Two days ago we blogged about Scottish gamekeeper Robert Christie (Lindertis Estate) who was convicted at Forfar Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to wildlife crimes (see here).
Since then there has been a fair bit of press coverage but the media hasn’t really picked up on the fact that Christie’s ‘punishment’ was just an admonishment (effectively a telling off), even though the available penalties included a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a six month prison sentence.
However, an article published in yesterday’s Courier did include commentary about the penalty:
“…Sheriff Kevin Veal at Forfar decided not to impose a penalty on gamekeeper Robert Christie after hearing the ‘immediate and draconian consequences’ connected with breaching a trapping licence could render the 57-year-old unemployable for the rest of his working life”.
Christie’s solicitor, David McKie (who also happens to be the SGA’s solicitor – see here), reportedly commented:
“There are implications under the general licence – if the court imposes anything more than an admonition the licence is automatically withdrawn for five years“.
Was what Christie did the crime of the century? No of course it wasn’t, but what it was, without a doubt, was a criminal offence under the wildlife legislation. It seems astonishing that the Sheriff would decide not to impose any penalty, especially given the current high priority that the Scottish Government has placed on tackling wildlife crime.
What we are seeing yet again is an inconsistency in sentencing (compare Christie’s penalty with that of Aswanley Estate gamekeeper Craig Barrie who was recently fined £520 for illegal use of a trap, see here) and the sense that wildlife crime is still not being taken seriously by some Scottish courts. Do you think this defence would be acceptable for other offences, such as a drink driving taxi driver? ‘Oh, sorry m’Lord, yes I was drunk when I drove my car and I really should have known the consequences of doing this as driving is my profession but the immediate and draconian measure of losing my licence will also mean I lose my job’.
Talking of taking wildlife crime seriously, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has not yet issued any public statement of condemnation for Christie’s actions, nor have they said whether he is/was an SGA member. To find out about Christie’s SGA membership status, send an email to: email@example.com
Article in the Courier here