Two months ago we blogged about a series of illegally-set traps that had been photographed on the grouse moor of Glendye Estate in Aberdeenshire (see here).
We, and many of you (thank you) passed on the information to the local Police Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer, PC Doug Darling in the hope that an investigation might take place. We contacted him again a few days ago and asked if he was able to provide an update on this case.
He told us that an enquiry had been carried out in the area the day after the incident had been reported to the police, but no illegally-set traps had been found.
The person who had taken the photographs and published them on a blog was then contacted by the police, to learn as much as possible about the incident (how the traps were set, whether any baits had been seen etc).
The police then visited the Estate Factor and the gamekeeper, who were in possession of the traps as they had been informed of the incident by the original witness. PC Darling told us: “They took it upon themselves to remove the traps in case something were to become caught and denied knowing whose traps they were and how they came to be found on the estate set in an illegal manor [sic]”.
That’s interesting. What would you do if you were working in the land management sector and a member of the public told you they’d found illegally-set traps on your land? Wouldn’t you leave the evidence in place and immediately notify the police?
Anyway, PC Darling went on: “Given we have no physical evidence it would not be possible to report the incident to the Procurator Fiscal however Scottish Natural Heritage are aware of the incident and we will be discussing any other measures we could pursue given the circumstances“.
Presumably ‘any other measures’ would include SNH putting a General Licence restriction order on this Estate, because according to SNH guidelines, evidence which may be considered by SNH in any decision to impose a General Licence restriction includes:
‘Illegal placement, design or use of traps or methods that are not in compliance with the requirements of the General Licence‘.
We’ll see if that happens because of course much still depends on the findings of the judicial review, which examined the process SNH used to impose a General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate back in 2015. The court’s decision has not yet been announced, at least not in public.
This case highlights something we discussed yesterday when blogging about the pine marten that had been caught in a spring trap on another grouse shooting estate in Scotland (see here). If every trap had to carry a unique police-issued number identifying the registered trap-user, then this investigation might have ended with a better result. As happens over and over again, whoever set these traps has escaped being held to account for their criminal activities.
PC Darling deserves full credit here. Not only did he launch an investigation the day after being alerted to these traps, he then followed up with the witness and paid a visit to those responsible for managing the land, and he was also very quick and willing to explain what had happened when asked about this case. What a breath of fresh air. His actions will inspire confidence for anyone else thinking about reporting a suspected wildlife crime in this region, rather than the brick wall we’ve become accustomed to expect from Police Scotland. Let’s hope his senior officers take note and applaud his efforts as much as we do.