Gamekeeper convicted for pole-trapping offences

tawny owlMark Stevens, a self-employed gamekeeper who worked on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sydmonton Court Estate in Hampshire, has been convicted of setting two illegal traps and has been fined £700 with £650 court costs and a £50 victim surcharge.

Stevens, 42, admitted setting the two pole traps at a pheasant release pen in August last year but claimed he was targeting a grey squirrel that had been eating the pheasants’ food. The traps, which were not set on Lloyd Webber’s estate but on land at nearby Echinnswell, were discovered after a member of the public found a tawny owl hanging upside down with its leg caught in one of the traps. Its leg injuries were so severe it had to be euthanised by a vet.

According to Stevens’ solicitor, the setting of the traps was ‘accidental’.

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team, Hampshire Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service for securing a conviction.

Pole-trapping has been illegal for over 100 years. Stevens is the latest of a number of gamekeepers recently convicted for this barbaric practice (e.g. see here and here). Unsurprisingly, all of them have claimed the traps were targeting squirrels and not birds of prey (as if that makes a difference).

RSPB Investigations video here (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

RSPB Investigations blog here

News story in Daily Mail here

News story on BBC here



13 Responses to “Gamekeeper convicted for pole-trapping offences”

  1. July 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    This is heartbreaking. When is the Law going to start taking this type of criminality more serious? A simple fine of under £1,000 will not stop the professional Keeper from repeating this offence. I wonder how many times this person got away with this activity before he was caught.
    Lloyd-Webber should fire this person and the law should confiscate any licences Mark Stevens holds including shotgun, and he should be barred from working in this capacity again. Maybe then it will start sending out messages that this kind of animal cruelty will not be tolerated.!!

  2. 2 Dougie
    July 31, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    “Self employed gamekeeper”. What does that mean ? “Have trap – will travel”.

  3. 3 Dave
    July 31, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    How does one accidentally set a pole trap pray tell? And as for that squirrel tale, any gamekeeper worth his salt would have carefully blasted it with his 410 and baked it in a casserole. Does he and his solicitor think the judge is stupid?

  4. 4 Chris Roberts
    July 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Even if he was targeting a grey squirrel (which of course we doubt) it was still a barbaric, inhuman and totally illegal thing to do. Well done to all involved in bringing a successful prosecution. Just another in a never ending case of criminal activity by the gamekeeper species.

  5. July 31, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Absolutely pathetic excuse. Any gamekeeper should know squirrel live cage traps are very effective AND legal. I hope the RSPCA are well aware of this and make a point of using it in prosecutions.

    Shame they can’t remove his gun licences. Compare his penalty with the old boy banned ( in perpetuity )from the river Don for poaching in 1968?

  6. July 31, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Is it really such a rare problem amongst gamekeepers?

    The RSPB quoted this, “….the actions of individual gamekeepers like Mr Stevens do nothing to help the image of the gamekeeping profession. ”

    The quote continues, “I am sure many law abiding gamekeepers must despair at the way their profession continues to be portrayed.” Where are these Law abiding game keepers?

    But then the RSPB bring us back to reality with, “Unfortunately, I expect there will be plenty more unwanted surprises for members of the public like Mr…. before we make serious inroads into this problem.”

    We need more careful observation from the public to bring down these anti-nature thugs. Only by action that Mr McBride took can we hope to defeat the cruel and uncaring shooting estate workers, managers and owners.

    When will we see xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx and many others, in the dock for wildlife crimes?

  7. 7 nirofo
    July 31, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    It’s a good job the setting of the traps was ‘ACCIDENTAL’, who knows how much the paltry fine would have been if he had set them on purpose !!!

  8. July 31, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Is this considered a good result please?

  9. 9 Merlin
    August 1, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    just watched the video, absolutely sickening, imagine how laws have changed to benefit wildlife against cruelty over the last hundred years. these traps were made illegal over a hundred years ago they were deemed so cruel, this poor bird was too weak to fly away after its release even later that day when RSPB officers turned up, makes you wonder how long Steven’s would have left it hanging in pain in his trap.
    as this blog’s editor states this is not an isolated incident of the pole trap, it seems there is an uprising of the true vermin in our countryside

  10. 10 Jimmy
    August 1, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    A licence should be needed to practice as a gamekeeper. Too many dodgy types involved in this industry to allow the current status quo to continue. Time to weed out the filth

    • August 2, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Yes, licences would be the start of it but will it really stop the criminals. Stiff fines and action against the estates, like stopping their subsidies, grants and any other freebies they get. It’s disgusting that grouse moors have had their government funding almost doubled recently, from a lot to far too much. Lining the pockets of the rich at our expense!!!!!

      • 12 Chris Roberts
        August 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        They say that crime doesn’t pay, but it certainly appears to with regards to many grouse moors. All these subsidies should stop forthwith. I am disgusted that mine, and others, tax money should go to so many estates that are killing our protected wildlife. Why so many, including the Cairngorms National Park, keep trying to appease these killers of our wildlife I shall never understand.

      • 13 Circus maxima
        August 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm

        I hope that HMRC take the tips into account for taxable income? FOI anyone?

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