Red kite poisoned in Central Scotland – police decide not to publicise

rk by David TomlinsonPolice Scotland has failed to publicise the illegal poisoning of a red kite which was found dead in central Scotland last July. That’s July 2014 – six months ago!

The only reason this crime has come to our attention is because it is included in the recently-updated quarterly reports by SASA – the Government agency whose job is to analyse carcasses for poisons.

This kite was killed by ingesting the banned pesticide Carbofuran. There are no other details, other than the carcass was recovered in central Scotland and the case is subject to an on-going police investigation.

Why didn’t Police Scotland issue a press statement? Sure, they might have chosen to delay it for a few weeks for operational purposes, e.g. if they were planning a raid on the premises then they wouldn’t want to alert the potential suspects in advance. But six months on and still silent? That’s pathetic.

It’s this kind of cover-up that plays directly into the hands of those who seek to diminish the extent of raptor persecution. If the public is unaware that these crimes are continuing, they’ll be more likely to believe the lies of certain organisations who keep saying that raptor persecution crimes are occurring with less frequency, and that landowners and gamekeepers have cleaned up their acts. If the public believes that, they are less likely to join in calls for greater enforcement/tougher penalties etc. If MSPs don’t hear about this issue from their constituents, they’ll be less likely to push forward any legislative changes. The end result? The raptor-killing will continue with impunity and the raptor-killing criminals will continue to escape justice.

Police Scotland’s silence does absolutely nothing to inspire public confidence in their ability and willingness to tackle wildlife crime. Perhaps they did investigate and perhaps they’ve charged someone who is now awaiting prosecution. Perhaps they did investigate but didn’t find any evidence to link the crime to an individual. Perhaps they did nothing and the file is gathering dust on someone’s desk. Whatever response they did or didn’t make, given the high level of public interest in these crimes and, in this case especially, the dangerously-high toxicity of the poison (fatal to humans), they should have publicised this incident months ago.

We are also interested in whether any General Licence restrictions have been imposed on the land where the kite was found poisoned. We don’t know whether this land is used for game-shooting but we’d make an educated guess that it is, especially given the type of poison involved – Carbofuran is still the gamekeepers’ ‘poison of choice’.

If you remember, SNH now has the power to restrict the use of General Licences, based on a civil burden of proof (i.e. so not reliant on a criminal conviction) ‘where there is evidence to suggest that a wild bird or birds have been either killed, injured or taken or where there has been an attempt to do so other than in accordance with a licence, or where General Licences are being misused‘ [this is a direct quote from the SNH 2015 General Licences].

This new measure was rolled out in October 2014 (see here) and can be back-dated to any offences that have occurred since 1st January 2014.

During the Scottish Parliament’s RACCE committee hearing on 29th October 2014 (see here), Detective Chief Superintendent Robbie Allan of Police Scotland talked about the implementation of this new measure:

We have set up a structure whereby we will meet SNH on a monthly basis. At that meeting, Police Scotland will inform and notify SNH of any crimes that fit the proposed criteria. SNH will take that information and make an assessment based on it. The first meeting will take place in the first week of November [2014], and it will apply retrospectively to all offences since 1st January [2014].”

So, the first monthly meeting between Police Scotland & SNH was due to take place in early Nov 2014. That’s almost three months ago. This red kite was poisoned in July 2014. It is reasonable to expect, then, that this case has been assessed by SNH and they’ve made a decision whether or not to impose a General Licence restriction.

We just had a look on the SNH website, where it says: ‘Any decision to implement a restriction will be posted on this webpage‘ (see here). Surprise surprise, there isn’t any information about any General Licence restrictions that have been imposed. Does that mean they are not going to impose a restriction for the poisoning of this red kite? Or does it mean they haven’t yet got around to looking at it? Or something else?

Trying to get information from these enforcement bodies is like pulling teeth. Why is it so bloody difficult? Where’s all the ‘accountability’ that they’re so keen on telling us they have but the SSPCA doesn’t have?

Let’s go directly to the Director of Operations at SNH (who makes the ultimate decision on whether a restriction is imposed) and ask him what’s going on with this case and specifically, whether a General Licence restriction has been imposed and if not, why not? Emails to Andrew Bachell: Andrew.Bachell@snh.gov.uk

Red kite photograph by David Tomlinson


15 Responses to “Red kite poisoned in Central Scotland – police decide not to publicise”

  1. January 28, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    We have a bird reference book which is not THAT old, and the entry for Red Kites is ‘practically extinct in the UK, except for a small population in Wales’. We now live in the heartland of one of the areas where Red Kites have been most successfully introduced. Anyone who deliberately kills one of these amazing birds deserves the most severe punishment that can be handed down, because reintroducing a healthy population from ‘practically extinct’ status isn’t a dawdle in the park. Shame on Police Scotland. No wonder apologists for the shooting lobby, like Alastair Robertson, can take comfort in the idea that the bobbies have ‘more to do with their time’ than solve wildlife crime.

