Case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper collapses as RSPB video evidence ruled inadmissible

We’ve been reporting on the case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper James Hartley since September 2017 (see here, here, here, here for previous posts).

Mr Hartley faced 9 charges as follows:

  1. Disturbing the nesting site of a Schedule 1 wild bird (13/04/2016)
  2. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird (13/04/2016)
  3. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird (14/04/2016)
  4. Setting trap / gin / snare etc. to cause injury to a wild bird (between 13-14/04/2016)
  5. Taking a Schedule 1 wild bird (14/04/2016)
  6. Possessing a live / dead Schedule 1 wild bird or its parts (14/04/2016)
  7. Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (13/04/2016)
  8. Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (between 12/04/2016 – 27/04/2016)
  9. Causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal – Animal Welfare Act 2006 (between 14/04/2016 – 15/04/2016)

The case collapsed last week after District Judge Goodwin ruled the RSPB video evidence inadmissible at a hearing at Preston Magistrates Court on 28 March 2018.

Reporting restrictions imposed early on in the case prevented us from blogging in detail until the case had concluded. We’re now able to report what happened.

This blog is the first in a series about this case. In this one, we set out the Crown’s case against Mr Hartley, and the defence’s skeleton argument against the admissibility of the video evidence.

Here are the details of the case as presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution Service (barrister: Mr Yip):

On the 11th April 2016 RSPB Investigations Officer [name redacted], in the presence of RSPB Investigations Officer [name redacted], installed a covert video camera pointed towards a peregrine falcon nest site within the boundary of Bleasdale Game Estate in the Forest of Bowland.

The red star denotes the location of the Bleasdale Estate:

The Bleasdale Estate is owned by Jeremy Duckworth. Mr Duckworth describes the upper moorland as managed for grouse shooting and he employs one gamekeeper for this area, that being the defendant James Hartley.

It is the Crown’s case that the covert camera captured footage which revealed incidents on the 13 and 14 April 2016 where the nest site and birds were interfered with.

The Crown say that a number of clips show that on 13th April 2016 at 19.53hrs an incubating peregrine leaves the nest scrape. This is immediately followed by what appears to be four shotgun discharges. A few minutes later at 19.57hrs a person wearing a camouflage suit and in possession of a hammer attends the nest site for a number of minutes before leaving.

The following morning, 14th April 2016 at 10.29hrs, a peregrine, believed to be the male parent, lands on the edge of the nest ledge and walks in to the nest scrape area. The bird becomes trapped all day in what the Crown say is a spring trap. At 20.25hrs the peregrine is still present. At 23.12hrs a person with a torch visits the site. It is the Crown’s case that the inference is this person had removed the peregrine and the trap as the bird was no longer present the following day.

On 21st April 2016 a number of officers from Lancashire Constabulary and the RSPB attended the nest site area and recovered four eggs and some feathers.

On 26th April 2016 a search warrant was executed and a search was conducted at the defendant’s home address and outbuildings. A green bag containing a number of items was seized from an outbuilding. Forensic DNA analysis from Dr Lucy Webster provides extremely strong support to the proposition that two of the items within this exhibit, an orange handled knife and a wooden handled hammer have been in contact with peregrine falcon.

Between 17.37hrs and 19.11hrs on 24th May 2016 the defendant was interviewed under caution when he declined to answer any questions put to him.

Between 13.16hrs and 13.50hrs on 2nd November 2016 the defendant was interviewed under caution for the second time when he declined to answer any questions put to him.


Here is the skeleton argument presented to the court by the defence (barrister: Mr Justin Rouse QC):

The defence seek to exclude the video footage obtained by [RSPB Investigator, name redacted] and the items recovered in the search on the 21 April 2016 under s78 Police & Criminal Evidence Act [PACE] 1984.

S78 PACE provides as follows:

‘…..In any proceedings the court may refuse to allow evidence on which the prosecution proposes to rely to be given if it appears to the court, that, having regard to all the circumstances, including the circumstances in which the evidence was obtained, the admission of the evidence would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it’.

The defence submit that the RSPB have sought to circumvent the provisions of RIPA 2000 [Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000] together with s93 of the Police Act 1997; that they have breached Code B of PACE 1984; that RSPB Investigator [name redacted] was not a data handler for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998; that the RSPB chose not to voluntarily adopt the Surveillance Camera Code and/or that the police were bound by that code and that the RSPB were trespassing on the land unlawfully, having failed to seek the permission of the landowner.


The full details of the defence’s legal argument will be published in a second blog, along with the judge’s commentary on each of the components of the defence’s argument. For those of us interested in such details it was a fascinating and well-presented argument. And therein lies the crux of this case. In our opinion, the court’s ruling on the video evidence was inevitable, not necessarily because of the strength of the defence’s legal argument, but because of the weakness in the prosecution’s counter-argument against it.

