Scottish farmer convicted of shooting buzzard

BZA poultry farmer in the Borders who shot a buzzard, claiming he had mistaken it for a carrion crow, has been fined £600.

Michael Harrison, 70, of West Linton, Peebleshire, who runs an egg production facility, told Sheriff Jamie Gilmour at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday, “I just made a mistake. I shot at this crow and it came down, but when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified. I was born in the countryside and brought up on a farm. All my life I have been a wildlife supporter”.

Harrison had pled guilty under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to ‘intentionally or recklessly’ shooting the buzzard in November 2014. He also pled guilty to injuring the buzzard by standing on its wing – presumably in an attempt to ‘control’ it when he realised the bird was still alive. The buzzard’s injuries were too severe for it to survive and it had to be euthanised.

Sheriff Gilmour said he would reduce the fine from £900 to £600 because of Harrison’s early guilty plea and allowed seven days for payment. He told Harrison: “It is important you identify your quarry. That is an important part of shooting”.

It’s farcical that a buzzard could be mistaken for a carrion crow, especially if it’s in close enough range for it to be shot and especially if the person pulling the trigger claims to have been born and brought up in the countryside and should therefore be capable of basic bird identification skills. In light of this conviction, presumably Police Scotland will not renew Harrison’s shotgun certificate? Yeah, right.

Well done to the SSPCA for their prompt investigation of this crime, which was crucial to gather evidence, and to the Crown Office for a successful & speedy prosecution, leading to a rare conviction for the actual shooting of a protected species. The penalty, as usual, is at the low end of the scale (max penalty of £5,000 and/or six month custodial sentence).

11 Responses to “Scottish farmer convicted of shooting buzzard”

  1. 1 Bimbliing
    August 2, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I understood that if a Sheriff chooses not to penalise an offender by revoking/withdrawing the convict’s shotgun licence then it becomes very difficult or impossible for the Police to ‘impose’ an extra penalty.

    I’m not certain that this is actually the case, and it might be worth investigating this aspect more thoroughly so that if it is the case, then we can lobby to have this changed or if its not the case, then pressure can be brought on the police/judiciary where it will be most effective.

  2. 3 steve macsweeney
    August 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Should ‘ve gone to Specsavers.!……

  3. 4 Marco McGinty
    August 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    “I shot at this crow and it came down, but when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified. I was born in the countryside and brought up on a farm. All my life I have been a wildlife supporter.”

    There is no way I’m buying into the “accident” excuse, but even if it were true, we would have another perfect example of a “guardian of the countryside” having no idea of the very basics of animal identification. Situations such as this always remind me of those recent harsh winters, when I spoke to a local farmer. The farmer was a pleasant fellow, but he was totally unaware of the wintering Skylark population on his land (2500 in the fields immediately next to his farm!), and he did think that the Fieldfares that were working his hedgerows were Skylarks!

    So, despite being brought up in the countryside, and working in these environments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these people have any greater clue than your average “townie”. And that goes for those other “guardians”, the gamekeepers, as they are equally as clueless.

    Just out of curiosity, is there anything in the autopsy report that suggests that the bird had to be euthanised solely as a result of the shooting, or was severe wing damage a contributing factor to the bird’s death?

    I’m sure some people won’t see the connection, but I would have thought that forcefully using human bodyweight to press down on any living creature’s anatomy would be considered detrimental to that animal, never mind the more fragile structure of a bird. Clearly, this “guardian” did not consider this when standing on the bird.

    They do appear to be quite deliberate acts, both the shooting, and the post-shooting torture.

    • 5 Les Wallace
      August 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

      I once spent a total of a year living and working on a farm in Suffolk, and the two people there who knew more about wildlife than anyone else by a considerable margin were myself and another ‘townie’ who handled the farm admin. The farmer’s dad, another farmer, would kill any snake on sight as he considered them all dangerous. The farmer himself did plant a hedge, but the reason he did so was he fancied the lady supervising the grant application so was keen to get her on the farm, the grant meant he didn’t have to put his hand in his pocket and the hedge when it grew would provide screening so that it would be easier to sell of his land for housing (it was near Ipswich). Myself and another worker were asked to reconstruct a chicken coop from inadequate scrap which I just knew would hardly be up before a fox got in and killed all the chickens – which one promptly did. So the fox killed the hobby chickens because proper coop was too much bother, but foxes did kill rabbits which were forever digging up and biting irrigation piping (flexible hoses) which was a major irritation and expense. The idiotic response was to shoot foxes as pest, it was a ‘tradition’. Working on a farm only confirmed what I already suspected – loads of bullshit.

    • 6 KenSmith
      August 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      I agree with Marco, Just how close did this guy have to get before seeing that it was not a crow, realising it was a buzzard he stood on it. !!
      People with gun licence should have eye test before being allowed to use a gun.

  4. 7 Kevin moore
    August 2, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    If this individual does not know what he is shooting at (and might I say I do not believe him) then no way should he be allowed out with a loaded shotgun .

  5. 9 crypticmirror
    August 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    “I shot at this crow and it came down, but when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified. I was born in the countryside and brought up on a farm. All my life I have been a wildlife supporter”… Not seeing in this statement “so I immediately called a vet to treat the injured animal and reported the incident to the police/my lawyer in order not to make my accident look like a deliberate crime”. I mean, I get not wanting to self-report to the cops and I usually advise against that in almost all circumstances, but if you’ve “accidentally” committed a crime and you know you have, then instead of actively covering it up then report it to your own lawyer so it goes on some sort of legal record. In this case, it just seems to beggar belief that they accidentally made this mistake; and I wish it also beggared belief that sheriff accepted it, but sadly that sort of winking things away seems all too common.

  6. 10 Jimmy
    August 2, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    If you can’t tell a crow from a buzzard you should not have a gun licence – simple as

  7. 11 Dave
    August 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Do we know who reported this to the authorities?

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