Police Scotland silent after armed masked men filmed at raptor nest in public forest

Forestry Commission Scotland staff routinely install cameras at the nests of several raptor species (e.g. goshawk, osprey, golden eagle, hen harrier, buzzard) to undertake dietary studies and to help identify individually-marked birds by their colour rings. If the cameras happen to film anything suspicious at these nests (e.g. unlicensed visits by armed criminals) the footage would be admissible in any subsequent prosecution because the cameras are placed with landowner permission and there are warning signs alerting visitors that cameras are in use in these public forests.

We submitted an FoI to Forest Enterprise Scotland to find out how many incidents of suspected disturbance had been filmed at raptor nests in Forestry Commission Scotland woodland this year.

According to the FoI response, one incident was captured this year involving “two masked people within 30m of a [raptor] nest site, one carrying a firearm”.

FES refused to name the forest and also withheld details about the raptor species involved, because “the disclosure of this information would adversely affect the protection of the environment to which the information relates“. The incident was reported to Police Scotland.

So, in spring this year, an armed, masked gunman and a masked accomplice were filmed in a public forest near a raptor nest site, and it’s now November and we’ve heard absolutely nothing about it from Police Scotland.

Suspected disturbance of a raptor nest site is one thing, but being armed and masked in a public forest takes this to a whole other level.

Have Police Scotland identified the masked, armed gunman and his masked accomplice? If not, why hasn’t there been a public appeal for information?

Why hasn’t the camera footage been released?

Doesn’t Police Scotland think that the general public should be warned that an armed, masked gunman and a masked accomplice have been filmed wandering around in a public forest? What about warning dog walkers, cyclists, runners, birdwatchers, families on recreational visits, that they are at risk of bumping in to someone wearing a balaclava and brandishing a firearm? Isn’t this a serious threat to public safety?

It just beggars belief.

UPDATE 30 December 2017: Masked gunmen at goshawk nest in Moy Forest (here)


40 Responses to “Police Scotland silent after armed masked men filmed at raptor nest in public forest”

  1. 1 Dave Dick
    November 14, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    ..and of course that applies to every confirmed incident involving dangerous poisons, virtually anywhere in Scotland, where our ancient right to roam is now enshrined in statute. The illegal activities of the game preservers/vermin controllers are very often a danger to the public but somehow aren’t taken as seriously as those of your non-sporting local criminal.

  2. 4 chris lock
    November 14, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    After the cuts’ it is a shock there are any police left to be silent.

  3. 5 Chris
    November 14, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I don’t know whether you want to update your wording, or whether I am wrong (probably!), but I didn’t think there was a law of trespass in Scotland? There are many things wrong with armed masked men wondering around public forests, but I’m not sure trespass is one of them.

    • 6 Dylanben
      November 14, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      What about ‘armed trespass’, surely a different kettle of fish to them simply ‘wondering’ as they wandered? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUe75t2i3mo

    • 7 Paul V Irving
      November 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Sorry Chris but Armed Trespass is a specific offence — being somewhere armed but without permission and thus without legitimate purpose is I think one of the definitions, not sure about the situation in Scotland but in England it is a serious offence.

    • 8 Pip
      November 15, 2017 at 12:32 am

      The law does recognise trespass in Scotland – MOD sites, nuclear installations, electricity substations, operational railway land and similar locations although I was accused of trespassing a week or so ago by some twerp – but on the other hand I was armed with a pair of binoculars and a camera!

  4. 9 Caro McAdam
    November 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    English lawyer here… you can’t trespass on public land – everybody has permission to be on it. A trespasser is someone who is in a place without permission to be there. Being in possession of a firearm in public is of course an entirely different matter…

  5. 11 Jonathan Wallace
    November 14, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    The refusal of FES to divulge to RPUK details of the forest concerned or the species of raptor involved because this would “adversely affect the protection of the environment to which the information applies” is baffling. On the one hand you have an organisation dedicated to protecting birds of prey from illegal persecution who it’s deemed are not appropriate people to have such information, on the other you have the people intent on harming the birds who clearly already know the whereabouts of the nest as they have been filmed in its vicinity brandishing arms and dressed up as terrorists…

    • November 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Yes, it seems that if we lump FOI questions then they use one excuse to avoid the others.
      In future i will word my questions as if writing to a 5 year old.
      3a. Please state the species.
      3b. Please state the name of the forest.
      3c. Please state location if possible (gridrefs not required)

      An outsider might be forgiven in believing that statements like “the disclosure of this information would adversely affect the protection of the environment to which the information relates“ mean that the police/NE/SNH/FCS are really on top of this lark and without such FOI requests they would be doing a superb job and raptor crime would be going the way of smallpox.