For those of us who sat in the public gallery to observe the legal argument hearing on 14 March 2018, it became apparent, very quickly, that the outcome of this case (and thus, supposed ‘justice’) would be determined by the amount of money available to pay for legal representation.

The representative for the defence was the highly-regarded Mr Justin Rouse QC. We have no idea who paid for his time and expertise (e.g. the defendant? His family? His employer? A representative membership body, e.g. National Gamekeepers Org or BASC?) but whoever it was will no doubt consider it money well spent. It was very clear that Mr Rouse (or his junior) had probably spent a long time in preparation for this case: his presentation was meticulous and thoroughly organised, with every aspect labelled and referenced in a bundle of documents that he’d provided to the judge. On every single point he raised, he was able to tell the judge on which page she should be looking. He was calm, measured and in complete control. A bit of a masterclass.

In contrast, the representative for the prosecution was Mr Yip, who turned up completely unprepared. He arrived without his bundle of evidential documents, muttering something about having left them behind, so he was unable to look up the detail of points raised by the judge. At one point Mr Rouse passed over his own copy of the evidential documents to Mr Yip, to try and help him out. The judge asked Mr Yip several questions about the video evidence and asked to see it (she was particularly interested in the angle of the covert camera and how wide a view it was able to record – a crucial element in deciding whether this was ‘directional’ surveillance, as detailed in RIPA 2000). Astonishingly, Mr Yip told the court he hadn’t seen the video evidence and he didn’t have a copy with him. He was able to produce a couple of still photos from the video but when the judge asked him to point out the position of the nest in the photos, he was unable to do so.

It has been reported on social media that the RSPB “failed to support” this case by “declining” to attend court on 14 March 2018 to answer questions raised by the judge during the legal argument hearing. What utter nonsense. The statement is categorically untrue and is a false claim being made by a group with a long-held and well-documented grudge against the RSPB, presumably with the intention of portraying the RSPB in a bad light. What actually happened was Mr Yip declined to call the RSPB as a witness during that hearing, even after being prompted by the judge, and nor did he ask for an adjournment to allow for him to call an RSPB witness at a later hearing. His reason for this decision is not known (to us) and it proved to be catastrophic for the prosecution’s case.

We think it is fair comment to describe Mr Yip as being ill-prepared for the hearing. However, there may be many reasons for that, beyond his control. It isn’t unusual for the financially-squeezed and under-resourced CPS to drop cases on lawyers at the last minute so for all we know Mr Yip might not have ‘seen’ this case until the night before the hearing. If that is what had happened, it would partly explain the gulf in quality between Mr Rouse’s and Mr Yip’s presentations. That being said, if Mr Yip had not had adequate time to prepare, he could probably have called for an adjournment.

His poor performance did not go unnoticed by the judge and in her ruling delivered to the court on 28 March her criticism was evident. More on this subject in the second blog.

Putting aside for a moment the legal arguments and the standard of presentation, the bottom line is that yet another case of alleged raptor persecution, caught on covert camera, has failed on a technicality (or in this case, several technicalities).

Although the identity of the alleged perpetrator in the Bleasdale case has not been tried and tested in court, there’s no getting away from the fact that the CPS believed the video footage to show that two peregrines appear to have been illegally killed at a nest site on the Bleasdale Estate in 2016. The unidentified perpetrator of this alleged crime will not face justice. Given the catalogue of failed cases under similar circumstances (i.e. covert video footage ruled inadmissible on a technicality), the perpetrators of these crimes have been given yet more impetus to continue, as the chances of successful prosecution these days are almost nil.

No doubt the grouse-shooting industry will jump on this result as an excuse to vilify the RSPB and its approach to investigating raptor persecution crimes. But when the RSPB publishes the video footage of this latest incident, the public will be in a position to judge for itself whether or not the RSPB’s actions were discreditable. Whether the grouse shooting industry likes it or not, public opinion, not court convictions, will ultimately be the deciding factor in addressing the ongoing illegal killing of birds of prey.

UPDATE 13 April 2018: Why the video evidence was ruled inadmissible in the Bleasdale Estate case (here)

UPDATE 16 April 2018: Why other evidence was also ruled inadmissible in the Bleasdale Estate case (here)

UPDATE 16 April 2018: Grouse-shooting industry’s reaction to the failed Bleasdale Estate case (here)

78 Responses to “Case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper collapses as RSPB video evidence ruled inadmissible”

  1. 1 Mike Cheesman
    April 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    A complete disgrace. [Ed: the rest of this comment has been deleted as it’s libellous]

  2. 3 Peter Shearer
    April 9, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    That is too depressing to think about for long.Surely, all financial resources should be spent to gain a conviction so that people may then think twice in the future. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Ad I said-depressing.

  3. 4 frank hopkin
    April 9, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    The shooters and raptor killers will be shouting YIPee YIPee !!!

