Why the video evidence was ruled inadmissible in the Bleasdale Estate case

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

The case against Mr Hartley collapsed recently after the judge ruled the RSPB’s video evidence inadmissible.

In a series of blogs we’re examining what happened in this case.

In part one (here), we set out the nine charges against Mr Hartley relating to the alleged shooting of a peregrine and the alleged spring-trapping of a second peregrine on the Bleasdale Estate, Bowland, in April 2016. We outlined the evidence as presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution Service, the defence’s skeleton argument calling for the video evidence to be ruled inadmissible, and other technical issues relating to further evidence which the defence argued should also be ruled inadmissible. We also commented on the quality of the presentations by both the CPS barrister and the defence QC.

In this blog we discuss the legal argument surrounding the admissibility of the RSPB’s video evidence and the judge’s explanation for why she ruled the evidence inadmissible. In later blogs we’ll discuss the other issues raised, including the RSPB’s alleged breach of the Data Protection Act and the alleged breach of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act during the police search of the nest site and surrounding grouse moor.

Before we get in to the details of the legal arguments for and against the admissibilty of this particular video evidence, it is worth bearing in mind the statement made to the court during the first court hearing in September 2017, by the defendant’s solicitor, Tim Ryan:

My client did not carry out the alleged offences and is not the person shown in the video footage“.

Unfortunately the strength of this argument and the evidence to support it remains untested in a court of law.

It’s also worth noting the judge’s comments to the court before her ruling on the admissisbility of the video evidence:

I must remark that reaching a decision in this case has been made all the more difficult by the Crown declining to call live evidence [i.e. RSPB witnesses], despite the court inviting the Crown to consider doing so. The CPS website when addressing cases of this type states:

‘…Where surveillance product is to be relied upon, the question of whether that surveillance was overt or covert and was carried out at the initiation of or with the encouragement of the police in circumstances likely to result in private information being obtained, are questions of fact to be determined in each individual case…’

Even with that guidance, the Crown in this case ask the court to make such findings on the basis of written evidence alone. They have given no explanation as to why they do so. I find that approach most unusual“.

That statement alone probably summarises all you need to know about this particular case. The video evidence was crucial to the prosecution’s case, and yet the prosecution barrister missed opportunity after opportunity to challenge the defence QC’s legal arguments against its use.

On to the legal argument.

We’ve prepared an edited version of the court’s ruling on the admissibility of this particular video evidence, as delivered by District Judge Goodwin on 14 March 2018. We have redacted several names of witnesses and the peregrine nest site name, for obvious reasons.

This document summarises the defence’s argument against the admissibility of the video evidence, the prosecution’s counter-claims (such as they were), and the judge’s consideration of each point.

Download it here: Bleasdale RIPA_RPUK copy

A few thoughts….

The defence accepted that as the RSPB was not a public authority it was therefore not subject to RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) whereby authorisation would be required for covert surveillance on private land. However, Mr Rouse QC (for the defence) painted a picture of the RSPB and police “working hand in glove” and being “inextricably entwined” and that the two RSPB investigators involved in this case were both ex-police officers [not actually true] and thus should have known that RIPA authority should have been sought for the installation of this camera and by not doing so they were “deliberately flouting the rules“.

Mr Yip (for the prosecution) argued that no breach of RIPA had occured because the RSPB is not a public authority, is not listed on the RIPA Schedule, and had been monitoring this nest for a number of years as a matter of routine. He also pointed to many other similar cases that had been reliant on covert video evidence where there hadn’t been an issue with its admissibility or where there had, the court had used its discretion to accept the evidence because the actual trial process, where the evidence is tested, still ensures the defendant receives a fair trial.

Mr Rouse suggested to the court that if the [RIPA] law doesn’t apply to the RSPB then it shouldn’t apply to others, “…for example, Fathers for Justice, who could put bugs and cameras in hospitals, schools, bedrooms“.

