Masked gunmen at goshawk nest in Moy Forest

The following article was published today in the Press & Journal:

For regular blog readers, this is a story we ran in November 2017 (here) when we’d found out through an FoI that a masked gunman and an associate had been caught on camera near a raptor nest at an undisclosed public forest in Scotland.

We were pretty shocked that Police Scotland had kept silent about this incident and, given public safety concerns, we encouraged blog readers to write to their local MSPs to ask questions about the (mis)handling of this case (here).

We also asked Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and the Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, about this issue but neither bothered to respond.

Police Scotland did respond to some of our blog readers requests for information (see here) but refused to discuss the details or reveal the location. However, several local MSPs did commit to taking this up with the Police on behalf of their constituents.

At least one of those MSPs was as good as his word and we’ve recently received copies of correspondence between him and his constituents, which we’ll blog about early in the New Year.

For now, it is apparent that this political intervention has resulted in Police Scotland issuing an appeal for information (only 8 months too late) and revealing the location as Moy Forest, a site well known for being targeted by raptor killers.

Nobody will be surprised to learn that the land around Moy Forest is managed for intensive driven grouse shooting.

Well done to those blog readers who chased up this story, well done to those MSPs who followed up with the Police, and well done to Kieran Beattie at the P&J for taking it to press. But it’s pretty pathetic that we all had to go to such lengths to get Police Scotland to react. Not good enough.

There’s a lot more to talk about in relation to this incident and we’ll be returning to it in the New Year….


20 Responses to “Masked gunmen at goshawk nest in Moy Forest”

  1. 1 George M
    December 30, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Words fail. It would appear to the untrained eye that those who are supposed to working to enforce the law are failing badly in their duty on many fronts, not the least being public safety. Once more it appears that it is more important to preserve the shooting rights of the few than both of the safety of the public or the laws protecting birds of prey.
    How on earth are conservationists expected to share their knowledge with other organisation who claim to share their aims when even a fool can see that shooting interests are implicated here in one way or another. It becomes increasingly clear that State funded bodies are failing in their duty to the public.
    The hegemony of wealth seems to be seeping through the very fabric of our society to the cost of everything most of us value.

  2. 2 Ron Bury
    December 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I’m pleased that at long last this occurrence has been made public. Top marks to the FC for trying to do something about this which I understand happens every year.

    I don’t think there is any doubt in local minds about who the perpetrators are but proof is harder to come by.

    Well done RPUK for keeping up the pressure.

  3. 3 crypticmirror
    December 30, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    [Ed: comment deleted. We’ve been through this before with you. Please stop it]

  4. 4 Jimmy
    December 30, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    This “police” service is clearly not fit for the job – time for a separate and vetted wildlife crime unit

  5. 5 ICT
    December 30, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Jimmy, time for the SSPCA to take over from an incompetent Police Scotland.
    I’m please to see FCS taking the persecution of raptors seriously unlike the Keystone Cops.
    Thanks to blog readers involved, the MSP’s & the P&J reporter and of course RPUK.

    • 6 Dylanben
      December 31, 2017 at 12:04 am

      Makes you wonder how prevalent the practice of putting birds off the nest under the cover of darkness might be. No doubt another variation from their repertoire of dirty tricks.

    • 7 Macgee
      December 31, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      ICT your proposal makes complete sense. Unfortunately the SNP had the opportunity to grant SSPCA additional powers but crumbled to the dark side and landowners.

      IA stand alone unit would be the best solution but in todays climate I can’t see the funding being made available. Implementing SSPCA powers is free.

      I think we are stuck with the status quo for the time being.

      Roseanna Cunningham and Fergus Ewing are firmly in the pockets of the wildlife killers and habitat destroyers.

  6. 8 dave angel
    December 31, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Suppose the police (and FCS) know exactly who is involved, but can’t prove it?

    Would releasing the photographs and appealing for information help?

    • 9 lizzybusy
      December 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Yes. It’s about intelligence gathering – owners of guns in the general area. People with criminal records for (don’t laugh!) wildlife crimes. Vehicles / motor bikes / quads etc they own. Associates. Vehicles the associates own. Movements of those individuals. Video footage of vehicles in the area at the time. Etc etc

  7. December 31, 2017 at 12:21 am

    So the image was not released to the public at the time !!!!!!
    When did inquiries in the local area begin ?
    This is criminally lax on the part of the police considering that armed men were creeping round in the middle of the night !!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. 11 Paul V Irving
    December 31, 2017 at 9:50 am

    One wishes that the ground had opened up and swallowed the bastards. there is no doubt these men were up to no good we all know that catching them and proving it is entirely a different matter.

  9. 12 Lyn Ebbs
    December 31, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Hi RPUK You may be interested in the attached letter that I received from Forest Enterprise Scotland. Prompted by your blog I emailed Michael Matheson as a frequent visitor to Scotland asking which forests I should avoid so as not to risk coming across masked gunmen. All credit to them to persist in tracking me down after they had capitilised the first letter of my email address making their reply undeliverable. I’ve blanked out my address and email, so if you want to use this letter in your blog you are welcome to do so. Happy New Year and keep up the good work Best regards Lyn

    [Ed: thanks, Lyn. Your attachment didn’t come through. Please could you email it to: raptorpersecutionscotland@hotmail.com We’ll be blogging more about this case in the New Year so your correspondence will be of great interest, thanks!]

  10. 13 Secret Squirrel
    December 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

    For those unfamiliar with investigative techniques, the key phrase used here is ‘investigative gain’. In other words, would my investigation be aided or advanced by releasing this photo? The general policy is to retain information unless there is a definitive investigative gain.

    • December 31, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Yes but still there could have been witnesses who saw something suspicious. The delay is unacceptable.
      It seems that they play both excuses 1. Can’t release info because the investigation is on going and 2. Can’t release info because it isn’t.
      There is only one group that gains from this secrecy and that is the nearby estates.

      • 15 Jim Craib
        January 2, 2018 at 11:32 pm

        Hello Anandprsad,

        Unlikely to be any witnesses in the Moy Forest area after dark. Even if there was the people seen on camera near the goshawk nest are obviously local and know when to make their move i.e. when there are no FC rangers or members of the public about.

        We need more sophisticated technology that sends pictures to a mobile phone or computer when anyone is in the vicinity of the nests in Moy Forest.

    • 16 Macgee
      January 2, 2018 at 11:57 am


      I note your point and this principle is not individual to investigation.

      What is clear is that in term of investigations wildlife crime is not investigated on an even playing field.

      Officers given little or sometimes no support against a backdrop of having little resources and a crime that is treated as very low priority.

      This has been the police approach for a greal many years and is unlikely to change any time soon given the relentless cuts police are having to implement.

      Police should be honest and tell the public the truth.

  11. 17 lizzybusy
    December 31, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Even without showing the video, you’d think an appeal for info at the time would have been useful.

  12. 18 Ernie Scales
    December 31, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Walk in the woodland around Daviot as we do in November and there’s the background noise of shooting from the Moy area which exceeds the traffic noise on the A9.

  13. December 31, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Is there any way in which the release of video footage and/or official appeals for help regarding criminal activity in general can be compared to the response to wildlife crime in particular? Is it a case of general laxity or is it specific to wildlife crimes? If the former then this appears to be a systemic problem but if latter it would be useful to know why one set of crimes are treated differently.

  14. January 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Well there can be no gain (investigative or other) without some pain !

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