    • April 9, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      For the moment perhaps – I suspect that the way this was prosecuted, if reported accurately and with enough publicity showing the RSPB footage, will show xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx in a very poor light. The one thing the public recognise is fair play or lack of it. The gamekeeper in every legal sense wasn’t guilty – the defending QC here knows very well he was expected, by all, to be successful on a point of law – probably what he didn’t expect was a walk over. I would think even he would have been disappointed in the way this was prosecuted. Will he have any respect for xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx – I doubt it, but he has had his palm crossed with silver – this time. Interesting to find out what his view might be on a change in the law.

  4. April 9, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    it would appear that the basic job of the law is to perpetuate the privileged position of landed estate owners. Maybe if the pressure is applied to changing the law, establishing land confiscation as the basis of penalties and addressing the legal objection to rspb video evidence (along with a heightened campaign of surveillance of sensitive bird nest sites) we can get something done.

  5. 7 Falcon watcher
    April 9, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Its like these xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx are unstoppable..absolute shocking.

  6. 8 Martin
    April 9, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Why is the cp taking them to court?
    Why not the RSBP and there own lawyers

    • April 9, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Very simply because interference with breeding birds is a criminal offence under The Wildlife and Countryside Act. it is the duty of the CPS to prosecute criminal cases; the RSPB could only bring their own charges in a civil case.

      • 10 Adam
        April 9, 2018 at 7:04 pm

        Anyone can raise criminal proceedings in England and Wales.

        The RSPCA prosecutes people all the time (often successfully).

    • 11 Fight for Fairness
      April 9, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      As far as I am aware the Crown Prosecution Service are the only people who can start a criminal prosecution. The RSPB could only pursue a civil case for damages and there is no clear case for damages here. It is clearly a [an alleged] criminal offence.

      • 12 Secret Squirrel
        April 10, 2018 at 10:53 am

        Not strictly true, but it is governed by the type of legislation (e.g, Local Councils can prosecute for some offences)

  7. April 9, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    The outcome of this case is truly shocking; that someone can be xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx found not guilty on techniclities regarding the filming would be laughable were it not so serious. I’m now wondering if I cn knock an old age pensioner on the head with a hammer to steal the contents of her handbag and have a clever lawyer get me off because of a technicality with the CCTV footage? No? No, I thought not…

    Black humour aside, I’d be very interested to hear the opinion of someone whose knowledge of the law is greater than my own (that’s not difficult!) on the admissibility of CCTV evidence and whether this case has established some sort of precedent that makes obtaining such evidence a redundant tactic?

    [Ed: Please be careful with your words. It has not been proven that the individual filmed was the defendant in this case. The individual caught on camera remains unidentified.

    Re: your question on CCTV footage, no, that is a completely different issue if you’re referring to CCTV in a public place. This case centred on covert footage filmed on privately owned land without the landowner’s permission. Also, the outcome of this case DOES NOT set a precedent for future cases – the judge was clear about that in her ruling. Her decision applies to this case, and this case only. Any future cases will be decided based on the circumstances of that particular case]

    • 14 Paul V Irving
      April 9, 2018 at 6:11 pm

      It may be true RPUK that the culprit in the video has not been identified quite simply because a court has not had the benefit of seeing that evidence. However it says a great deal potentially that the defence did their very damned best to have this evidence excluded. Who else but the estate would benefit from the immediacy of this crime but the estate and they only employ one keeper. This estate has a long history of very poor breeding performance of both Peregrines and Hen harriers that is well documented and natural causes seems very very unlikely, xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  8. April 9, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I can’t even find the right words to express how utterly depressing this is.

  9. April 9, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    There have now been a number of cases where the defence have successfully used the argument that footage cannot be used if it has been collected on private land without the permission of the landowner, or at least a variation of that argument. It would seem to me that some time and money would be well spent investigating exactly how evidence could be gathered in future. That isn’t a criticism, more a comment borne out of frustration.

  10. 17 dave angel
    April 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    This is why we need a licensing system for shooting estates.

    • 18 Fight for Fairness
      April 9, 2018 at 6:36 pm

      … but only if we can change the burden of proof from the prosecutors to the land owners. Otherwise the same issues of admissibility will continue.

  11. 19 Secret Squirrel
    April 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Intruiged to hear the RIPA argument, as I thought RIPA only applied to public bodies with investigatory powers

  12. April 9, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    As George Bernard Shaw said “The Law is an Ass”.

  13. April 9, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    [Ed: comment deleted. That isn’t what is purported to have happened at the nest site. Please read the blog carefully]

  14. 24 Ian Carter
    April 9, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Very depressing at first sight but I wonder what this will achieve for grouse shooting in the long run. The money has probably been well spent from the perspective of the defendant but is that also the case in relation to driven grouse shooting more generally? I’m not so sure. The video evidence will be made public for all to see. If an individual had been prosecuted then the case could have been portrayed as a rare example of illegal persecution with the perpetrator rightly brought to justice. As it is, this case will only serve to fuel the perceived sense of injustice and outrage about what is happening in our uplands and that under existing legislation it is simply impossible to do anything about it. If those involved are having a celebratory drink or two tonight then I’m not sure they are seeing the whole picture.