In our opinion, Mr Rouse stretched this point beyond its limit. To compare the action of the RSPB placing a covert camera aimed at the nest of a protected Schedule 1 peregrine (to which only those in possession of a Sched 1 disturbance licence are permitted to visit) in the middle of a grouse moor far away from any homes and dwellings, with the placing of bugs/cameras in hospitals, schools and bedrooms, is simply ludicrous. Of course you would expect to capture ‘private’ information about people if you bugged hospitals, schools and bedrooms. You would NOT expect to capture private information about anybody if you pointed a camera at a Sched 1 nest site in the middle of a remote moor because nobody should have been there unless they held a disturbance licence.

Mr Yip should have been all over this and highlighted the obvious difference in circumstances, but he didn’t, other than to say the camera was not placed near a dwelling. Indeed he couldn’t take the argument apart, because as he told the court, he had not watched the video footage and nor did he have a copy available when the judge asked to see it (presumably she asked to see it to help determine the position of the camera and the view being recorded).

Mr Rouse argued that the RSPB’s placement of the camera did fall under the definition of ‘directed surveillance’ as defined by RIPA because even if it hadn’t captured ‘private’ information, the camera was CAPABLE of capturing private information (audio and visual) because the grouse moor was open access and the “public is entitled to privacy when out and about“. Again, had Mr Yip seen the video footage (it was nowhere near a private dwelling) and understood the restriction on visiting the nest sites of Schedule 1 species, he could have put this argument to bed.

The defence argued that the RSPB should have sought RIPA authority via the police for the placement of the camera, and pointed to a previous case, reported in Legal Eagle 2006, where this had been done. The judge asked Mr Yip what his view was on that case. Mr Yip said he didn’t know the details of that case but the circumstances would have been case specific. Had Mr Yip been familiar with that case, he would have known that it was a police-led investigation whereby the police had requested the assistance of the RSPB, not the other way around, that the landowner’s consent had been granted for the placement of a camera (it was a quarry owner) and therefore RIPA authority was easily obtained. [RIPA authority is not available for what are considered ‘low level’ offences such as wildlife crime, UNLESS the landowner’s permission is granted for the placement of a camera]. The judge asked Mr Yip why the RSPB had not sought the landowner’s consent for the Bleasdale camera and when he couldn’t answer she invited him to consider calling a ‘live’ witness [from the RSPB] to explain. Mr Yip did not accept the invitation, for reasons unknown, thus depriving the RSPB of an opportunity to explain.

Mr Rouse QC also drew the court’s attention to an open letter written last year by the Crown Office (Scotland) detailing its reasons why several prosecutions, all reliant on RSPB covert video footage, had recently been dropped [the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate & the alleged setting of a pole trap on Brewlands Estate]. Mr Rouse argued that this letter proved the RSPB had been told not to use covert cameras in Scotland “but the RSPB has decided to go on in England and take their chances“, referring to the current Bleasdale case. However, the Crown Office letter was written in May 2017, over a year AFTER the camera was placed on the Bleasdale Estate, so it was disingenuous of Mr Rouse to suggest the RSPB had ignored advice “and decided to go on in England and take their chances” at Bleasdale. Mr Yip missed this point entirely.

There’s no denying that the interpretation and application of RIPA is complex, is dependent upon the particular circumstances of a case, and we do not pretend to be experts on its use. Far from it. However, what is clear, not just from the Bleasdale case but also several others where covert footage was central to the prosecution, is an inconsistency of approach. Some courts allow it without question, others do not, and recently in Scotland the decision hasn’t even been made by the court because the Crown Office has ruled it inadmissible instead of allowing a Sheriff to consider the specific circumstances of each case.

So where does this leave us, apart from with an ever-increasing sense of injustice and an ever-decreasing confidence in the criminal justice system?

The RSPB and other groups who rely upon using covert video evidence could continue as they have been, and run the risk of cases collapsing on technicalities. That’s not really satisfactory though. Investigators need to be clear about the restrictions in advance, to allow them to take every measure to avoid this outcome and to safeguard the privacy of innocent individuals.

