28
Jun
17

GWCT back-pedalling on hen harrier cull idea

So, further to our last blog about the GWCT calling for a ‘limited cull’ of hen harriers in response to the news that hen harriers have sunk further in to decline, the GWCT is now saying (on Twitter) that we have deliberately misrepresented their position and that they are NOT calling for a cull of hen harriers.

Let’s just be clear here. If we have misrepresented their views (and we don’t believe we have – see below), then it certainly wasn’t done intentionally. We’re not in that game, unlike the GWCT who are the masters of misrepresentation (e.g. see here for just one of many examples).

The GWCT argues that we “spliced together” two parts of their statement “to misrepresent our position“. It is fair comment to say we spliced together two parts – we did. But not to misrepresent the GWCT’s position – it was because we believed they were specifically referring to hen harriers in both parts of their statement.

If we were deliberately trying to misrepresent the views of the GWCT, why would we have published their entire press statement? We published it for precisely the reason NOT to misrepresent – it’s there for all our blog readers to view and to make up their own minds. Judging by the public reaction both here and on social media, we’re not the only ones who thought the GWCT was advocating a ‘limited cull’ of hen harriers.

So why did we think they WERE advocating a hen harrier cull? Well, it’s mostly down to one paragraph:

Dr Adam Smith said: “We need an adaptive approach whereby agreements are reached between landowners and government, allowing sustainable numbers of both raptors and prey to be achieved. We welcome Defra’s plan to study how to regulate the impacts of harriers on grouse in a non-lethal trial in the interests of both species. This is overseen by Natural England and supported by many organisations including the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, who first suggested licensed control in 1998. Grants, intra-guild effects, limited culls, target predator densities and other mechanisms should be used in this way to serve the long-term interest of raptors as well as game species and other wildlife.

In this paragraph, the GWCT are specifically discussing the management of hen harriers. They talk about DEFRA’s (ridiculous) Hen Harrier Action Plan, and in the same sentence mention that the GWCT  “first suggested licensed control in 1998“. The sentence that immediately follows is where they advocate, amongst other things, “limited culls“. In our opinion, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that they were still talking about hen harriers, especially as we know that the GWCT has previously advocated a hen harrier cull (see here).

When GWCT said on Twitter that they were NOT advocating a hen harrier cull, we asked them for which raptor species they WERE advocating a cull. They responded by saying they weren’t advocating a cull of any raptor species, but claimed, “The line refers to possible research into effects of raven population on wading birds. The line refers to all wildlife, not just raptors“.

We’ll leave the reader to decide whether this was a case of genuinely mistaken misinterpretation (on our part) of a poorly-articulated  GWCT press statement, or whether this is the GWCT furiously back-pedalling in the face of a public backlash to their long-standing calls for a hen harrier cull.

The rest of our original blog remains unchallenged by GWCT (the bit about there being an over-abundance of red grouse and a lamentable lack of hen harriers) and all this argument about whether they currently want to cull or not is acting as a nice distraction from the REAL issue, which is the continued illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors.

28
Jun
17

GWCT responds to hen harrier decline with calls for a ‘limited cull’

This is just astonishing.

Following this morning’s news that the UK’s hen harrier population has descended further in to decline, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has published the following response:

The GWCT says the results of the national hen harrier survey indicate that balance in moorland conservation and management in the UK is needed more than ever.

Many birds of prey have now largely recovered their numbers, with buzzards, sparrowhawks and ravens commonplace species. Such a full recovery of numbers and range is not the case for all birds of prey. Though the hen harrier has increased in range and number from a few pairs on Scottish islands in the early 20th century to the estimated 545 pairs in 2016, there is still work to do on their conservation.

This ground-nesting species is attracted to grouse moors where gamekeepers manage the heather, the fox numbers, and provide plenty of young grouse for them to eat. The GWCT’s research has shown a cyclical relationship between harriers and keeping. With plenty food and protection from foxes, harrier numbers can increase. If predators eat too many grouse chicks, the grouse moor becomes unproductive, making the moor redundant. Without gamekeepers there is less food, heather or fox control, so the harrier population cycles down again. Declines and rises in harrier numbers are not always linked to grouse management.

