons being held illegally. Why? Because the criminals who hold and use these poisons have been doing so for a long, long time, despite the legislation and despite previous amnesties, because they know there’s a good chance that they’ll get away with it. And for those who do get caught, the penalty is usually so ineffectual that the risk was worth taking anyway. Those people, when caught, must feel the full force of the law and not some pathetic fine or community service order – nothing less than a mandatory custodial sentence will do.

It’s not clear for how long the free disposal scheme will run, other than a quote from the current Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, that the scheme will be “short-lived”.

Those wishing to dispose of their banned poisons via this scheme can do so without fear of prosecution, and without their personal details being given to the authorities. The Government will be collecting data about the uptake of the scheme, but these data will be limited to the type and number of poisons handed in, the cost of the scheme, and only the first three letters of the postcode from where the poisons have been collected.

As this is a free and confidential service, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for anyone to still be in possession of these poisons by the time the scheme ends. Mind you, it’s been that way for the past decade and yet….

Scottish Government press release here

Details about how to use the free disposal service here

Frequently Asked Questions about the scheme here

A list of the poisons that will be accepted by the scheme and a description of what they look like and some common generic names here

22
Feb
15

Poisoned peregrine found on Scottish grouse moor

A poisoned peregrine has been found on a grouse moor in Stirlingshire, resulting in a police raid last Friday (20th Feb).

Incredibly, Police Scotland issued a press statement immediately after the raid. The speed of this publicity and their willingness to inform the public about this crime is warmly welcomed.

Here’s what the press release said:

Today Police Scotland executed search warrants on a shooting estate in the Stirling area after a Peregrine Falcon was found to have been poisoned by the banned pesticide Carbofuran.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said:

“In July 2014, a member of the public contacted police to report a dead Red Kite on the same estate. Subsequent investigation revealed this bird was also poisoned with the same banned pesticide. There was no release of information to the general public at this time for operational reasons”.

“It is evident that an ongoing and intentional effort to poison wildlife is occurring at this location and we will be working closely with the relevant partners and using all investigative techniques at our disposal to identify the offender(s) and bring them to justice”.

“We would appeal to anyone who has knowledge of these incidents, or this type of criminality, to contact us and give any information that would assist us. We all have a duty to protect the environment and it is imperative these criminals are caught”.

“Information can be given by contacting 101 or by calling crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Information will be treated in the strictest confidence if required”.

END

All quite interesting, especially as they have now revealed this poisoned peregrine was found on the same estate where a poisoned red kite was found dead last July. We blogged about that kite here and here, as we wondered why Police Scotland hadn’t publicised this crime and why SNH hadn’t yet enforced a General Licence restriction on this estate. With the discovery of this latest poisoning victim, we’ll be looking closely to see if, and how quickly, SNH now responds.

Peregrine photo: Martin Eager

20
Feb
15

New report a ‘damning indictment’ of wildlife crime enforcement in Scotland

Natural Injustice 1 Feb 2015 cover - CopyA report published today by Scottish Environment LINK has been described as a “damning indictment” of the failure to effectively tackle wildlife crime in Scotland.

The report, ‘Natural Injustice: A review of the enforcement of wildlife protection legislation in Scotland’ will make for uncomfortable reading by those responsible for addressing wildlife crime, including the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Crown Office.

The report examines the experiences of LINK member organisations who have been involved in reporting wildlife crimes and tracks the progress of 148 confirmed crimes that were reported to the Police over a six-year period (2008-2013). The crimes included the persecution of badgers, raptors, bats and freshwater pearl mussels – four of the stated national wildlife crime priorities.

The report’s findings are indeed damning. Here is an overview, lifted from the Executive Summary:

Main Findings

  1. The four areas of wildlife crime are under-recorded and the standard of information that is recorded is generally inconsistently collected which limits its usefulness. This is highlighted by the significant discrepancies between the annual crime figures produced by the wildlife NGOs and those produced by the Scottish Government.
  2. There is an urgent need to re-examine the recording systems in use, not only to increase public confidence in the Scottish Government’s figures but also to provide a more accurate evaluation of the extent of wildlife crime.
  3. Of the 148 confirmed wildlife crimes reported to the police during 2008-2013, 98 (66.2%) are known to have resulted in a follow-up investigation.
  4. At least 27 wildlife crimes (18.2%) did not result in a follow-up investigation and were effectively ignored. It is feasible that as many as one third of reported incidents were un-investigated.
  5. The failure to conduct a follow-up investigation was not limited to one particular region but occurred in five of eight regions.
  6. Of the follow-up investigations that did occur, LINK respondents considered just over one third (35.1%) to have been conducted satisfactorily. Criticisms included delayed police response times (sometimes as long as several months from the initial incident report) leading to the disappearance of evidence, delays exacerbated by un-trained police wildlife crime officers and a lack of seriousness with which senior police officers treat wildlife crime, failure to apply for search warrants, failure to conduct covert searches, poorly-targeted and/or restricted search efforts, the premature disposal of evidence prior to toxicology examination and a chronic failure to communicate with partner agencies either as a result of police under-resourcing and/or politically-motivated deliberate exclusion policies.
  7. Of the 148 confirmed wildlife crimes, only 20 (13.5%) resulted in a prosecution.
  8. A minimum of at least 111 crimes (75%) failed to result in a prosecution. The failure rate was consistent across all regions.
  9. In some instances the failure to prosecute was recognised as a result of the innate problems associated with investigating crime in remote areas, but in many cases the cause of failure was inextricably linked to a poor follow-up investigation.
  10. Twenty of the confirmed wildlife crimes (13.5%) are known to have reached the prosecution stage and of those, 15 are known to have resulted in a conviction. This figure should be viewed as a minimum as several cases are currently on-going and thus the number of known convictions may increase.
  11. Many of the sentences were at the lower end of the scale and penalties issued for similar crimes appear to have been applied inconsistently.
  12. Overall, but with a few noticeable exceptions, there is, amongst LINK members, an overwhelming lack of confidence in the ability of the statutory agencies to adequately investigate wildlife crime and in the willingness of the judiciary to impose meaningful deterrent sentences.