Alternatively, as has been suggested a few times now, the RSPB could simply forget about reporting suspected incidents to the police for a potential prosecution and instead could just place the footage in the public domain for the public to make up its own mind. This would save years of endless delay waiting for a case to reach court and, as we’ve seen in recent failed cases, video footage is a very powerful tool and stirs up public debate far more than a conviction does – the failed Cabrach case is a good example of this, as people are still talking about the injustice of that case collapsing a year on, whereas if there’d been a conviction the case would have been in the news for a few days and then forgotten. This alternative option is not really satisfactory either though. There would undoubtedly be legal issues about privacy and human rights (although it’s not difficult to pixellate a face to avoid identity) and it wouldn’t result in fair justice for either the alleged perpetrators (who wouldn’t have the opportunity of defending themselves in court) nor justice for the victims of these crimes.

Interestingly, as an aside, we’ve yet to see the covert video footage captured at Bleasdale Estate. We’ve heard about its apparent gruesome content, as described to the court, but surprisingly the RSPB has not yet put the footage in the public domain, as it has with other cases. Perhaps the defence is looking at ways of preventing its publication? Time will tell.

Another alternative is to change the law. As mentioned above, RIPA authority, without the landowner’s permission, is only available for what is classed as ‘serious crime’ (defined by the custodial sentence available for that offence). The types of crimes we’re seeing against raptors don’t fall within this definition. However, this might change in Scotland once the Scottish Government implements an increase of penalties for wildlife crime, following its acceptance two years ago of recommendations made in the Poustie Review. Would that mean that RIPA authority could then be sought by the police to investigate suspected raptor persecution crimes? We’re not entirely sure but hopefully some clever lawyers will be looking at that.

Whatever, something needs to change, and fast. It’s quite clear that the current rules permit landowners and their employees to commit whatever crimes they want against raptors, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be held to account. NB: this is not a direct reference to the Bleasdale case, but is a general observation of raptor persecution crimes taking place on privately-owned land.

The next blog on the Bleasdale case will consider the legal arguments put forward against the admissibility of some of the other evidence collected, involving alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act and alleged breaches of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act in relation to the search of the nest site and surrounding grouse moor.

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 prosecution (here)

54 Responses to “Why the video evidence was ruled inadmissible in the Bleasdale Estate case”

  1. 1 Stuart Probst
    April 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    I am sorry I cannot read anymore of this, this is an absolute disgrace, perpetrated by the ‘Prosecution’ barrister. I could say more and suggest more but do not want to be accused of libel. Although if Mr Yip was the prosecutor I would probably get off!

    • 2 Gordon Milward
      April 13, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      At no point have a read that Mr Yip is a barrister. He will be a Crown Prosecutor of some degree. Please feel free to correct me. If he was, he would be referred to as Mr Yip QC. As I have stated before and I must do so again because this whole sorry saga sums up the state of British ‘justice’, a CPS Prosecutor or Agent will at best picked up the case within a few days or more likely that morning. He will have presented a case of careless driving previously and a Breach of the Peace afterwards (metaphorically speaking). These are routine, wildlife crime is not. That’s why QCs are often paid four-figure sums PER HOUR. They are sharp and have a team working for them.

      The lack of prosecution witnesses is a HUGE error as they, plus Yip’s thorough understanding and preparedness (both absent) would rebut some of the Defence QC’s misleading points such as the RSPB investigators’ previous employer.

      So we have the FA Cup final at Preston Magistrates, with a lot at stake, and a Premier League team playing one from the local Sunday League and the latter have been out on the drink the night before instead of getting an early night. And we expect the latter to win!!!!!

      • April 13, 2018 at 1:36 pm


        It’s our understand that Mr Yip was indeed a barrister. He wasn’t addressed as ‘QC’ because presumably he hasn’t been appointed as such.

