NYorks Police decision to caution pole-trapping gamekeeper: where’s that review?

On 1st June 2016, we blogged about the Mossdale Estate gamekeeper who had been caught on film setting illegal pole traps on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here).

Later that day we also blogged about North Yorkshire Police’s decision to issue this criminal with a caution rather than refer him to the Crown Prosecution Service to begin a formal prosecution. We argued that, according to the official Police ‘cautions’ guidelines, the decision to caution in this case was apparently flawed. The offences, to which the gamekeeper had already admitted guilt, backed up by excellent video evidence obtained by the RSPB’s Investigations Team, were of such gravity and included all five aggravating factors (and no mitigating factors) as listed in the Police guidelines, that this was a clear case for proceeding to charges and a prosecution (see here).

The Police’s decision to issue a caution, and their justification for that decision, resulted in widespread public anger, particularly on social media.

To her credit, Amanda Oliver, North Yorkshire Police Acting Chief Constable (also the newly-appointed Police National Wildlife Crime lead) responded by tweeting the following:


Around the same time, one of our readers sent an FoI to North Yorkshire Police about this case, asking for details about the procedures that were followed to reach the decision to caution this gamekeeper. The response doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. That blog reader has kindly given us permission to post the Police’s FoI response here: NYP_FOI_June2016_pole trap decision

So, it’s now 30th June 2016 and a month has passed since we were promised a police review of the decision to caution. Where is it? How long does it take to conduct a review of this nature? It can’t take very long, surely? The evidence against the gamekeeper was as good as it gets (unequivocal video footage and a subsequent admission of guilt from the gamekeeper) so the question to be addressed by the review is pretty simple:

Why did the police officer issue a simple caution when the official police guidelines state that a simple caution was inappropriate for these offences?

Let’s ask Acting Chief Constable Amanda Oliver when we might expect to see the results of the review. Emails to: amanda.oliver@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk 

7 Responses to “NYorks Police decision to caution pole-trapping gamekeeper: where’s that review?”

  1. 1 robert
    June 30, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    I thought raptor crime was a national crime priority

    What a disgrace, once again police show their true colours. Whatever way you look at it

    The end result is the same.

  2. 2 barbmc
    June 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    The response is a cop-out (no pun intended). Why is this not Criminal Negligence?

  3. 3 Dylanben
    June 30, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    The response from the North Yorkshire Police Legal Officer sets out, in some detail, what is supposed to happen. However, it does not say what actually did happen. In particular, we need to know who it was who supposedly applied the matrix test which resulted in the gamekeeper receiving a caution. Of particular significance in the undertaking of the test is the depth of knowledge of wildlife issues possessed by the person applying it. Was the person who drew the conclusion that a caution was appropriate fully conversant with such matters and did they fully appreciate the significance of the nature of the crime? If not, did they seek advice from specialist officers in this field? I suspect not!
    All told, it would appear that the gamekeeper was guilty of committing no fewer than six offences. These were not offences of little or no significance. Rather they were six of the most heinous crimes it is possible for a gamekeeper to commit.
    There is something seriously amiss here and it is to be hoped that NY Police come out into the open and admit that this is so, I fell so strongly about this apparent miscarriage of justice that I would be prepared to make a significant contribution towards any legal expenses which it might be necessary to incur to achieve a right and proper outcome.

  4. June 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Some gamekeepers may have friends that are police officers. Some police officers may have friends that are gamekeepers. Both jobs pay a wage so a dead red kite or three isn’t going to come between them. Know what I mean like.

  5. July 1, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I don’t want to appear dim here but shouldn’t the police’s FoI response be referred to the Plain English Campaign (www.plainenglish.co.uk)? It took me several read-throughs to get the gist of what it actually meant!

    July 6, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    This is the reply I got today:

    Your complaint about raptor persecution

    You wrote to us recently to complain about our decision to caution a man, after he admitted an offence contrary to section 5(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

    North Yorkshire Police has now completed a review of this investigation. This involved looking again at the evidence and the decision, using the Ministry of Justice Guidelines on Adult Cautions, the Adult Gravity Factor Matrix, and the latest Director of Public Prosecutions Guidance on Charging. Specialist advice was also sought from the Crown Prosecution Service.

    Our review found that we had not used the correct cautioning guidelines when dealing with this case.

    officers have a level of discretion in deciding how to deal with a case, based on the specific circumstances of the incident. However, the review concluded that if the correct guidelines had been used, it is likely that the man would have been charged, rather than cautioned.

    It is important to remember that a police caution is not a “let off”. A person who has been cautioned has a criminal record, and there can be very serious consequences as a result. Depending on the circumstances, they may lose their job and income, and there may also be implications for the person’s future employment. A decision was also made to revoke this man’s firearms licence as a result of his involvement in this offence.

    As a result of the review, we asked the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether further action should be taken on this case, and provided them with other details of our activity related to the man involved. After consideration, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that, taking all matters into account, including that a decision had already been made, no further action should be taken.

    I would like to reassure you that the mistake we made on the use of guidelines was isolated to this particular case. Nonetheless, we have taken the matter very seriously, and we have ensured we have done everything we can to avoid mistakes happening in the future. We have amended our policy on how wildlife crimes are dealt with by investigators and decision-makers, and advice from specially-trained officers is now sought in every case. We are also using our position as the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on rural and wildlife crime, to share what we have learned with other police services across the UK.

    Thank you for raising this matter with us. On behalf of North Yorkshire Police I would like to apologise for the distress that this matter has caused you, and assure you that we will do our very best to protect our local wildlife, and deliver the police national wildlife action plan here in North Yorkshire and more widely.

    Yours sincerely

    Amanda Oliver Acting Assistant Chief Constable

    North Yorkshire Police

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