Ross-shire Massacre: three years on

Today marks the three year anniversary of the mass poisoning of red kites and buzzards at Conon Bridge in the Scottish Highlands – a crime that became known as the Ross-shire Massacre.

A total of 22 dead raptors (16 red kites and 6 buzzards) were discovered in a small geographic area over a number of weeks, beginning on 18 March 2014. Toxicology tests confirmed that 16 of these raptors (12 red kites and 4 buzzards) had been poisoned with a banned substance. Police Scotland has so far refused to name the poison, ‘for operational reasons’.

Nobody has ever been charged in connection with this crime.

Under Scottish law, there is a three year time limit for bringing a prosecution for offences committed under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (in England the time limit is two years). The clock starts ticking from the date the offence was commissioned. Three years later, the case becomes ‘time barred’ and even if the culprit is identified after this date, a prosecution under the Wildlife & Countryside Act is not possible.

We’ve been waiting for this three-year anniversary to arrive because we’ve got quite a bit to say about this case, particularly the police investigation, but we’ve been unable to publish these comments while the case was still considered ‘live’. Once the three-year anniversary was reached, we expected to be able to write a blog about the string of police cock-ups without worrying about legal restrictions and compromising the investigation.

However, it has been suggested to us that the three-year time bar may not take effect until the third anniversary of the last dead bird’s discovery, rather than the third anniversary of the actual poisoning offence. This seems a bit of a stretch to us (we believe there was only one poisoning offence, on 18 March 2014, not a series of them) but, as we’re not lawyers, we need to tread carefully and err on the side of caution.

We’re not entirely certain of the date the last dead raptor was found at Conon Bridge, although we blogged about it on 26 April 2014. Because of this uncertainty, we will not be blogging about this case until early May, just to be absolutely sure that we’re not compromising any chance of someone being prosecuted for this crime (yes, highly unlikely, we know, but we have to play the game or face a charge of contempt).

More in May. In the meantime, for anyone who wants to read what we’ve previously written about this fiasco, click here and scroll through the pages.


20 Responses to “Ross-shire Massacre: three years on”

  1. March 18, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    What a surprise Police will not name poison used and have not made any arrest wonder if they even tried or do they not want to find culprits

    • 2 Js
      March 18, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      What happened to the other birds that weren’t poisoned? Are there legal pesticides out there that could have caused this if used irresponsibility or discarded negligently?

  2. 3 Stephen stabler
    March 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Laws need to change

  3. 4 Ron55
    March 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    They’re still banging on about tagging birds on certain FB pages. You’d think it was gamekeepers, and only gamekeepers who know anything about the natural world, because they have a divine right over anyone else, the way they’re going on. Then you see something like this and understand there’s a more sinister agenda.

  4. 5 Chris Batchelor
    March 18, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    It’s either staggering incompetence or outrageous contempt for the law & public opinion.

  5. 6 SOG
    March 18, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Of course, if Police Scotland were actually still working on the case, they’d doubtless contact you, very quiety, and ask you to wait a bit. They might even do so in confidence. One would guess they haven’t.

  6. 7 crypticmirror
    March 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    I wonder if this means the local Keystone Cops will “discover” some kite bones somewhere in the next couple of weeks and decide it was also a victim of this offence and restart the clock again. I’m joking obviously, but at the same time a very small sliver of cynicism in me says that if they did then I wouldn’t be surprised either.

  7. 8 keen birder
    March 18, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I s this whats called got off “Scot free” ffs makes me so mad.

  8. 9 Chris Roberts
    March 18, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    A disgusting episode from beginning to end. I have utter contempt for both the National assembly and its police force with regard to wildlife crime. I bet a poacher who took a salmon or deer would have been apprehended and prosecuted within days.

  9. 11 J .Coogan
    March 18, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I really object to the inference that Poilice Scotland are in some way failing in the investigation of this wildlife crime,I hope you will publish a full apology when in April arrests are made. I believe at the same time the fate of the Ninth Legion will be announced ,and arrests will be made for the Darnley and Appin murders. How foolish will you feel then RPUK ?

  10. March 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Whoever is gamekeeping at Conon bridge will know who did this. The truth will out eventually. Maybe we just need to wait for someone in that community to become disillusioned, sidelined or ostracised by their own fraternity. We are used to waiting after all – waiting for Police Scotland to become effective at solving wildlife crime, waiting for the Scottish government for reign these swines in, etc etc

  11. 14 Brian Kelly
    March 19, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I suspect that if another similar incident happened police Scotland would respond in the same way.
    And why do I think this?
    Despite all the police , PAW Scotland and SNH spin the facts speak for themselves.
    Less police investigations
    Less police searches of sporting estates
    Less convictions
    This is against a backdrop of no transparacy and defensiveness.

    The evidence is overwhelming that persecution levels are still extremely high.

    It’s time for positive change and give SSPCA additional powers.

  12. March 19, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Until we sort out the ridiculous nature of landownership in this country and finally do away with feudalism, the police and judiciary will always be on the side of the landed. No one will ever be prosecuted for this heinous crime as for most other similar crimes because the judiciary has absolutely no will to do so.

  13. March 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    When the type of poison is finally made public, will there be an outcry if it’s of a type that’s dangerous to the public – and no one was warned??…Here’s a question, if the police were alerted to a cache of dangerous poison left out in the scottish countryside [no dead birds of prey or other wildlife involved] would they go public?….I think we know the answer don’t we?

  14. 18 George Gray
    March 20, 2017 at 12:00 am

    We are being led to believe this type of offence is impossible to solve.
    We only need to look back a few years and see that this is not the case. Bird poisoners have been caught and convicted.

    Police Scotland are currently failing with wildlife crime and SNP are happy to sweep it under the carpet in case it impacts on rural economy.

    There are big similarities with the aqua culture industry being permitted to poison the sea and shoot seals.

  15. 19 Winston Roberts
    March 20, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Just to clarify on the time limit for raising a prosecution, Section 20 of the Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981:

    Summary proceedings for an offence under this Part may be brought within a period of six months from the date on which evidence sufficient in the opinion of the prosecutor to warrant the proceedings came to his knowledge; but no such proceedings shall be brought by virtue of this section more than three years after the commission of the offence or, in the case of a continuous contravention, after the last date on which the offence was committed.

    Therefore, it this was a continuous contravention (i.e. further offences had been committed) the time limit runs from the date of the most recent offence.

  16. 20 big bob
    January 4, 2018 at 12:12 am

    I can’t find the promised May 17 update. Did you write one?

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