The GWCT believes the UK’s objective must be to enhance the community of raptors in the country as a whole. In some species this will need improvements in food supply or nest protection. In other places reducing the predation pressure by raptors, including hen harriers, on wildlife using the most satisfactorily humane methods will encourage their protection and conservation.

Dr Adam Smith said: “We need an adaptive approach whereby agreements are reached between landowners and government, allowing sustainable numbers of both raptors and prey to be achieved. We welcome Defra’s plan to study how to regulate the impacts of harriers on grouse in a non-lethal trial in the interests of both species. This is overseen by Natural England and supported by many organisations including the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, who first suggested licensed control in 1998. Grants, intra-guild effects, limited culls, target predator densities and other mechanisms should be used in this way to serve the long-term interest of raptors as well as game species and other wildlife.

“The GWCT condemns crimes against wildlife. We are committed to finding an effective and practical resolution to the conflict between red grouse and raptors. Wildlife crime only serves to delay a satisfactory resolution of the conflict.”

ENDS

Are they for real?

Here we have the news that in England in 2016 there were just four territorial pairs of hen harriers (resulting in just three successful breeding attempts, none of which occurred on a driven grouse moor), where there is the potential for over 300 pairs.

Compare that with the unsustainable, artificially-high density of red grouse produced on driven grouse moors (this density is between 10-100 times higher than the ‘natural’ density), and you’ve got GWCT talking about the “need to reduce the predation pressure by raptors, including hen harriers” which could be achieved by, amongst other things, “limited culls“?

What?!! Without resorting to a torrent of swear words, we’re actually lost for words. Actually, the magnitude of what they’re proposing deserves a swear word. What the actual fuck? As has been said over and over again, if a business model relies on the removal of a protected native species, it isn’t environmentally sustainable. If that business model has practically eradicated, illegally, that protected native species, the business deserves to be closed down.

GWCT are right in that “a balance in moorland conservation and management is needed more than ever” but the idea of culling a species that is just about to fall off the precipice in to breeding extinction, thanks to systematic illegal persecution, is insane.

Balance on the UK moorlands will only be restored if (a) the illegal persecution stops and (b) the clamour for ever-increasing bag sizes (# of grouse shot) stops.

UPDATE 3pm: GWCT back-pedalling on hen harrier cull idea (see here)

28
Jun
17

National hen harrier survey reveals further decline

Press release from RSPB Scotland:

Hen harrier numbers have fallen by 9% in Scotland since 2010, according to the latest national survey of these birds, with the total population now estimated to be less than 500 breeding pairs.

The fifth national hen harrier survey was carried out in 2016 by the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Raptor Study Group, along with a range of other UK partners, and covered the whole of the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.

In Scotland the results revealed a drop in breeding pairs to only 460, compared with 505 pairs from the previous survey in 2010. The UK population is now estimated at 545 breeding pairs.

This is the second successive decline in the Scottish hen harrier population revealed by national surveys, signalling a worrying trend. In the longer term, over the last 12 years, the number of breeding pairs has dropped by 27% in Scotland.

Known for their majestic skydancing ritual, hen harriers are one of the most threatened birds of prey in the country. Independent research has identified illegal killing as one of the main constraints on this species, along with a changing climate and the loss of heather moorland and other suitable nesting habitat to commercial afforestation and overgrazing.

Scotland is still a major stronghold for hen harriers, with 80% of the UK population. However, having a breeding population of fewer than 1000 birds makes this species vulnerable to the effects of habitat degradation and, in some areas, wildlife crime. The west Highlands continue to provide a home for the majority of Scotland’s breeding harriers (estimated 175 breeding pairs), while Orkney and the Hebrides were the only areas of the country to show a slight increase in the number of these birds.

According to the survey, similar hen harrier declines have been witnessed in all other parts of the UK as well. In England, these birds are on the brink of extinction as a breeding species, with the population falling from 12 pairs in 2010 to only four pairs last year. Meanwhile, Wales saw the number of pairs fall by more than a third over the past six years, from 57 to 35, and Northern Ireland recorded only 46 pairs in 2016 compared with 59 in 2010.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “The hen harrier is an indicator of the health of our upland environment, and the fact that its population continues to decline is of major concern. The hen harrier is a high priority for our conservation work and urgent steps need to be taken to tackle illegal killing of this species and to improve their moorland breeding habitats.”

