Archive for February, 2011

28
Feb
11

Suspected Buzzard Poisoning on Mountquhanie Estate, Fife

POLICE in Fife are investigating the suspected poisoning of a buzzard north of Cupar.

 The bird of prey was found dead by a member of the public close to Lewes Wood on the Mountquhanie Estate near Hazelton Walls.

It has been sent for post-mortem examination to confirm the cause of death and identify any poison that may have been used.

PC Ian Laing, Fife Constabulary’s wildlife and environmental crime co-ordinator, said: “Fortunately, Fife has not experienced raptor poisoning as much as other areas, but this case is a concern.

“Once we have confirmed the cause of death, we will be able to look at the potential source of any poisons used with a view to tracing those responsible.”

Kath Leys, area operations manager with Scottish Natural Heritage, added: “We’re very concerned about this suspected poisoning case in Fife.

“Buzzards may be fairly common nowadays, but they’re beautiful birds which are an important part of biodiversity.”

Full story here –

http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/local-headlines/fife_police_probe_buzzard_poisoning_1_1459717

24
Feb
11

New specialist prosecutors to be appointed – historic or rhetoric?

The prosecution of wildlife and environmental crime is to be enhanced by the appointment of a team of full-time prosecutors, the Solicitor General Frank Mulholland QC has announced.

A team of three specialists will investigate, mark and prosecute all cases involving crimes against wildlife and the environment in Scotland. Their remit will also include cases of animal cruelty.

The team will be managed by Tom Dysart, Area Procurator Fiscal for Ayrshire, who currently leads the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in this area of law.

They will be supported by Alex Prentice QC, Assistant Principal Advocate Depute. He was appointed Crown Counsel for wildlife cases in February 2010 and will present the Crown case in any criminal appeals.

The appointment of full-time specialists builds on work already undertaken by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to tackle wildlife crime more effectively.

The specialists will be spread across Scotland, but will work together to share knowledge and experience of cases.

The Solicitor General, Frank Mulholland, QC, said:

“COPFS is committed to tackling crimes against Scotland’s precious wildlife and environment.

“Our network of wildlife and environmental prosecutors has already demonstrated the benefits of having specialists deal with this complex area of law.

“We are now appointing a team of three full-time specialists, who will continue to develop the skills and knowledge required to deal with these cases.

“Crimes against our wildlife and environment are important as they affect the environment in which we live, and the legacy we leave to future generations.

“We are aware that serious and organised crime groups may be becoming involved in environmental crime. The new team of prosecutors will work closely with COPFS civil recovery and criminal confiscation specialists.

“I am confident the new team will further enhance the working relationships we already have with investigating agencies, including the police and wildlife organisations.”

Blah blah blah. To read the rest of this press release, follow this link: http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/02/New-team-specialist-prosecutors-be-appointed-handle-Wildlife-and-Environmental-Crime

It would be wonderful if we were all so naive as to believe the content of this press release, word for word. Sadly, I am a little bit too long in the tooth and have developed a somewhat cynical outlook. Interesting to note that the press release did not say WHEN this new team would be appointed. An oversight? Perhaps. Also interesting to note that the success of this new team will depend on the effective investigation of alleged wildlife crime crime offences by ALL the Scottish police forces. That’s not happening now, so why should we believe that will change anytime soon?

Also interesting to note that Alex Prentice QC, mentioned in the press release, has been in post for almost one year now – what measurable impact has he made on the effective prosecution of illegal raptor persecution after 12 months in office? Let’s see what happens with the Moy Estate and Skibo Estate cases – assuming, of course, that they will reach court, and that it will be this year…

Incidentally, a colleague has told me that the Glen Orchy poisoned eagle case was mentioned yesterday at the Scottish Police Wildlife Crime Conference held in Tulliallan. He told me that PC Charlie Everitt, the NWCU’s Investigative Support Officer mentioned it in his round-up of 2010 news. Apparently PC Everitt was using the case as an example of how busy/successful the NWCU has been this last year. He mentioned that the accused had been found guilty of possession of illegal firearms and that he’d received 300 hours community service as a punishment. Oh, three cheers for this “successful” outcome. No mention of the poisoned eagle, nor any forthcoming prosecution case for this criminal offence. Is it any wonder I’m cynical? I hope the COPFS prove me wrong.

21
Feb
11

Apprentice gamekeeper jailed for barbaric animal welfare offences in Northumberland

Two men from Northumberland have been jailed after forcing animals to fight to the death and posting video footage of their barbaric activities on the internet. The crimes are reported to include two dogs attacking a badger, cock fighting, a snared fox having a stick rammed into its mouth and one of the men standing on the fox’s neck as it was attacked by a dog, and a fox trapped inside a cage with a dog, with someone holding the fox’s ears as the dog attacked it.

One of the men, 23-year-old Connor Patterson, of Whitfield, near Hexham Northumberland, is reported to be a farm worker and an apprentice gamekeeper. During police interviews, he said he had a national diploma in countryside and game management, and while studying for this he had learned how to use snares and traps.

