Archive for February, 2012



20
Feb
12

Egg-collector Matthew Gonshaw’s ASBO hearing delayed

Four-times jailed egg thief Matthew Gonshaw was due to find out last Friday (17 February) whether he was to be the subject of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) following his latest conviction for egg-collecting (see here for background). If granted, the ASBO could see him facing a £20,000 fine and five years in prison for further offences.

The case was adjourned and is now due to be heard this Friday (24 February).

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20
Feb
12

Re: a big, big day in court today

A high-profile case of significant interest was due to be heard today, but unfortunately the accused’s solicitor was apparently unavailable to attend.  A date has now been fixed for a ‘notional diet’ – often used for the discussion of a legal point. This is due to take place next month.

At this stage we are not naming the accused, or the charges he faces, or details of the alleged incident. These will be reported in due course, pending the outcome of the next hearing. These self-imposed restrictions are tighter than perhaps is neccessary, but you’ll understand the need for this caution if/when the case details emerge.

20
Feb
12

Big, big day in court today

Watch this space…

18
Feb
12

Spot the difference…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16
Feb
12

Your chance to sign an open letter to the Environment Minister about the problems of wildlife crime reporting in Scotland

Well, it looks like the COPFS decision not to prosecute the individual who was filmed apparently beating crows to death with a stick inside a crow trap has struck a nerve (no pun intended). See here, here and here for background info.

The ensuing publicity has generated widespread public outrage, and now there’s an opportunity to channel that frustration into something positive. The charity OneKind, whose staff member filmed the gamekeeper apparently beating the trapped crows, has written an open letter to the Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson, calling on him to ensure that all reports of wildlife crime are pursued by the authorities with the utmost vigour. Anyone who supports this view is encouraged to add their name to the letter (go here to view and sign the letter).

This is your opportunity to let your views be heard – it takes seconds to complete – please do it, even if you’ve already written to the Minister (and we know many of you have), so these seemingly absurd legal obstacles can be examined and reviewed, with urgency and with transparency. This ridiculous situation, where the witness becomes the accused and the alleged perpetrator(s) escapes scot free, has gone on for far too long.

16
Feb
12

Case against Inverness man accused of buying & selling raptor eggs continues

The case against Keith Liddell, charged with buying and selling hundreds of birds’ eggs and of being in possession of wild birds’ eggs, has been continued.

This case against Liddell, who has denied the charges, has been on-going for some time (see here) and was heard again at Inverness Sheriff Court last Tuesday (14 Feb 2012). The case has now been continued and the next court hearing will be on 9 May 2012.

14
Feb
12

Clarification needed on how to report a wildlife crime

Following yesterday’s blog on the lack of prosecution for the apparent crow-beating incident (here), a comment made by Libby Anderson (acting CEO of animal protection charity OneKind) raises a pertinent question that deserves to be followed up.

Libby wrote the following comment on the OneKind blog (and we hope she doesn’t mind us reproducing it here) –

It is frustrating that such compelling evidence has not been allowed to get into court. And ironically, the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland has just issued guidance to the public about reporting wildlife crimes – including looking out for suspicious vehicles and taking photographs or video.  But wouldn’t that be “surveillance” too …? ” (Her comment can be viewed here on the OneKind blog).

This is an important and timely question. As Libby points out, PAW Scotland has, quite rightly, recently made a very big deal about providing advice to the public on how we should report incidents of suspected wildlife crimes. PAW Scotland has funded a big publicity drive on this issue, led by Grampian Police, who produced an information card called ‘Wildlife Crime: How to Report It’ (see here to view the card). They printed 30,000 of these cards, for distribution across Scotland (see here for our earlier report on this initiative). The advice on these cards is, amongst other things, to video or photograph the scene.

PAW Scotland has also added a new section to its website, specifically explaining the law that governs the use of traps and snares, and the action that should be taken if a member of the public suspects illegal activity. This action includes getting photographic evidence (see here).

If you’ve read the OneKind blog, written by the investigator who filmed the alleged crow-killing incident, it appears he followed the PAW Scotland advice: He suspected illegal activity, he filmed it, and he reported it to the police. It seems the police shared his suspicions, otherwise why would they have passed the evidence to the COPFS?

So, why then did COPFS (and the Lord Advocate) decide not to prosecute? Their official reason, according to the OneKind blog, was:

This decision was made because the prosecutors believed that I was carrying out surveillance on the estate when in fact my visit, which I had made very clear to the procurator Fiscal, was of an education one and was to gather film and photographic material of the various ways legal snares are set to capture wild animals.”

Is this the sort of treatment that any of us can expect if we see suspicious activity and decide to report it to the police? If it is, then we would suggest the system needs urgent revision. It is clear that PAW Scotland (which happens to be chaired by the Scottish Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson), needs to provide clarification on this issue as a matter of urgency if we are to have any confidence in the reporting system currently in place.

The Minister could ask COPFS to provide a detailed explanation of why, in this case, a decision not to prosecute was made, especially in light of the OneKind investigator’s statement of why he was on that land at the time he witnessed the alleged offences. We think there is precedent for COPFS to provide an explanation – see here, section 7).

The issue here is not whether the alleged actions of the gamekeeper were lawful or unlawful (that can only be decided by a court, and obviously in this case, the opportunity for a court hearing is not going to happen). The issues here are:

1) who is eligible and who is ineligible to report a suspected wildlife crime, and

2) what standard of response can the public expect to receive from the law enforcement authorities when they report an incident of suspected wildlife crime?

If you want to send an email to Environment Minister (and Chair of PAW Scotland) Stewart Stevenson, to ask for clarification on these issues, here’s his email address: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Questions to ask him might include:

1. Can I expect to be accused of lying if I report a suspected wildlife crime to the police?

2. Can I expect my integrity to be questioned if I report a suspected wildlife crime to the police?

3. If the answer to the above two questions is ‘no’, why was a decision not to prosecute made in the alleged crow-battering incident (you’ll need to provide a link to the OneKind blog so the Minister knows to which case you are referring).

4. Please can you provide me with a definitive list of legitimate reasons that allow me to be on a piece of land, recording a suspected wildlife crime?

5. Please can you provide me with a definitive list of illegitimate reasons for being on a piece of land, recording a suspected wildlife crime?

 




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