George Mutch trial: Sheriff to rule on admissibility of video evidence

scales of justiceThe sheriff presiding over the trial of Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch is due to rule today on the admissibility of covert video footage.

Mutch is accused of several offences relating to the alleged killing or injuring of two goshawks and a buzzard that had been caught inside traps in August 2012. He has denied the charges. The evidence against him is based on covert footage collected by RSPB Scotland.

Mutch’s trial began on Monday, after months of adjournments, but so far the trial has focused on whether the evidence is admissible. The defence advocate, Mark Moir QC, has argued that the footage is inadmissible because the RSPB has an agenda against the use of crow cage traps and didn’t have the landowner’s permission to film. The prosecution (Tom Dysart from COPFS!) has argued that the evidence should be deemed admissible because the RSPB were filming as part of a research study.

Sheriff Noel McPartlin is due to rule on the question of admissibility today. Whatever his decision, it will have significant ramifications for not only this trial but also for future potential prosecutions.

News articles on this trial here and here.


13 Responses to “George Mutch trial: Sheriff to rule on admissibility of video evidence”

  1. December 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Filming of criminal activity WITH permission seems unlikely to happen!!!!! QC needs to get real instead of twisting the law. Too often justice and the lawyers are at opposite ends of the scale.

    I do hope that the Sheriff tells them where to put their arguments. Video evidence is accepted in many criminal cases and motoring offences.

  2. December 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

    does this particular judge have many links to shoot owners. is he for example an active shooter. related to anyone who owns a shoot ?

  3. 3 Alex Milne
    December 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    It is good that it has come for a judicial decision. If the sheriff finds against the use of video evidence, it seems likely we will have a very quick change of the law in Scotland. It would be a pity to lose the case over the matter though.He is listed as having “country life ” as a recreation but that may just imply he is member of the RSPB, not a regular on driven grouse shoots. I’d be happy to give him the benefit of the doubt anyway. He retired in 2011 so we are not likely to get him presiding over many more wildlife crimes.

  4. 4 Dougie
    December 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm


    His interests are shown as “Country Life”. That could mean a variety of things.

  5. 5 Tony Warburton MBE
    December 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    This looks like being a vital test case. Now we will see where we stand on this issue, as whatever the verdict, it will be used by barristers etc. in future cases.

  6. 6 Chris Roberts
    December 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Video evidence should most definatly be admissible, it is in many other instances where the untouchables aren’t connected. As Douglas revered, you don’t ask a criminal if you can film him breaking the law.

    • 7 nirofo
      December 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      The problem is the large majority of wildlife criminals are so-called peers of the realm, members of parliament, rich shooting estate / landowners etc, etc, or they are employed by them, therefore they couldn’t possibly be filmed committing an illegal act of wildlife persecution as they are above all that, aren’t they. Surely you can’t lump them in the same category as common criminals, can you ???

    • 8 Bimbliing
      December 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Actually I think you do. Is that not why there are signs up in shops and other places like town centres that say Video Surveillance in Operation and the like. I’m no lawyer but that the Sheriff is considering this is as a result of the pressure from us on the Scottish Government and from them onto the judiciary. Hopefully the ‘right’ ruling will help cure the weeping sore of bird of prey persecution in Scotland. Not sure quite how much difference its making in England tho’

  7. 9 Pete
    December 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    I only go hunting with a camera.. . not a gun…. uhm… ehr.. nothing!

  8. December 10, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Video evidence should be used, just as SSPCA officers should be used if the Scottish Government really does want to stamp out persecution of birds of prey. The cops have proved not up to the task.

  9. 11 merlin
    December 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    [Ed: comment removed – it’s libellous. Please wait for the verdict!]

  10. December 10, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Weve been here before…sheriffs have decided both for and against video evidence use [in gamekeeper/wildlife cases]….a sheriff’s decision alone certainly isnt legally binding on subsequent cases..what is needed is a Crown Appeal against a negative decision..then it becomes case law after Appeal Court decision…

    • 13 Dougie
      December 11, 2014 at 8:25 am

      Correct, and that is why the use of covert video etc. surveillance needs to be enshrined in law in such a way that prevents it’s use being a subject of debate in court.

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