    • 25 Les Wallace
      April 9, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Well said, there’s now quite a library of these videos showing blatant acts of persecution coming under the ‘deemed inadmissible evidence’ category. That in the long run will mean even greater public disgust at what’s going on. When pasted in during exchanges with the other side on social media the Carbach hen harrier video or the marsh harrier on a Yorkshire grouse moor one tend to shut them up pretty dam quick. The argument that convictions for BOP persecution are declining are effectively countered when you point out if this video evidence was admissible they wouldn’t be. And of course if the estates are more tolerant of raptors these days why aren’t there more of them?

    • April 10, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Yes i believe you are right Ian. Plus this is likely to encourage the killers and their bosses to feel untouchable and to continue resisting change. It is this attitude which will ultimately lead to the downfall of this crime based industry.

  15. 27 George M
    April 9, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    How on earth are we to have faith in our legal system. This case would appear to encourage the persecution of raptors rather than deter it. Couldn’t a Petition be started asking for all video evidence in regard to wildlife crime to be legally acceptable, with or without the consent of the landowner? Would it then be possible to approach every known owner of a grouse moor to sign it and publish their response? People could then draw their own conclusions as to whom they beleive to be complicit in these crimes.

    • 28 Les Wallace
      April 9, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Bloody good idea!

    • 29 Chris T
      April 9, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Any estate with connections to PAW, or similar schemes, should be asked to accept the fact that monitoring cameras may be placed on their land and sign a declaration to that effect, or be asked to leave the partnership.

    • 30 Fight for Fairness
      April 10, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Just to point out fhat the law is not the same across all of the UK, and the defence of inadmissibility of evidence because it was gathered as a result of trespass is unlikely to hold in Scotland, where there is a universal right to roam. I am astonished that the law of trespass should apply when there is suspicion of a criminal offence taking place. Maybe this would be grounds for an appeal?

      • 31 dave angel
        April 10, 2018 at 9:53 am

        The ‘right to roam’ is for specified purposes, which do not include installing covert surveillance cameras.

        So the situation in Scotland is broadly similar.

        • 32 Fight for Fairness
          April 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

          Yes, using covert surveillance would probably result in inadmissible evidence, but surely walking with a camera and taking pictures or video would surely be different. Obviously one of the results of licencing is that permission to record behaviour would be part of the conditions.

  16. 33 Gordon Milward
    April 9, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I don’t want to say I told you so but I speculated in previous similar cases here about RIPA and admissibility etc. I am saddened that this is the case here. The CPS aspect where one could/should question the words Prosecution and Service in that body’s title behave similarly in many other types of case, not just wildlife crime. They are under-resourced and over-stretched. In my day, we would send the OIC to Court early on the day to meet the Prosecutor and go through it. There would be no point doing so in advance because the CPS staff were often only identified on the day. Such a complicated case, as this one would undoubtedly be, could never be grasped effectively by the man on the day. And against a well prepared and well organised QC, it’s a hiding to nowt.

  17. 34 Richard
    April 9, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    This case, and others before it, are tripping up over the Regulatory Investigative Powers Act, and it would seem associated legislation. Regardless of whether the individual filmed is identifiable, there is also the issue with the subsequent physical evidence (in this case) being dismissed as presumably, in law, without the footage, there would have been no reason to search the premises and the outbuilding where the incriminating items were located. Thus, the case collapsed, as I understand.

    In my opinion, a decision needs to be made whether non law enforcement agencies are allowed to be encapsulated by RIPA and thus covert evidence collected in this way is admissible without challenge. Without this resolution, one can anticipate repeated examples. Anyone heading out to kill raptors under the current legislative environment has little to fear, even if being filmed. Indeed, they can probably do so in the knowledge that they are being filmed, take a bow, with little to fear.

    A sad state of affairs but I believe that eroding the defence argument of inadmissability based on RIPA breaches is an essential argument to be had. But expect severe hostility to this.

    • 35 Secret Squirrel
      April 9, 2018 at 10:54 pm

      As posted above, I’m keen to see the outcome. RIPA and RIPSA came about as a result of the Human Rights Act, and rather than being the oft quoted ‘snoopers charter’ they actually reduced some of the things people were able to do.

      I often think some of the rules of ‘fairness’ in evidence are unduly slanted towards the defendant, and look at what a lawyer would regard as fair rather than the man in the street. But then I an a former enforcer, so I would say that!