Eileen Stuart, SNH’s Head of Policy & Advice, said: “While Scotland remains the stronghold for hen harriers in the UK, the continuing decline is a serious concern particularly the low numbers found in parts of the mainland. We’re committed to continuing to work with a wide range of partners to tackle wildlife crime through PAW Scotland, including initiatives such as Heads up for Harriers, and General Licence restrictions where evidence supports such action. Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland have set up a joint Raptor Working Group to identify and promote the opportunities of forestry for raptors, including hen harriers, to sustainably deliver Scottish Government environmental and forestry policy.”

Wendy Mattingley, from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, said: “There is a very concerning trend of a long term decline in the number of breeding hen harriers in Scotland. For the population to begin to recover and expand over all suitable habitat, the intensively managed grouse moors of east and south Scotland must produce successful breeding hen harriers again. The hen harrier is a wonderful spectacular raptor and more action must be taken to ensure that its future is secure.”

Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “Scotland is still the UK stronghold for the hen harriers by a huge margin. However, it is disappointing to see any indication of decline in Scotland – and much larger drops in Wales and Northern Ireland – even though the decline is regarded by the survey team as statistically insignificant. Harrier breeding fluctuates annually for many reasons – not all associated with wildlife crime. For example, 2016 was a poor year largely due to low vole numbers in Scotland with weather and predation shown to have played their part.  Fifteen of our members, covering an area of 325,000 acres, will be working with the Heads Up for Harriers project again this year to better to understand the reasons for poor harrier breeding and to help rebuild the harrier population.”

Simon Wotton, lead author of the study, said: “This survey required a monumental effort from a number of different funders, organisations and volunteers – without their help, dedication and expertise we wouldn’t be able to build up this accurate picture of these magnificent birds of prey. We hope these results will convince everyone in a position to help hen harriers to take positive steps to ensure their protection and rebuild the country’s population for people to enjoy for generations to come.”

Ends

If there’s anybody still wondering why approximately 2,000 pairs of hen harriers are ‘missing’ in the UK uplands, here’s a short yet instructive video which explains everything:

And let’s not forget, just two weeks ago Tim (Kim) Baynes of Scottish Land & Estates claimed that illegal persecution of hen harriers was an “historical controversy” and that “a better idea of current numbers [of hen harriers] will emerge when the results of the 2016 UK harrier population survey are published, but the overall picture is expected to be broadly the same in Scotland“ (here).

We’re thinking of changing his name to Duplicitous Tim.

27
Jun
17

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate – police appeal for info

Police Scotland are appealing for information after the shooting of a short-eared owl was witnessed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate, South Lanarkshire.

According to this article in the Carluke Gazette, the shooting was witnessed about 11.45am on 31 May 2017 (ironically, the day Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to clamp down on the illegal persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors).

Photo of a short-eared owl by Jamie MacArthur

The suspect/culprit is described by Police as “being small or medium build, driving a black 4×4 type vehicle with a dark canopy on it. The vehicle thereafter drove off to the B7040 Elvanfoot Road“.

Witnesses are sought, and those with information are urged to call Police Scotland 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Well done Police Scotland for getting this news out and not sitting on it for three years. More of this, please.

The location given is the same as described in an earlier Police appeal for information following the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier earlier in May 2017 (see earlier blogs here and here).

Here’s a map of the Leadhills Estate (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes neighbouring Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland).

And here is a map showing the B7040 Elvanfoot Road, which runs right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate:

We’ve blogged extensively about this estate (see here) and we’d particularly encourage new readers to have a look at the very long list of raptor persecution crimes recorded (49 incidents [now 50] recorded over the last 14 years see here). There have only ever been two convictions of estate gamekeepers.

We’ll be blogging more about this place shortly.

In the meantime, we need to see an immediate response from the Scottish Government. On 31 May 2017 the Cabinet Secretary told the world that the Government would “Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern“.

Has that been done? What are the legal measures available, and when will they be implemented?