Congratulations to Northumbria Police and the RSPCA for bringing a successful prosecution. Let’s hope that when Patterson is released from his prison term he does not gain employment in the gamekeeping world.

Full details of this horrific story: http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/2011/02/18/pair-forced-animals-to-fight-to-the-death-61634-28191448/2/

19
Feb
11

A Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers in the UK Finally Published.

The long-awaited JNCC report, “A Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers in the United Kingdom” has finally been “officially” released. The document was published on 17/02/2010 with members of the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs and Environment Committee being sent a copy a few days prior to publication.

PDF of the full report here – http://www.jncc.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf

The report has hardly attracted the “big conservation media splash” that was first envisaged as the report had been leaked by The Sunday Herald some weeks ago. This leak was made amidst fears that SNH were dragging their heels with the publication due to pressure from pro-grouse shooting groups who would much rather see this report “buried” until the WANE Bill has passed through parliament.

As expected the grouse shooting lobby has attempted to rubbish the science behind the report and muddy the waters regarding the pitiful conservation status of hen harriers in the UK.  The British Association for Conservation and Shooting (Scotland), the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the Scottish Estates Business Group and the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association have written to the Minister for the Environment setting out their concerns about the report. It is understood that Scottish Raptor Study Groups have also written to the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee in support of the report.

It looks improbable that anything will be resolved in the near future regarding the plight of our most persecuted bird of prey. Pro-shooting groups must acknowledge the raptor persecution problem before any meaningful dialogue can be entered into and “trickle down” peer pressure make these abhorrent crimes unacceptable.

SNH Press release – http://www.snh.gov.uk/news-and-events/press-releases/press-release-details/index.jsp?id=458

JNCC Press release – http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-5775

SRPBA Press release: http://srpba.com/view_item.aspx?item_id=4711&list_id=list1-218&list_index=12

Scottish Raptor Study Groups Press Release: http://www.scottishraptorgroups.org/news.php

18
Feb
11

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Chief Questioned over Dead Sea Eagle.

Mr Alasdair Laing, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Scottish committee chairman, has been questioned by police, according to The Scotsman, following the discovery of a dead sea eagle on his Logie Estate, Morayshire, which was joint winner of the Purdey Award for Shooting and Conservation in 2008.

The dead eagle (released in East Scotland in 2008 as one of the reintroduced birds from Norway) was apparently found by an employee of RSPB Scotland whilst walking  in the snow on 15th December 2010.  The dead bird was reported to Northern Constabulary the same day but when officers returned to investigate the incident the following morning the carcass had mysteriously disappeared.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident but say they are unable to determine how the bird died without a body. Gamekeepers at the Morayshire estate, as well as Mr Laing, are understood to have been spoken to by investigators. The head keeper has been previously described as ‘a prominent  member of the SGA committee’ and has been praised for his conservation work (see here). Alasdair Laing was a signatory to the May 2010 SRPBA letter to the Environment Minister, one of over 200 landowners who condemned illegal raptor poisoning.

A spokesman for Northern Constabulary said “An investigation was launched by the area wildlife crime officer, but to date no remains have been recovered. There is also no evidence as to how the bird died, given the fact there was no body”

It seems strange that this incident happened on 15th Dec 2010 and this is the first media report about it. It seems to fly in the face of other investigation techniques where evidence is gathered as soon as possible whilst events are clear and fresh in potential witnesses minds.

Full story here – http://www.scotsman.com/environment/Conservation-chief-questioned-by-police.6720123.jp?articlepage=1

Alasdair Laing’s letter of response published in The Scotsman: http://news.scotsman.com/letters/Letter-Estate-work.6720703.jp

An interesting insight into how the Lochindorb Shoot (on Logie Estate) is managed, including the culling of mountain hares: http://www.shootingtimes.co.uk/features/387120/The_Lochindorb_Shoot.html

11
Feb
11

Update on pending court cases

Nicholas Parker, head gamekeeper on the Holkham Estate, Norfolk, was due to appear before King’s Lynn Magistrates on Wednesday 9 February 2011 to answer the following charges:

  • Killing a Schedule One bird
  • Taking game out of season
  • Possessing ammunition for a firearm without a certificate
  • Possessing a shotgun or rifle for committing an ‘either way’ offence
  • Possessing a shotgun without a certificate
  • Contravening the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

Parker’s case has been postponed and is now due to be heard on 2 March 2011. (See blog post 25 January 2011 for original story).

A convicted gamekeeper in Scotland (name removed for legal reasons) was due back in court on 2nd December 2010 to face charges of using poison to kill multiple buzzards on a sporting estate. This case was postponed due to bad weather and was re-scheduled for 23 December 2010. The second trial was postponed after the defendant lodged an appeal on a legal technicality. This appeal is still pending. We will post an update in due course. (See blog posts Dec 1 & 21 for original story).

HOT OFF THE PRESS – there will be a forthcoming trial in March/April concerning alleged raptor persecution incidents in Derbyshire. Watch this space!




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