    • April 9, 2018 at 11:55 pm

      Richard – If any other type of serious crime had been committed at the same location and recorded on the RSPB CCTV or even on a phone camera by a passing witness – that would be less likely to be deemed inadmissible if the landowner had no objection to the filmed evidence being used, even if it led to a warrant being granted to search for evidence.

      In that situation would the landowner have to be formally requested for his agreement for any filmed material to be used as evidence in court, or is the filmed evidence generally presumed to be admissible unless and until it is legally challenged.

      • 37 Richard
        April 10, 2018 at 8:39 am

        If a covert video had concurrently recorded an assault then I believe, because the penalty is more severe, such footage would be allowed without question. The second element as I understand/ believe is that because the crime of killing a raptor is deemed to be less serious, as measured by the starting point of any sentencing, then the use of covert footage is open to question. In other words, the crime (raptor persecution) falls below a threshold where the argument of invasion of privacy is redundant. By inference, my interpretation is that this has its origins in English law where it is a defense to break another law in order to prevent a greater law occurring. As killing a raptor is seen, in layman’s terms, as equal, or less, than invasion of one’s privacy, this defense (I am assuming) is not available.

        The above is my understanding and inference. Alan Stewart’s excellent and informative Wildlife Detective blog, particularly this entry: https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/rspb-surveillance-on-private-land/ offers further insight.

        • April 10, 2018 at 10:35 am

          Thanks for that – much appreciated – My reading of your link (Alan Stewart) is that if police had been involved in the re-visit to set up the camera, the resulting “evidence” may well have been deemed admissible even without the consent of the landowner.

          The likelihood is, however, that most police forces may not wish to become involved without seeking permission from the landowner – “to more likely ensure a successful prosecution”

          I would argue that what’s happened in this case, as long as it becomes highly publicised, is preferable to having to walk away because of the lack of pre-consent of the landowner. I genuinely think this is winnable with publicity and resulting public support – especially if it eventually results in the police being pressured to become involved without landowner’s consent for surveillance.
          What I can’t fathom here is the CPS approach – short on cash, perhaps, but surely it’s in no-one’s interest to appear to display incompetence. I don’t necessarily thing that the acting prosecutor, on the day, was at fault if he’d only just received the case. You have to wonder if there is some method to their approach here. If so, you’d have to have a degree of sympathy for Mr. Yip.

          • 39 Winston
            April 12, 2018 at 11:16 am

            I don’t know the position in England but in Scotland my understanding is that under RIP(S)A covert surveillance can only be carried out lawfully where it has been authorised by a person entitled to grant authorisation. These persons are designated under the Act and extend only to persons holding offices, ranks or positions with relevant public authorities. The relevant public authorities are listed in the Act namely the Police, the Scottish Administration, a local authority, PIRC and SEPA. Therefore, if the RSPB carries out covert surveillance, it is not lawful unless it has obtained authorisation from a relevant public authority. I don’t know the position for England but I presume that it is not dissimilar.

            I don’t know what the facts of the case are here but I suspect that this may be the crux of it. I look forward to reading more about it.

  18. 41 stuart law
    April 9, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    I agree with the RPUK blog 1 here (superbly covered) and I was in attendance that day too. It was clear as day that Mr Yip had no knowledge of raptors and inexcusably forgot his case notes and the actual video recording as reported.
    It is an interesting point raised that Mr Yip could have and (in hindsight and in my opinion) absolutely should have apologised to all in attendance and asked for an adjournment to allow him a second chance to remember to take the BLEEEEEP case notes and be prepared.
    I will have to * self-censor* my opinion of Mr Yips performance.
    I have no anti-RSPB agenda myself but I am disappointed that an organisation as huge as the RSPB did not appoint a more experienced (in this field) legal team for the prosecution.
    Is there some sort of timescale that the RSPB have to abide by before they can release the footage?

    [Ed: A couple of points. Mr Yip was not required to have knowledge of raptors to prosecute this case. The legal argument centred on the admissibility of covert video evidence filmed on private land without the landowner’s permission, on data handling, and on procedures undertaken during the execution of the search warrant.
    The legal team was appointed by the CPS, NOT by the RSPB!]

    • 42 frank hopkin
      April 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm

      yes and they appointed an xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Mr Yip.Was this intentional????

    • 43 stuart law
      April 9, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      My ref’ to Mr Yip having some knowledge of raptors was meaning that when Mr Yip had forgotten his case notes, with some basic knowledge he could have at least made a decent attempt at a recovering from his mess (IMO) that had effectively wrecked any chance of success. He may not have been required to have some knowledge on raptors, but I think it would have been helpful. I expect the legal teams on both sides to have had some time to briefly study the case. The defence certainly did.
      IMO he should have seen the video footage too. Surely it was available to him and it cannot take that long to actually watch it. It was a jaw dropper to hear him confirm he hadn’t seen it and didn’t have it either.