25
Jun
17

Game shoot licensing discussed on BBC’s Landward programme today

Today’s edition of the BBC’s Landward programme had a small feature on proposals for the introduction of game shoot licensing, including contributions from Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland) and Lord David Johnstone (Scottish Land & Estates).

It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days (Episode 12, starts at 17 mins – here).

We’ve reproduced the full transcript:

Presenter, Euan Mcllwraith: “The majestic golden eagle, soaring above Scottish hills. It’s an iconic image of wild Scotland. But a Government report has found that almost a third of all golden eagles which have been tracked by satellite died in mysterious circumstances, and the majority of those cases were found on land which is managed for grouse shooting. And the demise of the golden eagles has kick-started a re-examination of the way that game shooting is managed.

Game shooting is a major contributor to the Scottish rural economy and supports jobs in rural areas. But the field sport relies on there being a large population of grouse to shoot. The report’s findings led Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham to propose an inquiry in to whether or not shooting estates should need a licence to operate.

But why would a licence protect eagles? Well at the moment, if a gamekeeper for example was caught killing a bird of prey, he might be prosecuted and in extreme cases be sent to jail, but the estate would still be allowed to carry on doing business. But the threat of a removal of a licence to operate could prove a more effective deterrent.

The proposal has delighted some groups and horrified others.

With me now are Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland and David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates.

Duncan, from your point of view, what’s the attraction of a licence, ‘cos there’s a lot of penalties at the moment, if a keeper gets convicted he goes to jail. Why a licence?”

Duncan Orr-Ewing: “Well, we very much welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s statement that she will look at options including a licensing system. The reason we support a licensing system is because we believe it will raise standards in the grouse moor sector in particular, which has a whole range of problems that have been highlighted in recent years and we think there is a need to reflect the public interest”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “David, from your point of view, you’re not in favour of licences. Why is that?”

David Johnstone: “There’s a number of reasons within that. There’s the SNH report that came out showing licensing going on around Europe, it clearly demonstrated that licensing, wildlife crime still exists in parts of Europe where licensing also takes place. But also we don’t think that it will actually be effective, we think that there are better ways of doing it that will lead to the higher standards that Duncan was talking about, creating good working relationships between ourselves and other stakeholders within, especially the Government”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “But is it not quite simple? If a nightclub has a licence, they break the rules, they go out of business. If a landowner on an estate was seen to be killing birds of prey, which does happen, you cease to have that right to run a business”.

David Johnstone: “This is a very, very different situation because within a nightclub, when a nightclub finishes business, the doors are shut and nobody else is allowed in to that nightclub at all, you control everything that’s going on. Within an estate on land in Scotland, under the 2003 Act, people have a right to roam anywhere, at any time, which we fully support, therefore you have people wandering across the land you’re managing, doing whatever they may wish to do and we have…”

Euan Mcllwraith: “Yeah, but people aren’t going to walk on to an estate and kill a bird, I mean it may happen, but the vast majority…”

David Johnstone: “I’m sorry but we have examples of people who have been interfering with legally set traps and everything else so it does happen, nefarious activity does go on, and that puts at risk people’s livelihood, their jobs, the economy, everything. You’ve got to prove you didn’t do something, as opposed to somebody proving that you did do something”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “Is that a real worry though? That an estate can go out of business, a vital part of the rural economy will cease to exist, on a very low level of proof?”

Duncan Orr-Ewing: “Look, we’re in this position because of a failure of self-regulation, despite repeated public warnings that the estate sector, particularly driven grouse moors, need to get their house in order. They have failed to deliver, that is why we’re at this point.

We believe a system of licensing can be developed, that has the right checks and balances in place, they do it in other countries, we imagine this won’t be done routinely….”

Euan Mcllwraith: “Duncan, David, I think this debate will rage for a long time to come. At the moment it’s in the hands of the Minister who will make a decision in the months and years to come”.

ENDS

When do you think Scottish Land & Estates will realise that the game’s up? That everybody, even the Scottish Government, now accepts the huge weight of evidence showing that illegal raptor persecution is undertaken as a matter of routine on many driven grouse moors?

Does David Johnstone honestly think that anybody is going to believe his inference that 41 satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on driven grouse moors as a result of ‘nefarious activity’ undertaken by random members of the public?