        Not all barristers are referred to as QCs – only those at the very top of their game who have earned the right on merit. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%27s_Counsel

        • 4 Gordon Milward
          April 13, 2018 at 1:50 pm

          Thank you. Having met many a barrister in my former life, I find it inconceivable that Yip is one. The narrative about his prep and planning and delivery is at odds with his profession.

          • 5 Caro McAdam
            April 15, 2018 at 10:12 am

            There are quite a few barristers working as agents for the CPS. Yes he should have been much better prepared but a lot of the responsibility lies either with his clerks, who may have given him the brief at short notice, or the CPS for not briefing an advocate in good time and preparing the case properly. It suggests that wildlife crime simply isn’t regarded as a priority. Maybe the RSPB should take on the prosecution of these cases ..

    • 6 crypticmirror
      April 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      While not commenting on this specific case; in 1970s New York it was a common tactic for ADAs who were prosecuting members of the Mafia to throw cases by feigning incompetence. Or for known to be less than competent ADAs to be given the job of doing so. Thus the mobster would walk, and they could claim they’d tried, and the slush money and kickbacks would flow. I refuse to believe that this is the case here and that the English Establishment are acting like the most legendarily corrupt administrations in American history who were hand in hand with the Mob. I’m sure that isn’t the case.

  2. 7 Mick
    April 13, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    It’s a shame that we seem to have a law which is almost impossible to uphold, something definitely needs to change. It actually appears as if we have a law which politicians can brag about while it is totally useless and pointless. Laws should not be this difficult to understand and cases should not be failing at this stage, it’s so frustrating. The RSPB and the police must get their heads together and come up with a solution which ends up with criminals being prosecuted if that they have broken the law.

  3. 8 Alex Milne
    April 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for this information, not available to the public presumably. I look forward to further relevations. It seems as you have suggested that the judge was perhaps willing to make a different decision, but this needs the prosecution to be on top form.

  4. 9 Roderick Leslie
    April 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    What is interesting is that were Mr Hartley really not the man in the video I would have thought his defence Barrister would have been only too pleased for a jury to see the video. Whilst Mr Hartley has been cleared of the offence on a legal argument he is left in a somewhat uncertain position.

    • April 13, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      It’s an interesting point. You might think that if the man in the video was not the defendant, the grouse moor owner would have wanted the video to be publicised in order to help identify whoever it was that was filmed interefering at a peregrine nest site on his land.

      Legal point: Mr Hartley has not “been cleared” of the alleged offences. He pleaded not guilty but this wasn’t tested during a trial, so he was neither found guilty or not guilty.

    • 12 Dylanben
      April 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Moreover, if Mr Hartley wasn’t the man in the video, the defence could not reasonably claim that the video should not be made publicly available. Full marks to the RSPB for bringing this case to light. Whoever might have been the perpetrator, the case will be chiefly remembered as one involving [alleged] heinous crimes against two Schedule 1 birds on a grouse moor and added to the litany of video evidence of such incidents. In the grand scheme of things, the failure to secure a successful prosecution is a side issue.

      I hope that RSPB Investigations will continue to install covert cameras until the farcical legal nonsense we are currently faced with is satisfactorily resolved. By this means, evidence of the activities of xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx will continue to be brought to the public eye.

  5. April 13, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    [Ed: comment deleted. Libellous]

  6. 14 Secret Squirrel
    April 13, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Barristers always say outrageous things, or make outrageous comparisons. It’s their job, to sway opinion. It’s up to the other side to counter/dismiss. If Mr Yip was badly prepared, I’m wondering what his instructing solicitor from CPS was doing whilst this was going on.

    As I posted previously, the problem with RIPA and RIPSA is that they were a reaction to the Human Rights Act, and an attempt to be all things to many circumstances, from counter terrorism and SOC to this type of crime, etc. This was then compounded by the whole ‘snoopers charter’ nonsense when it became apparent to the public some authorities were using directed surveillance for things like school placements, bins etc. The result was that some types of surveillance were restricted. The irony is that these only became apparent because of RIPA, and diligent recording. Prior to RIPA, guess what happened? Authorities did these things anyway, they just were not recorded. It used to be relatively simple to get a suspects mobile phone records for example (especially for some mon-Police reporting agencies) based on existing powers to examine documents.