END

The report includes three case studies which amount to a devastating catalogue of incompetence. The Appendices are even more damning, detailing the personal experiences of LINK members. Here are a few examples:

The first of six instances on this estate but not followed up until three years later”.

Took a very long time for police to report to Crown Office. No progress on second individual found in possession of illegal poisons”.

Failure to follow-up suspect’s admission that he had laid out poisoned baits”.

Police made appointment with suspect to search his sheds!!

Delay in warrant despite ongoing killing. Insufficient attempts to get full picture of evidence. Premature disposal of evidence by police prior to toxicology analyses”.

Estate employees were invited to participate in the search! Police also took their word that perpetrators likely to be neighbours, despite long history of persecution here”.

No further enquiry despite estate’s history of wildlife crime. Police insisted on no publicity”.

Despite many previous offences at locus, police considered an active search of vehicles to be disproportionate”.

Police were contacted but without seeing the carcass refused to attend as they considered it to be too decomposed. Partner agency attended the scene a few days later but carcass had disappeared”.

No follow up and when I asked about it the WCO admitted he had forgotten about it”.

The report’s findings have been supported by 17 LINK environmental NGOs, including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, WWF Scotland, Scottish Badgers, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wild Land Group, Scottish Raptor Study Group and the John Muir Trust.

LINK has also published a second report, outlining 20 recommendations for improvement.

We’ll be blogging more about these reports later and will be paying close attention to the public responses of the usual suspects. We’ll also be interested to hear Environment Minister Aileen McLeod’s thoughts.

Download Natural-Injustice-paper1-FINAL

Download Natural-Injustice-paper2-FINAL

Media coverage

BBC News here (includes quotes from COPFS, Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association).

STV here (including quote from Police Scotland)

Herald here

19
Feb
15

National Gamekeepers’ Org linked to another convicted wildlife criminal

NGO auction catalogue 2014 front cover - CopyRegular blog readers may recall us writing previously about the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation’s unwillingness to expel a member who had been convicted of poison offences (see here).

We found this interesting, especially as the NGO is an organisational member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW UK) – supposedly committed to helping tackle wildlife crime. Refusing to expel a member with a criminal conviction for, er, wildlife crime, should surely have resulted in PAW UK booting them off the Partnership? Apparently not – the NGO is still there.

And now we have evidence of the NGO’s connection with another convicted wildlife criminal – Michael Wood. We blogged about Michael Wood yesterday – he’s the pheasant/partridge/duck breeder in North Yorkshire who was found guilty of permitting the use of a banned pole trap at his breeding facility – Westfield Farm. In fact, a total of FIVE pole traps had been found there, but two of Wood’s employees escaped a criminal trial because North Yorks Police decided their crimes only merited a police caution.

Thanks to some investigative work by one of our blog readers (Marco McGinty), it turns out that the NGO accepted a fundraising donation from Michael Wood for their 2014 auction. Now, Wood hadn’t been convicted of the pole-trapping offence at that time, but he had been convicted, along with his company Yorks Sports Ltd., of seven offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act in 2011 – these offences related to the unlawful release of thousands of pheasants (for shooting) which caused ‘significant damage’ to a noted conservation area in the Farndale valley (see here). So why did the NGO accept a fundraising donation from him in 2014?

NGO auction catalogue 2014 Mike Wood donation - Copy

Not only that, but as we mentioned yesterday, the NGO’s PR and political advisor, Charles Nodder, is also the Game Farmers’ Association’s contact for media and political enquiries. The current Chair of the Game Farmers’ Association is…..Michael Wood.

And let’s not forget the NGO’s recent attack on another PAW UK partner organisation – the RSPB (see here).

Isn’t it time the PAW UK Steering Group is asked to justify the continued membership of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation as a partner member of PAW UK? Let’s ask them. Emails will have to be sent to the PAW UK Secretariat and ask for your message to be forwarded to the Steering Group. Emails to: paw.secretariat@defra.gsi.gov.uk  We’ll be very interested to hear what the Steering Group has to say.