If he’s so sure of this (without any supporting evidence), then presumably SLE members won’t have any problem accepting the placement of monitoring cameras at raptor nest and roost sites on driven grouse moors? You’d think they’d welcome this measure, which would clear estate gamekeepers from the frame, right? It’s funny then that certain estates continue to refuse to participate in the placement of cameras by SNH’s Heads Up for Harriers project.

Lord Johnstone has used this tactic of blaming members of the public before, when objecting to the introduction of vicarious liability. In 2012 he was cited as saying there was a risk of estates being set up. Five years on, there hasn’t, as far as we are aware, been a single case of an estate being ‘set up’.

Johnstone talks about instances of interference with legally set traps as an example of ‘nefarious activity’. Yes, it does happen, although not as widely as the game-shooting industry claims (see here) and most, no, all of the examples that we’ve seen show vandalism of the trap (thus rendering it inoperable) as opposed to some random person placing illegally-set traps (e.g. pole traps, as pictured above (RSPB photo)) to infer guilt on the estate gamekeepers.

We should really be congratulating whoever is responsible for SLE’s media strategy (‘deny, deny, deny’) because the longer SLE and the grouse-shooting industry takes to accept responsibility, or continues to blame it on others, the more idiotic, the more complicit, and the more incapable of self-regulation, they look, and then the quicker a licensing regime will be imposed.

Former police wildlife crime officer Alan Stewart wrote a blog recently about the grouse shooting industry’s refusal to accept responsibility for raptor persecution and specifically about SLE’s Moorland Director Tim (Kim) Baynes’ accusations against so-called ‘extremists’ (that’ll be us) for ‘derailing progress’. It’s well worth a read – here.

24
Jun
17

Further comment on admissibility of video evidence from more law academics

Last week we blogged about a commentary from Professor Peter Duff (Aberdeen University Law School) on the admissibility of video evidence in wildlife crime prosecutions (see here).

As a quick summary, we fundamentally disagreed with Professor Duff’s conclusions that “the courts would not excuse such an irregularity in obtaining the video evidence and prosecutions would be fruitless” because the Scottish courts HAVE excused the irregularity of obtaining video evidence without the landowner’s permission and far from those prosecutions being ‘fruitless’, they actually resulted in the conviction of the accused (e.g. see the Marshall trial here and the Mutch trial here).

On the back of that blog, another Aberdeen University Law School academic, Dr Phil Glover, has now written a blog on the same subject – see here and he appears to support the opinion of Professor Duff that the COPFS was correct to apply caution and reject the RSPB’s video evidence as inadmissible. Dr Glover addresses the two case studies we had previously mentioned whereby video evidence had been deemed admissible by the courts (the Marshall and Mutch trials) and his opinion is that the two Sheriffs presiding over these cases were wrong to accept the video evidence.

Dr Glover’s blog is technical, dry, and stuffed with specialist knowledge of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (RIP(S)A) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). As such, it is way beyond the scope of our limited knowledge of this legislation and thus we won’t even attempt to critique it. That is not to say it should be dismissed – on the contrary, we welcome the opportunity to read the informed opinion of a law academic, particularly one whose PhD research focused on the very subject of RIP(S)A, and hopefully some of our legally-trained blog readers will be willing to provide a critique.

Another blog has also been published on this subject, this time by Malcolm Combe, a lawyer also working within Aberdeen University’s Law School. Malcolm’s blog (here) is written in a way that is easier (for us) to comprehend and features some pertinent commentary on privacy and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, of which he has detailed, specialist knowledge.

What is clear from all three legal blogs is that the issue about the admissibility of video evidence in relation to wildlife crime prosecutions in Scotland is complex and confusing and, like most legislation, subject to interpretation, which has led to an inconsistent application in recent years. It has been fascinating to read the opinions and the rationale behind them; it’s a shame that the COPFS has not put as much time and effort in to explaining the recent decisions made by the public prosecutors to drop five wildlife crime prosecutions, leaving many questions still unanswered and public confidence in wildlife crime prosecutions at an all time low.