  6. 13 Dylanben
    November 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I don’t see where the suggestion that this was a ‘public forest’ came from. It isn’t mentioned in the FOI response and cannot be ascertained from general knowledge as we don’t know where the incident occurred. It would assist if a further FOI request could be made asking whether there was any indication of the nest or adults having been adversely affected, assuming that it was an active site.

  7. 16 Tony Warburton MBE
    November 14, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Words fail me. I wonder what the police would do if these guys walked down a shopping precinct in Edinburgh or Glasgow wearing balaclavas and bearing firearms? As for FES they are simply pathetic. And can someone put me right on something which always puzzles me. How come people can be arrested and found guilty when the proof of their guilt derives from CCTV footage of them committing crimes in towns, cities and shops (often on a Friday night or weekend). This is apparently valid without being agreed by the general public being filmed, but we have to ask the raptor killers and their bosses if it is ok to film them at their nefarious work because it is unlawful to do so without their permission!

    • 17 Dave Dick
      November 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Tony the issue with court use of video footage is about having the landowners permission…not that of the criminal..the fact that many raptor crimes involve a landowner or at least his staff means that getting that permission is a. very unlikely to be given and b. will never catch anyone!….and if no one is caught and prosecuted, the crimes continue, as we see on this site virtually every week….a change in the law is needed?

  8. November 14, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Thankyou for raising this issue. HIT experienced the same issue of masked, armed gunmen roaming the Peak District National Park with military grade weapons. The police’s response? Because they are masked, they cannot be identified and no action can be taken. Worrying times indeed. Good luck up there.

    • 19 J .Coogan
      November 15, 2017 at 11:27 am

      This is all unbefknlievable ,masked gunmen walking around and the police don’t care or don’t have the resources to bother responding. This country is becoming a scary place. SURELY there would be an outcry if this was widely known???

  9. 20 carol
    November 14, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    armed masked men, balaclavas, camaflague, in hides or not , could be seen far too often Edinburgh GreenBelt within a few hundred yds housing -kids separately frightened by them when they were dog walking in irregular shaped field and shooting suddenly started v close to them. presume shooters were so ‘responsible’ they were oblivious to (uncamoflagued) kids

  10. 21 Pip
    November 15, 2017 at 12:53 am

    I’m normally a great admirer of most of the stuff that the FC do but their response to this FOI is a little less than adequate. I presume the correct response should one come across masked and armed persons in a public place would be a triple 9 call highlighting that a firearms offence was in commission, and requesting the usual incident number etc. Surely then any lack of response could be followed up with the police commissioner/MP/CC? This was, after all, a pretty serious event.

  11. 22 heclasu
    November 15, 2017 at 1:38 am

    It is about time that wearing a mask whilst outdoors whilst being in possession of a shotgun or firearm is made a specific offence. Wearing a mask seems to becoming commonplace these days amongst the gamekeeping community. Time it was stopped.

    • November 15, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      It probably is, and if they had been seen and reported, would have had to have been confronted by police – If they had walked home like this, and had been seen and reported, a major firearms incident would have had to be declared with an armed response team etc. The issue here is when the incident occurred, how long it took to view the CCTV, and the delay in actually reporting it.
      This is exactly the type of incident that has the participant left thinking they can get away with it. You do have to wonder what their reactions might have been, if a member of the public had stumbled across the incident and confronted them on their actions.

  12. 24 Tony Warburton MBE
    November 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks Dave, now I understand – but don’t if you know what I mean! We wish to ban Islamic women from wearing burkahs in the UK, but these criminals can roam the moors and fields wearing balaclavas and bearing shotguns! Crazy. And wjspeirs – they don’t ‘think’ they can get away with it, they know damn well they can! Thank heaven we have RPUK and its readers for keeping up the pressure. I am now going to lie down!

    • 25 Paul V Irving
      November 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Tony why do we wish to ban islamic women wearing burkas in the UK? If they wish to wear them what is the problem.
      Actually I recall that some years ago a notorious North Yorkshire grouse keeper and a another probably an under keeper were caught on the MOD Feldom Ranges in near darkness in full camo gear and with guns at a Buzzard nest with dead buzzard. Police called ? arrested ? etc. NO they appeared before the commander who wished to keep good relations with the neighbours so he just gave them a bollocking but he did apparently tell them they were lucky not to have been shot as terrorists. Whilst one in general wishes nobody harm that might have been a serious deterrent to such behaviour.