  2. 2 Dave Dick
    January 28, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    So..the finding of a quantity of a deadly poison in the scottish countryside put there by a person unknown, isnt important enough for the police to tell the public?…just because its in a wild bird. If it was avian flu that was found in the kite it would be all over the TV….

  3. 3 Dougie
    January 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    “the case is subject to an on-going police investigation” – Oh is that so. Is that one of their euphemisms for doing nothing worthwhile. They have no credibility.

    Well Minister Aileen McLeod you have only recently been appointed and it did not long before another example of what has been happening for years has again occurred. A wildlife crime is discovered and the police behave like they are some sort of secret service or are they just not doing anything?

  4. January 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Too many hands in others pockets, seems to be the only conclusion!!!!!

    The corruption and protectionism must stop but how? The coverup and inaction over these crimes is blatant.

    The criminals on the shooting estates are above the law if the police will not act.

  5. 6 Tony Warburton MBE
    January 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I agree, another chance for Aileen McLeod to show us what she is made of. Come on Aileen, we are counting on you to take this matter up AND REPORT BACK TO US with an explanation of what looks like yet another Police Scotland cover up.

  6. 8 Chris Roberts
    January 28, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Those damn xxxxxxxxx have been out poisoning again eh? and the police, as far as we can see, are doing nothing. No wonder we never see red kites in the highlands. From what I see of Aileen McLeod so far, she is a waste of space, at least her predecessor appeared to be getting on the case. We the public are the bosses of ministers and the police, so they have a duty to keep us informed.

  7. 9 John Taylor
    January 28, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Just finished reading “The Scottish Ospreys” by Philip Brown (published 1979). Towards the end of the book the author says,”…..public opinion , whether we like it or not, is always much more effective than the law.” So keep up the good work, RPS, the more the public know about what’s going on in our green and pleasant land the better. Shame programmes such as the BBC’s Winterwatch don’t do a bit more to inform the public about the issue.

  8. 11 crypticmirror
    January 28, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    You know, back in the old days, when the Met in London used to hush things up and not publicise a crime in this way, it was because they knew who did it, why they did it, and that the local department had been paid to not arrest them. Now I’m not suggesting that was the case here, I’m sure there could be legitimate reasons not to publicise this, just that this is how things used to happen in London back before the Met was cleaned out (for a little while) in the bad old days. Its always a good way to let someone slip quietly off into the night when nobody wants to actually arrest them bang to rights. Maybe a little cleaning out of Police Scotland would help focus minds though.

  9. 12 Rod Turner
    January 28, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Sadly the police have become part of the problem and not the solution. Who exactly benefits from not reporting these issues in the media and not even an appeal for witnesses or information. Its all so depressing.

    I thought the National Wildlife Crime Unit is meant to spearhead the fight against raptor crime, where are they ,who are they, who pays for them surely the public funds they are receiving could be better spent elsewhere.

    Central Scotland Police seem to be very keen on chasing campers around Loch Lomondside, maybe because thats easy.

  10. 13 Colin McP
    January 31, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Any other crime (which carries a possible prison sentence) where investigations had ground to a halt – and I’d guess they have – would have had some statement asking for anyone in the area on or around certain dates to report anything suspicious to assist with enquiries.

    Only valid reasons I can think of for not doing this are if it had been found that the date of death was some indeterminate time in the past, or as mentioned by RPS if they already have identified the culprit and decided that there would be no compelling evidence to merit a prosecution or one is pending.

    But regardless – the knowledge that a dangerous poison had been used ought to have been publicised as it is a danger to the public. There should be signs posted in access roads, carparks, laybys and gates highlighting the fact that it is suspected that there is poison being used in this area that is fatal to animals including humans, and if anyone comes across it to report it to the police. But these signs aren’t up, and if someone got poisoned tomorrow then I’d say that the authorities had failed in their duty to inform and protect members of the public of the danger to their health and risk being sued. (e.g. Scottish Government publishes guidance, and councils are obliged to carry out formal risk assessments for blue-green algae and put up signs warning the public).

    Perhaps a few standardised signs in the affected areas might be a good thing?

  11. 14 Merlin
    February 2, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Not sure if you have seen this yet RPS
    hope the link works, Hen Harrier shot in Ireland

  12. 15 Harris Keillar
    February 3, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Have written to Andrew at SNH

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