What is also clear is that the current legislation is practically unenforceable in cases of alleged wildlife crime that takes place on large, remote game shooting estates where the likelihood of anybody witnessing the crime is pretty slim. Back in 2014, when this issue was again at the centre of attention, the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse told a Parliamentary Committee that he was “confident” that surveillance cameras could be used in wildlife crime investigations where it was appropriate and the Lord Advocate had apparently made it clear that the option was available to Police Scotland (see here). Police Scotland had a different view and said, “Police Scotland will not be routinely deploying these tactics” (see here).

So where do we go from here? As both Dr Glover and Malcolm Combe note, there is a wider debate to be had here and maybe, on the back of the recent COPFS decisions, these commentaries from legal academics will prompt a review, leading to much-needed reform. In his blog, Dr Glover makes several suggestions for improvement, and some of our blog commentators have, in previous posts, suggested that a condition of any proposed game shoot licensing scheme could be that landowners have to agree to the installment of cameras at the nests of certain raptor species. A review of this type would come under the remit of the PAW Scotland Legislation, Regulation & Guidance sub-group, whose objectives include:  ‘To review the operation in practice of wildlife legislation and regulations; identify areas for improvement and make recommendations; produce guidance for wildlife crime law enforcement practitioners, land managers and other countryside users‘.

What absolutely cannot be allowed to continue is clear-cut evidence of illegal raptor persecution being routinely dropped on the basis of a legal technicality. If the current legislation doesn’t work (it doesn’t), it needs to be amended. We’ve seen the much-welcomed review of wildlife crime penalties, the recommendations of which have been agreed by the Scottish Government (here) but there’s no point in having stronger penalties as a deterrent if the offender knows that the chances of being caught and receiving the punishment are minimal.

22
Jun
17

Edradynate Estate gamekeeper in court for alleged crop poisoning

Well this is absolutely fascinating.

From the Courier & Advertiser (Perth & Perthshire edition), 22 June 2017:

Gamekeeper in court over estate crop poisoning allegation.

A senior gamekeeper has appeared at Perth Sheriff Court accused of poisoning crops on a Perthshire estate. David Campbell was working on the Edradynate Estate, near Aberfeldy, when he is said to have committed the offence.

A charge alleges he maliciously damaged the crops between April 14 and 16 this year by spraying them with an unknown substance, causing them to rot and perish. The 69 year old is also said to have stolen a thermal imaging spotting scope.

He made a brief appearance on petition before Sheriff William Wood at Perth Sheriff Court and made no plea or declaration. Campbell had his case continued. He was released on bail.

ENDS

You might be wondering why we’re blogging about this? The simple answer – we are very interested in the Edradynate Estate and have been for a long time as it has repeatedly been at the centre of police wildlife crime investigations (particularly the alleged poisoning of birds of prey) although nobody has ever been convicted.

Most recently (May 2017) our interest has been in relation to the Crown Office’s refusal to prosecute an unnamed Edradynate gamekeeper for alleged offences relating to the poisoning of several buzzards, despite a plea from Police Scotland to proceed (see here). The Crown Office has not provided an explanation about why this decision was taken (video evidence was not involved), other than to say:

The Procurator Fiscal received a report concerning a 66-year-old man, in relation to alleged incidents between 18 March and 4 June 2015. Following full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the available admissible evidence, the Procurator Fiscal decided that there should be no proceedings taken at this time. The Crown reserves the right to proceed in the future should further evidence become available.”

As the alleged wildlife crime offences took place in 2015, the case will not become time barred until June 2018 so there may still be a prosecution, although we won’t be holding our breath given the Crown Office’s recent performances in this area (five cases of alleged wildlife crime dropped in the space of two months).

It’s ironic then, that an Edradynate Estate gamekeeper (although we understand this particular gamekeeper left Edradynate at the end of Jan 2017, despite what was reported in the Courier) has been charged with an alleged poisoning offence – not of a protected raptor species, but of a crop. That in itself is fascinating, but even more interesting is that this charge is deemed sufficiently serious for the Crown (prosecutors) to begin proceedings by petition (before deciding whether to prosecute on indictment or by summary complaint). Only serious cases are begun by petition.

We’ll be tracking this case with great interest.

Please note: if you decide to comment on this specific blog, please remember that this case and the alleged wildlife crime offences from 2015 are still ‘live’ and at this stage the offences are only alleged. Please think carefully about your choice of words. Thanks.




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