      I know full well what the legal argument was about and understand that due to the video evidence being inadmissible, then the subsequent search of JH’s premises counts for nothing too. I understand part of the defence case about the range of sound detection and wider view of the camera too and the implications of that. There’s other stuff that will no doubt be covered in the second blog.

      With regards to the CPS appointing the legal team, it brings into question ‘how much’ are they willing to pay for a legal team for the prosecution and who decides who? Would they have pushed the boat out a little more if it were a crime against a person and not a bird? That’s a massive grey area and a whole new can of worms.

      I can see I messed up thinking it was the RSPB who appointed the legal team. (sorry for that)

      One more thing… the Judge was very fair to Mr Yip and afforded him plenty of time to come up with some sort of answers.

  19. 44 Chris T
    April 9, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Some questions for the estate: has Mr Duckworth continued to employ James Hartley? Let’s assume it wasn’t him in the video, what kind of gamekeeper allows an armed man onto the estate, doesn’t hear any shots, and then lets them back on the next night with a torch? I’ve worked (and walked) on many estates and you are always watched from the moment you park the car. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx.

    Also, questions for the CPS: in a case with such a high degree of public scrutiny, why didn’t they appoint an experienced barrister? Mr Yip seems either inexperienced, inept or deliberately obstructive. If the judge directed him to seek the opinion of the expert witnesses, why did he not do so? [Ed: Important point – the judge did not ‘direct’ him to seek the opinion of the expert witnesses, she asked whether he wanted to call them].

    I’m not one for establishment conspiracy theories, but I’m struggling to think why this case was not properly prosecuted, even with govt cuts in the justice system. If he did genuinely forget the evidence documents, there is a strong disciplinary case against him for failing in his basic duties as the prosecutor.

    As there are cases where such evidence is admissable (LACS recent fox case) and others where they are not, surely there needs to be a challenge along the line. In areas which are ‘private’ and remote, how else can sufficient evidence be collected. We often hear the line “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” from the govt when it suits them, why are certain criminals being actively protected?

  20. 45 Mick
    April 9, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    The nest site in question is very remote and only a person with expert knowledge of the land could find it in the dark, who do you think could do that. Also if that camera had filmed someone committing murder do you think they would have allowed the footage then, especially if it had been the keeper being killed

  21. April 9, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    So the case was thrown out because the evidence was inadmissible – that the landowner hadn’t been consulted on the installation of CCTV. The defence can only ever be successful with the landowner’s support and involvement in the submission of evidence. The outcome is that there is no legal proof to identity the defendant because the landowner has said as much – the way the case was argued is totally dependant on input from the landowner. They therefore infer that the crime was carried out by someone unknown. So the landowner has no interest in identifying an armed trespasser breaking the law on his land – indeed he has led us to believe he appears to have an interest in not identifying an armed trespasser breaking the law on his land. Is this is the level of integrity these individuals take to work with them every morning ?

  22. 48 PJD
    April 9, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Without knowledge of the law regarding evidence and trespass would the evidence have been inadmissible if it was from a person seeing the events rather than being captured on a camera. If the answer is yes then it seems that these places are above the law.

  23. April 9, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Presumably the evidence would be strong enough for DEFRA to take a view on the appropriateness of any agri-environment funds heading in the direction of Bleasdale?

  24. April 10, 2018 at 1:08 am

    This is a travesty. Once again despite overwhelming evidence a case is dismissed. We need to look past the detail of the apparently lacklustre display of the prosecutor, and the legal arguments about the inadmissibility of the video evidence, or we won’t be able to see the wood for the trees.

    The difficulties of detecting and prosecuting serious wildlife crime on private shooting estates has been well known for a long time, which is why the shooting fraternity so arrogantly defies the law and engages in this despicable wildlife crime. If the present government, or previous governments really wanted to clamp down on this arrogant wildlife crime threatening often endangered raptors, it would be quite simple. They would just have to enact laws, and provide proper resources and instructions to the police to successfully detect and prosecute those responsible.

    The establishment for want of a better word has no problem doing this rapidly, when it wants. In the 1980s, the establishment and landowners faced inconvenience from raves, environmental protestors, and hunt saboteurs. The difficult for the establishment was that they were often powerless to act, as those they were inconvenienced by hadn’t committed offences which allowed the police to arrest them. So the then Conservative government rapidly introduced a few acts of parliament, which invented laws like “aggravated trespass”, specifically defining dance music at the time played during raves, giving the police the powers to arrest and prosecute those the establishment considered a nuisance.

    However, it’s the establishment which engages in driven shooting of grouse, pheasants and partridge. So by no coincidence the laws to stop them illegally killing raptors, which are a nuisance to their shoots, are weak, and the police are given no support, resources or instructions to tackle this very culpable crime.