      • 26 Pip
        November 16, 2017 at 12:10 am

        A mask is a mask – whether a burka, a nylon stocking, balaclava or scarf and all have their problems when it comes to identifying people for whatever reason and generally speaking (note generally) they are worn by people who do not wish to be recognised for whatever reason. Pip.

      • 27 heclasu
        November 16, 2017 at 2:05 am

        A bit O.T.but perhaps not! – Last year, I was standing one afternoon outside Birmingham Moor Street station – as you do – when this 6’3″ creature walked past me with another one slightly shorter, both dressed head to foot in ‘the black garb’ they wear and both wearing burkas. Problem is, they were so obviously blokes! That is why burkas need to be banned. Like gamekeepers wearing masks, blokes wearing burkas are, in my opinion, up to no good, especially, in the present climate. That is why they are wearing masks for heavens sake! Yes, they were reported.

  13. 28 Billy c
    November 15, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Just one short point.
    I dont think it will relate to this incident but most of FC Scotland woods also have deer shooting taking place, either FSC own staff or syndicates who pay to go there to control (shoot) the deer. I suppose there is a slight chance that this is what was happening?
    It is normal practice for the face to be covered while doing this as most of our faces shine like a beacon to wildlife.. I think it would though be normal for a restriction to be put on the lease holder of the stalking lease to keep away from any sensitive sites within the lease that FCS were aware of

    • 29 dave angel
      November 16, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      I assume that if it was someone intent on raptor persecution the nest, if not the occupants, would have been shot at, which doesn’t appear to have happened, so possibly this was a couple of poachers after deer or boar.

      It would be useful to know the time of year and time of day this occurred, and whether the firearm was a rifle or a shotgun.

  14. 30 Steven Robertson
    November 15, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    The countryside act is really common sence and if everyone followed it that’s great. Yes in Scotland there are in around about way no trespassing laws but you should respect the land your walking on etc. I think more clarification from the police or even the home office if necessary on some of the issues spoke about with reference to balaclava. Now if your a hunter your face is something as well as a human shape is recognised by all animals as danger so hiding your face is not wrong in that respect. Any person walking around with a firearm should have a good reason and if its not your land seek permission to be there and why! Sadly I was talking to a retired police man in July about this problem, and he said sadly the police don’t take this series as domestic crime as its so hard to sold they don’t have the man power as well. I would be looking for more clarification about the use of cameras and the law. As my father in law found out that police Scotland do not except if you have a front viewing camera as evidences but in England thy do?

  15. 31 Macgee
    November 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I have no sympathy for police. They are not being honest and continually mislead the public and government that their “huge team of specialist wildlife crime officers are adequately resourced and given suffient provision to investigate wildlife crimes”

    Whilst this is not only untrue it gives the public and government the impression that things are in hand.

    Police claims of ” full investigation, extensivery search, working with partner agenvies.” etc etc are complete nonsense.

    The lack of cases reaching court clearly exposes the poor policing in this area.

    I accept that there are some individual wildlife crime officers that are trying their best but they are to few and low ranking and make little effect.

    So the killing of wildlife will continue on an industrial scale and police will continue their denials and misleading rebuttals.

  16. 34 Adam
    November 17, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Firearms legislation is quite complex (and I am not particularly familiar with it), but under section 19 of the Firearms Act 1968 carrying firearm in a public place is already an offence:

    ‘A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies on him) he has with him in a public place

    (a)a loaded shot gun,

    (b)an air weapon (whether loaded or not),

    (c)any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm, or

    (d)an imitation firearm.’

    According to section 57(4) public place ‘includes any (..) place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.’

    Perhaps section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 could also be relevant:

    ‘(1)A person (“A”) commits an offence if—

    (a)A behaves in a threatening or abusive manner,

    (b)the behaviour would be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm, and

    (c)A intends by the behaviour to cause fear or alarm or is reckless as to whether the behaviour would cause fear or alarm.’

  17. 35 Tony Warburton MBE
    November 17, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Paul, sorry for the delayed reply, but the other guys beat me to it anyway. People want to ban burkahs because male terrorists wear them to pretend they are harmless women, and to have teachers wearing them in schools is just ludicrous.

  18. November 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    I suspect we might be wandering off-topic here. Let’s concentrate on the wildlife crime.

    • 37 Pip
      November 22, 2017 at 12:27 am

      No – mask wearing by criminals is exactly part of the wildlife crime problem – see previous posts – not “off topic” at all…………………..Pip

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