18
Feb
15

Game farm owner convicted of pole trap offence

Michael Wood Westfield Game Farm - CopyA two-day trial concluded at Scarborough Magistrates yesterday with the conviction of game farm owner Michael Wood, who was found guilty of permitting a pole trap last June.

Wood owns Westfield Farm in Cropton, North Yorkshire – a pheasant and partridge and duck breeding facility that supplies young birds to the game-shooting industry.

RSPB investigators found five pole traps placed around the rearing pens last summer. These traps are so barbaric they were outlawed over 100 years ago. They are basically a steel spring trap placed on top of a post (and usually nailed to the post with a short chain) so when a raptor lands on it, the trap crushes the bird’s legs and the bird is left dangling upside down for a prolonged and agonising death. Unbelievably, two farm workers were just given police cautions last year for setting these traps – why weren’t they prosecuted?

Wood was seen by the RSPB Investigations Team driving past one of the pole traps. His defence argued that he hadn’t seen it, but the magistrates didn’t believe him and said it was “inconceivable” that he wouldn’t have seen it.

Wood was fined £4,000, and ordered to pay £750 court costs as well as a £120 victim surcharge, amounting to a grand total of £4,870.

Great work by the RSPB Investigations Team (again).

Full details of this case can be read in the RSPB’s press release here

This isn’t Wood’s first conviction. In 2011, Wood and Yorks Sports Ltd (of which Wood was a Director) pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act after defying official warnings and releasing thousands of pheasants (for shooting) on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) when they’d only been given consent to release 500 birds. It was argued the birds had caused ‘significant damage’ to the conservation area. Wood and Yorks Sports Ltd were fined £20,000 each, plus a £15 victim surcharge, plus £125,000 between them towards the prosecutions costs. They also had to pay a £145,000 defence bill. (News article here).

Interestingly, it has been reported (by a media court reporter) that Wood is the Chairman of the Game Farmers’ Association [“Representing the UK’s game farmers and promoting high standards“] although we haven’t been able to find any supportive evidence of his Chairmanship. What we did find on the GFA’s website, though, is that their contact for ‘media and political enquiries’ is one Charles Nodder. Who he? Why, he’s the PR and political adviser of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation. Let’s make a ‘media enquiry’ and ask him whether Wood is the Chair of the GFA, or if not whether he’s simply a member, and if so, whether he’ll be kicked out of the club, and if he isn’t kicked out of the club whether Noddy intends to continue working for an organisation whose membership includes someone convicted of wildlife crime. Emails to: cnodder@msn.com

UPDATE: Looks like someone called Mike Wood is indeed involved with the GFA – helping out on their stand at the CLA Game Fair in 2013. There’s also a charming pic of Noddy meeting Owen Paterson to discuss the GFA’s rearing guide. Read here.

Here’s one of the five pole traps found at Westfield Farm (photo RSPB).

Pole trap 1 of 5 westfield game farm RSPB

 Here’s a graphic example of what can happen when a buzzard lands on a pole trap (NB: this photo was not taken at Westfield Farm).

BZ pole trap c - Copy

17
Feb
15

Masked gunmen caught on camera attacking goshawk nest in Cairngorms National Park

goshawkPolice Scotland and the RSPB have released video footage showing a gang of masked gunmen attacking a goshawk nest in the Cairngorms National Park.

The gunmen, wearing balaclavas, were filmed on a secret camera set up to monitor the nest site on Forestry Commission Scotland land at Glen Nochty, Strathdon. They made at least four visits to the nest tree – 14th May 2014 at 10.26hrs and again at 20.08hrs, and 15th May 2014 at 09.11hrs and again at 20.01hrs.

The video has been released in an appeal for information – nine months after the crimes were committed.

You can watch it here.

Interestingly, this FCS forest is very close to the boundaries of three grouse moor estates. Now, it’s not apparent from the video whether the criminals are gamekeepers (hard to tell when they wear balaclavas) but we’ll take an educated guess that it isn’t a gang of District Nurses having a bit of recreational downtime in between home visits, out for a little spot of armed trespass, dressed up in camouflage and firing bullets at the nest of a protected species. A species that just happens to be hated by those involved with game-bird shooting.

Media coverage:

BBC news (with a quote from Environment Minister Aileen McLeod) here

RSPB Scotland press statement here

There’s actually been a great deal of media coverage, which is excellent, including P&J, Daily Record, STV News, and the video was broadcast on Reporting Scotland. Strangely, no publicity from the SGA….

Amusingly, this shocking video footage coincides with a campaign currently being run by the Countryside Alliance who are lobbying for police to ‘unmask’ hunt sabs. In the longer term, they also want the next Government to review the law around wearing balaclavas. You can read their campaign notes here – and they really are worth a few minutes of your time. The Countryside Alliance should be careful what they wish for – there’ll be a lot of gamekeepers who won’t be happy if they’re banned from covering their faces while committing their crimes (see recent convictions of balaclava-wearing criminal gamekeepers such as George Mutch and Glenn Brown).

Countryside Alliance masked thugs - Copy




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 835 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 1,263,433 hits

our recent blog visitors