Head gamekeeper charged with wildlife crime & firearms offences at Holkham Estate, Norfolk

The head gamekeeper at Holkham Estate, Norfolk, has been charged with  a series of wildlife crime and firearms offences following a police investigation, according to The Fakenham Times.

41 year-old Nicholas Parker of Main Road, Holkham, has been charged with the following: killing a Schedule One wild bird, taking game out of season, possessing ammunition for a firearm without a certificate, possessing a shotgun or rifle for committing an either way wildlife offence, possessing a shotgun without a certificate, and contravening the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

He has apparently been suspended from his job since the allegations came to light last year. The report says he has been released on police bail and will appear before King’s Lynn magistrates on Wednesday 9 February 2011.

News story here: http://www.fakenhamtimes.co.uk/news/country_estate_head_gamekeeper_charged_1_782567

Nicholas Parker joined the Holkham Estate staff in April 2008, after working for six years for the Van Cutsem shoot on Mossdale Estate in North Yorkshire. Here’s his self-introduction in the Holkham Estate newsletter (page 13): Holkham Estate newsletter 2008

It’s not the first time that Holkham Estate has been at the centre of a wildlife crime investigation. In March 2000, a Holkham Estate gamekeeper was fined £850 for the killing of three kestrels on the estate. He admitted to shooting two birds and poisoning a third with a Carbofuran – baited pheasant carcass because he blamed them for attacking young partridges. Following the keeper’s conviction, a 37 year-old land agent and a 62 year-old head keeper were both convicted of three charges of allowing the gamekeeper on the 25,000-acre estate to illegally store poison. Although they denied the charges, they were fined £1,200 and £750 respectively. They both appealed and their cases were heard at Norwich Crown Court on 9 October 2000. Judge Lawrence stated that, although the standard of supervision of the use of poisons on the estate “left something to be desired”, he had reached the conclusion that the gamekeeper was acting independently. Both appeals were upheld.

Twelve charges were also brought against Viscount Coke, heir to the family’s estate in north Norfolk, for allowing the gamekeeper to illegally use poison on the estate. However, Fakenham magistrates said the Viscount had no case to answer. It is claimed that Viscount Coke threatened to sue the police and the crown prosecution service after he was cleared of all involvement. News story here: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/peers-gamekeeper-fined-for-killing-three-kestrels-721792.html and here: http://nwhsa.redblackandgreen.net/convicted_gamekeepers.htm

It’s very interesting to note that the name of the convicted gamekeeper appears in the latest edition of the Holkham Estate newsletter (Winter 2010) – still employed there then, even with a criminal conviction? So much for estates wanting to rid the industry of those who persecute raptors!

Holkham Hall

The now 45 year-old Viscount Coke appears to be quite a character. Educated at Eton, he was apparently a former page of honour to the Queen. He took over the estate when his father retired in 2007 and lives with his family in Holkham Hall on the estate. It has been reported that he is a principal trustee and spokesperson for the charity Songbird Survival – notorious for its views against raptors: http://www.againstcorvidtraps.co.uk/songbird_survival/bloodsports

According to the current Holkham Estate website, nine gamekeepers are employed and “a predator control programme is exercised within the law”: http://www.holkham.co.uk/html/farming.html

A former head keeper at Holkham is Simon Lester, now head keeper at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project in Scotland. Simon & the Viscount’s father, the Earl of Leceister, express their views about raptors in a revealing article here: Holkham Estate partridges & raptors 2006


9 Responses to “Head gamekeeper charged with wildlife crime & firearms offences at Holkham Estate, Norfolk”

  1. 1 SecretScooby
    January 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Holkey Cokey anybody?

    As you say, the outcome of this trial will be very interesting. It’s quite a list of charges for any keeper, let alone a HEAD gamekeeper.

    Well done on more cracking research Mr Blogmeister. Keep it up.

  2. 2 Falco
    January 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    They don’t come across as a very conservation minded outfit do they. Here’s an excerpt from the same page (no.13) of the newsletter;

    The newly acquired Castle Acre farms look well, although there is still a very
    high weed burden – a legacy of its organic farming days. It might take more
    than one season to tidy up but it has a lot of potential for the future.
    The new Knight sprayer is well christened, clocking 250 hours in the first six
    weeks with only minor problems.

    All in the name of maximising profits at any cost. I wonder if the songbirds are surviving down on the farm now?

  3. 3 SecretScooby
    January 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Songbird Survival are supporting the latest move to cull predators – crows and magpies (but how soon before raptors are included?) according to the news today: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8286034/Magpies-and-crows-to-be-culled-to-protect-songbirds.html

    The planned cull is due to take place in March in a yet-to-be-determined location (but possibly the Scottish Borders) and guess who will carry it out? The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust GWCT.

    The same GWCT that holds an annual country sports show called the Scottish Game Fair. Guess who has been the main sponsor of this fair for the last few years? Artemis Investment Management Ltd. Guess who founded and directed Artemis? John Dodd of Glenogil Estate.

    • 4 Dave Dick
      January 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      Strange…I had always thought..and been told…that the Open General Licences which allow the killing of some corvids in the UK, were introduced to replace the former Schedule 2 Part 2 of the 1981 Act – which was deemed illegal under EC Law as it allowed for uncontrolled killing, any number, any time.

      Culls were seen as outside the EC Birds Directive as they were not directly linked to a specfic geographically defined problem…

      One for the lawyers I suggest…although Im sure someone in the RSPB will be onto that?

  4. January 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    The mooted cull of corvid birds by GWCT seems planned in the areas where Songbird Survival Trustees have shooting estates or shooting interests. The GWCT is part of the shooting industry and it should know that a cull of any bird on the General Licence is illegal except to:
    (i) Prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters, and
    (ii) Prevent the spread of disease.
    Will Songbird Survival thus expose itself as an organization maintained to protect game shooting interests? The law gives it no mandate to cull corvid birds to prove a hunch about the decline of songbirds.

  5. 6 Dave Dick
    January 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    If only it were that simple…most gamekeepers I have met actually want to kill raptors just as much as their “masters”…in fact there are many occasions where they act pretty much independently of their “masters”, who are at times scared to confront their keeper[particularly when theres a long standing family involved].

    During an investigation, every estate situation needs looked at independently…

    I do agree however that the employer [“master”] needs held accountable for the actions of his employee…

    Now…how many convicted keepers have ever been sacked?…Answer…damn few.That tells its own tale…

  6. 7 paul irving
    January 31, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t this the same estate where a dead or dying White Tailed Eagle was found some years ago? I think John, far more eloquently than me has hit the nail rather well, it is indeed the “above the law” aristocracy, landowning folk and agents that need to be held to account. That is far more important than prosecuting the lowly keeper and should be much more far reaching, currently in England under the WCA it is almost, if not entirely impossible.

    Paul Irving

  7. February 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    This case has now been adjourned until 2nd March 2011. To be heard again at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court on that date.
    We watch with interest.


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