Scottish gamekeeper convicted of snaring offences on estate in Aberdeenshire

George Allan, 61, a Scottish gamekeeper working on an estate in Aberdeenshire, has been convicted of two snaring offences. He was sentenced yesterday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court and received a £600 fine.

A press release about this conviction is available on the SSPCA website here.

According to our local sources, Allan was a full time gamekeeper employed by the Easter Skene Shooting Syndicate on land rented to them by Dunecht Estate. There is no suggestion that Dunecht Estate had any knowledge of what Allan was up to.

This, clearly, is not a raptor persecution case, so some people (people who don’t like this blog) will no doubt query why we’re blogging about it. There are a few reasons why:

  1. This is yet further evidence that some gamekeepers are not the ‘law-abiding guardians of the countryside and friends to all animals’ that we’re so frequently told they are. This gamekeeper had completed the obligatory snaring training course (a legal requirement for anyone who wishes to set snares in Scotland) and yet, even though he had passed this course and so presumably knew the laws relating to snare-use, he chose to ignore them.
  2. He pled guilty to two snaring offences. There is no mention of him being convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to a badger. There is no doubt whatsoever that this badger suffered – it was electrocuted (from the electric fence) and, judging by the graphic photograph, it was more than likely asphyxiated too. So why wasn’t there a welfare charge against this keeper? Did the Crown accept a plea bargain and decide to just go for the snaring offences? As there was no conviction relating to the welfare of the badger, does this mean that this badger-related wildlife crime will not feature in the Government’s annual statistics on recorded badger crime?
  3. In order to secure the snaring convictions, the SSPCA used some advanced techniques to find supporting evidence. For the first time, they used forensic entomology to determine the age of the fly larvae present on the badger, to show that the badger had been in that snare for longer than the 24 hour period ‘allowed’ by the snaring regulations. Further evidence, as if it was needed (it isn’t), that the SSPCA will make extraordinary efforts to investigate wildlife crime offences. Why is it taking Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod so very long to make a decision about increasing the investigatory powers of this organisation? It’s now been one year and two months since the public consultation ended on this issue. These SSPCA investigators are experts in the field and know how to secure evidence that will stand up to legal scrutiny. It’s an absolute no-brainer that they should be given increased investigatory powers if the Scottish Government is committed to cracking down on wildlife crime, as it says it is.
  4. We’re interested to know if criminal gamekeeper George Allan is/was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. Emails to: info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk

badger pic 1 - Copy


14 Responses to “Scottish gamekeeper convicted of snaring offences on estate in Aberdeenshire”

  1. 1 Jack Snipe
    November 4, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Sometimes it’s simply beyond belief that we live in such a cruel society that this method of killing any animal is still permitted. Anyone who isn’t appalled by the sight of that poor badger has no heart. It’s easy to focus on ending illegal activities against protected species whilst forgetting (to some extent) that such outdated practices are committed legitimately on many thousands of animals each year. Perhaps it’s only to be expected from a species which exploits, suppresses, tortures and murders its own kind on a massive scale.

    • 2 Marco McGinty
      November 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      We may disagree on some points, Jack, but on this issue we will be in agreement.

      A barbaric and indiscriminate practice, and any modern government should be seeking to have it outlawed at the earliest opportunity.

  2. 3 Chris Roberts
    November 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I don’t believe that Aileen McLeod is interested, unlike her predecessor, in seriously tackling wildlife crime and cruelty, she is too much in awe of the estates and the SGA. I believe (but hope that I’m proved wrong) that we can forget about the SSPCA being given more powers.

    As for this case, again what a dismal and pathetic sentence, no deterrent for future lawbreakers to start quacking in their boots. It is completely disgusting that snares are still legal in this country, one of a very few who still allow there use. Shame that the SNP Government bottled out of outlawing them, when given a chance a few years ago.

    • 4 Marco McGinty
      November 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      I was having a quick look to try and find the details of the individual MSP votes on the snaring issue (couldn’t find any), when I came across a couple of brief statements issued by the then Environment Minister, Mike Russell.

      “I’ve got lots of things I want to see happen in the field of wildlife crime. I want to stamp it out absolutely. But I’m not going to do that if I drive it under ground.”

      “I’m not going to do that if I alienate all those people working in the countryside. Government can be tough, it can be difficult. But we are cracking wildlife crime.”