    It’s a type of institutional corruption. Not the crude type of money in brown envelopes, but where social networks of powerful people, misuse their influence of people in influential positions, not to interfere with the particular type of criminal activity done in their interests. Why else when the interest of the landowning classes are effected, even if just by minor inconvenience, does the full weight of the state intervene, with invented laws, and huge police resources to enforce it. Yet when these same landowning interests (they are often one and the same with what is meant by the establishment), and their minions engage in criminal activity, to enable their non-essential hobbies, the state does nothing and leaves in place flimsy laws and law enforcement, which allows these criminals to get away with their criminal activity?

    The protection of birds act dates to 1954. So these have been crimes for a long time. It is just that the legal powers, resources, proper punishments and the instructions for the police to act against it have not been implemented. There is no need to invent laws, just to provide the proper legal powers to detect and prosecute them.

    To solve a problem, first you have to fully understand the problem. With the proper legal powers for investigators, along with the instructions for the police to tackle this crime, there would be many more successful prosecutions, and much less raptor persecution. There’s simply a lack of will to do what is necessary, because this crime is perpetrated in the interests of those at top of our society, and who have inordinate influence.

  25. April 10, 2018 at 1:38 am

    The problem is very simple. It’s not the ineptitude of the prosecutor, or the cleverness of the QC, Most cases in magistrates courts do not have such high powered defences, and prolonged highly technical legal arguments on the inadmissibility of evidence. What happened here would not have happened if the government had a genuine will to clamp down on this persistent wildlife crime. Compare the anti-wildlife crime measures taken in Africa, which our Royal Princes support, with armed military type units who shoot the perpetrators dead. I’m not suggesting this, just adequate legal powers to detect and prosecute, with punishments which actually deter it.

    The problem is that although it has been illegal to kill raptors since the 1954 Protection of Birds act, the government has never implemented the legal powers necessary to detect and successfully prosecute the illegal persecution of raptors, with the proper punishments, which would mean that these cases were tried in the Crown Courts – not Magistrates Courts where such high powered technical defences are not the norm. The problem of detecting and prosecuting offences that occur on private land well outside the casual gaze of the police is well known.

    If there was the will to tackle this crime, with proper legal powers there would be a drastic reduction in the illegal persecution of raptors. But we all know why this doesn’t happen. It’s because this crime is committed on the behalf of some of the most powerful people in our society, who misuse their influence to ensure that unlike other crime, the prerequisite legal powers to detect it and successfully prosecute it, along with proper punishments, are not implemented. Compare this to other types of crime, where the law has constantly been changed, with new legal powers to ensure it is successfully prosecuted, and much stiffer punishments to deter it.

    The inadequate legal powers are kept in place because it suits the establishment. They can pretend there are laws in place to prevent this type of wildlife crime, whilst ensuring that the legal powers to detect this wildlife crime and to successfully prosecute it, means that this organized criminal activity carries on unhindered. It’s not an accident though. The establishment knows how to implement more legal powers to ensure that crimes are detected, successfully prosecuted, and properly punished, when it wants. It’s a scandal, It’s institutional corruption. Not of old fashioned money stuffed in envelopes, but by misuse of influence and privileged position.

    • 53 Gordon Milward
      April 10, 2018 at 8:22 am

      steb1 – you make some very valid points but to dismiss the ineptitude of the CPS or the highly professional preparedness of the Defence QC is ridiculous. If these boots had been on the other feet, so to speak, we may not be having this dialogue today.

    • 54 Keith
      April 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      steb1. Yet again I think your analysis in both comments is spot on!

  26. April 10, 2018 at 5:45 am

    [Ed: Comment deleted as libellous]

  27. 56 Mick
    April 10, 2018 at 8:10 am

    It’s clear that mistakes have been made, I only hope that lessons have been learned so that this doesn’t happen again. It’s almost impossible getting any evidence so to have a case fail at this stage is simply not good enough, no matter that the reason for the failure.

  28. 57 Paul V Irving
    April 10, 2018 at 8:43 am

    There are of course cases where this sort of evidence has been successfully used so perhaps there are ways to do it successfully.

    Moorland Association are members of PAW, yes they obfuscate and make a bloody nuisance of themselves turning the process into a fiasco. However a direct proposal that their member estates must or should accept covert video at nest sites and elsewhere where raptors may be at threat ought to be made. If they fail to agree how could they possibly remain as members of PAW, the purpose of which is to help prevent crime?

    I wonder how the MA feel as Bleasdale Estate is certainly a member that either xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx or who is so lax that others can commit armed trespass and kill protected wildlife on the estate in such a way that the finger will be pointed at the estate and its keeper.

    It would also be instructive to know who paid for the defence , although sadly unlikely to be made public.

  29. 58 dave angel
    April 10, 2018 at 10:09 am

    To be fair to the CPS at least they attempted, however ineptly, to bring the prosecution.

    In Scotland, notwithstanding that wildlife crime is a Government priority, and the existence of a specialist prosecution unit, who are well versed in the arguments about admissibility of evidence, it is unlikely that the case would have gone to court at all.