      He wants (wanted) to stamp out wildlife crime, but he doesn’t (didn’t) want to drive it underground. Erm, doesn’t crime tend to be underground?

      Those statement were issued in 2008, and in the time since, it certainly doesn’t appear that wildlife crime has been cracked at all.

      It only goes to show that politicians will say anything to make it sound as though they are making progress, or are dealing with a specific issue, but in actual fact they are just talking utter bollocks.

  3. November 4, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    A clear and concise outline of this case..of course we never find out from court cases what the real motives are behind such crimes..was he deliberately targetting badgers?..We’ll never know..and one of the reasons we dont find out is because of plea bargaining, the dropping of difficult to prove charges in favour of the “obvious” ones – saving time and money for courts but not actually advancing the cause of wildlife protection. Readers of this blog [except “people who dont like this blog” – dont ever pander to them blogmeister!] would be appalled if they knew the scale of charges which have been dropped in wildlife cases….So what the public are left with is a worry about why was this man brought to court on a couple of minor technical charges….?..with no real insight into the criminal’s motives.

  4. 9 Tony Warburtopn MBE
    November 5, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Aileen who??? In days gone by she would be known as ‘Aileen the Invisible’! Some years ago my own dog – a Border Collie – got caught by a snare set for foxes. Fortunately I was able to free him in time before serious damage was done, but I have never forgotten it. Snares should have been outlawed years ago. They are surely the most barbaric way of killing an animal? And £600!!! Risible as usual. No deterrent whatsoever. Can’t wait for the SGA answer and action if he is a member.

    • 10 Andrew
      November 8, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      By comparison take note of the sentences in the following case

      Liana Baker, 21 yrs of Central Avenue, Bury and her father Alan Baker aged 61 years of Peel Street, Accrington, appeared at Bury Magistrates Court today (29/10/2015), where they were sentenced for two offences relating to the possession and offering for sale of two wild peregrine falcons. The pair had pleaded guilty to all charges at a previous hearing.

      The offences came to light in June 2015 when Liana Baker posted photographs of two peregrine falcon chicks on a Falconry Forum on Facebook. The accompanying text indicated that the peregrines were being offered for sale at £150 each.
      Magistrate Ralph Naylor told the defendants that the offences were so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

      Having pleaded guilty to ‘Prohibited offering sale of two Annex ‘A’ Species (COTES 1997) and ‘Possession of two wild Peregrine falcons (WCA 1981), Liana Baker was sentenced to 8 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months, ordered to attend a rehabilitation of offenders course and pay £345 costs. Alan Baker was also sentenced to 8 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months. He was given a curfew from 7pm to 7am for 8 weeks and ordered to pay £345 costs.

      Again shows the pathetic sentencing handed out to game keepers and the shooting industry for their crimes compared to, in this instance, what seems to be a naive young woman (£150 peregrine on sale??) and her father(who possibly got involved trying to help his daughter).

      Additional to the penalties applied they will automatically have been banned from keeping registrable birds of prey for five years. Maybe not an issue for these particular people but as a parallel firearms licences and shotgun certificates and general licence conditions – I haven’t seen any mention of them being revoked for offenders.

      It certainly once again shows the double standards applied and the pathetic sentences applied to the serial offending shooting industry.

      Full report of the case

  5. 11 Cock Sparra
    November 9, 2015 at 8:30 am

    The criminal justice sysytem in particular the Procurator Fiscal Service appears not to have any real appitite to pursue these cases. Ask yourself why this is;

    Maybe they have have a busy workload and these cases take up time and effort
    Maybe they dont have the expertise required to match smart defence lawyers
    Maybe there is a darker more sinister reason and are protecting the rich landowners whilst are happy to pursue the poor.

    The next hurdle seems to be Sheriffs where there is no consistancy whatso ever

    Some have absolutley no idea of the subject matter or interest
    Some do have some knowledge but have an obvious conflict of interest and protect shooting and landowning interests.

    Now add into that mix Police Scotland and SNH……………………………………

    Why are we surprised when case after case ends in a poor result, the same mistakes being repeated over and over again

  6. 13 Tony Warburtopn MBE
    November 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Andrew, there is just one thing wrong with your description – the custodial sentences were suspended!

    • 14 Andrew
      November 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Sorry Tony, I’m confused. My text notes they were suspended which is correct, Are you suggesting, cryptically, that they should not have been suspended?

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