  30. 59 Mike
    April 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    If the CCTV was directed at a traditional peregrine nesting site known to the owner / occupier then, whilst the nest site remained active, the only lawful activity that could have been recorded would have been a licensed nest visit. As the defendant was not in possession of a S1 licence, making video evidence inadmissible due to the lack of RIPA authority seems a strange interpretation of the law? It was not his place of residence, not his place of work (whilst the nest was active) and so the use of CCTV could not inadvertently obtain private information about the individual.

  31. 60 Stuart Craig
    April 10, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Old Charlie Dickens was quite correct when he wrote “the Law is a ass”
    Re the payment for legal services. Can this be obtained through the “Freedom of Information Act 2000”????

    [Ed: no, it’s private information & nothing to do with a public authority]

  32. April 10, 2018 at 11:12 am

    This has to be seen in the context of austerity; the state is collapsing and increasingly unable to organise its basic functions in the face of private wealth; in the era of Brexit which is the greatest example of this.

  33. 62 morag
    April 10, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Well done RSPB for gathering very important video evidence of the extreme lengths that some will go to to target and persecute raptors.
    This video would not have been obtained had these matters been reported to police.

    The video stands on its own as a window into what is actually happening in the very grubby and criminal world if game bird shooting.

    As for the farce that is the Criminal Justice System , don’t put any faith in it.Continue to gather video evidence and get it out there via the media.

    Keep banging on the door and change will eventually happen.

    • 63 AlanTwo
      April 10, 2018 at 4:48 pm

      Morag – I totally agree. If anything, I think too much emphasis has been put on trying to obtain prosecutions when it has been obvious for some time now that the odds are very heavily stacked against them.
      For me, the most important court is the court of public opinion. The investigation teams have done fantastic work in obtaining footage that I know, from showing it to previously neutral acquaintances, most people find shocking and disgusting. But it seems that the RSPB, and maybe some other raptor pressure groups, are reluctant to push this evidence under the noses of the public. To return to my favourite hobby-horse, the dramatic video of the alleged shooting of an HH from May 2017 has now been watched on YouTube by the grand total of 20,000 people. Given that it was obtained and posted by the RSPB with a membership of 1.2 million, I find that baffling and bitterly disappointing.
      I think politicians (and maybe senior police officers) are influenced more by public opinion than by evidence and logical argument.

  34. April 10, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    The area of land on which this incident occurred falls under the Countryside Rights Of Way (CROW) act. So anyone has a legal right to be in that area therefore how can it be claimed it was trespass?

    Setting up a covert camera could be seen as filming without permission, a no-no under CROW. But that only applies to commercial filming, does setting cameras for conservation monitoring fall under this category?

    • 65 Paul V Irving
      April 10, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      The point is complicated but a more simple point is that RSPB staff are paid employees there fore CROW does not apply without the owners permission , crow only applies to unpaid “recreation”. Question is can I as an unpaid member of the public install that camera to monitor the nest if I have schedule 1 licence for Peregrine that covers filming?

  35. 66 Nurse Falco
    April 10, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    I feel somewhat cheered up by this. I was thinking about applying for a job managing a private care home so I could abuse the residents and steal their money. Knowing that if anyone put in a covert camera without permission to film me committing these illegal deeds would probably now have that evidence thrown out has really encouraged me to go for the job.

  36. 69 John Cantelo
    April 10, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    It would be interesting to know how FB pages (etc) used by the hunting fraternity have reacted to this news. I suspect with great glee which, if so, demonstrates their dishonesty. It undermines the front the often put up that they disapprove of illegal persecution which, despite the lack of a successful prosecution, has been clearly demonstrated by this and previous similar cases. Have there been any statements of concern from the “usual suspects” about this (and earlier) cases?

  37. April 11, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Most cases will be dismissed because those ruling are pals of the people or their masters they are trying . In UK today we have two fingers stuck up at the will of the people by the elite

    [Ed: Paul, we share your frustration but in this specific case, at least, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the District Judge did anything other than apply the rule of law, without fear or favour, on the basis of the evidence presented to the court]

  38. April 14, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Why don’t the RSPB fit covert cameras in conjunction with the local Wildlife Police Officer? Would this then get round the RIPA requirements? Why didn’t the RSPB have a legal team present to support any last minute CPS appointment, thus giving extra higher quality advice on the day of the court appearances? These are observations of a novice.

    • 73 Chris Hancock
      April 17, 2018 at 10:55 am

      I spoke yesterday to Jeremy Duckworth and was able to express my opinion to him in a fairly forthright manner [ bet his secretary got her ear bent for putting me through !! ] and afterward to his PR guy – Mr Smith who informed me that xxxxx xxxxx James Hartley is ” no longer in the employ of the Bleasdale Estate ” .
      So at least a little good news after what has been a very disappointing result ..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,456,291 hits


Our recent blog visitors