    In many ways the Human Rights Act was an unnecessary burden on the UK legal system, adopted as a political exercise. 99% of us would notice no difference to our lives if it hadn’t been adopted. What it does do is make things much more difficult for the prosecutors.

    • 15 crypticmirror
      April 14, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      As part of the 1% who would notice if the Human Rights Act went away, screw you for suggesting that! While it is always hard to take the establishment using it to protect themselves, it is still a vital tool to protect those of us who are in vulnerable communities. Stop trying to throw us under the bus for an easy life.

      Prosecutors and cops (someone call a cab) have no right to an easy job, it is right and proper that they should have to work hard and be squeaky clean in order to get a conviction. Yeah, it is galling that this happens but it is a protection for vulnerable and disenfranchised peoples and communities. It is a good and vital check on the system. Stop talking it down.

  7. 16 Andrew Archer
    April 13, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Write to every GM owner and advise them that video cameras have been installed on his property in order to monitor raptor nests. Even if no such camera has been installed. Obviously don’t say where. If anything subsequently does happen and is captured on film, the defence could hardly argue that the surveillance was covert.

    • April 13, 2018 at 4:55 pm

      Andrew Archer, its not enough to inform GM owners of cameras installed on their property; if the moor is indeed their property then their permission to do so must be obtained and I think we all know the likelihood of that. Where the moor is the property of another body (NT for example) and the operator merely owns the shooting rights then I assume the freehold owner, the NT, would be the body to give or deny permission. One can well imagine the public response to a body like the NT denying surveillance protecting nests of vulnerable species, and that might prove a way forward. Unfortunately its my belief that the majority of grouse moors are owned outright by wealthy individuals and offshore companies who, like turkeys, are unlikely to vote for Chistmas. Perhaps someone will correct me on that if I’m wrong.

  8. 18 Michael k watson
    April 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Did theCPS deliberately set out to lose this case?

    • 19 Willie S.
      April 13, 2018 at 4:02 pm

      Perhaps some of the public focus here should be directed towards the CPS – What I would be concerned about now though is – If the landowner is now attempting to bring legal pressure to bear on the RSPB not to release the tape, the CPS may well consider that could be in their face saving interest as well. They can’t be relishing this becoming out in all it’s gory detail either. Questions have to be asked of them now – to try to ensure they aren’t encouraged to develop the mutual interest approach. Is there any indication as to why the RSPB haven’t released the video.

    • 20 frank hopkin
      April 13, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      Yes,i think so That is why Yip was appointed.!!

    • 21 Mike
      April 13, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Yes this has probably occurred to several of us, not simply as a conspiracy theory, but it seemed such a bumbling example. When we look at the recent line taken by the head of the Wildlife Crime Unit and how that may have been manifested in the policing of wildlife crime and then we consider the top down control over shooting of the Cumbria Hen Harrier just before the Westminster ‘debate’ then it would be easy to see this government wanting to keep a foot in both camps by getting a raptor persecution case to court to please us while ensuring that it doesn’t succeed by getting Mr Yip to conduct the case in the manner described, thereby keeping their friends in high places happy. There, I’ve voiced a conspiracy theory!

    • 22 Chris Dobson
      April 13, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      An unbiased observer would have to seriously consider this idea. It’s hard to come to any other conclusions than incompetence or sabotage

    • April 13, 2018 at 8:13 pm

      in some of the cases where it is self evident that Hunt Sabs have been seriously injured and its clear from the videos, even when life threatening GBH is involved, the CPS lets the criminals off. it is as if the CPS is often made up of people who support the hunting and shooting of our wildlife. It is what if suspect strongly.

    • 24 John Cantelo
      April 13, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      My understanding from press reports is that the CPS is now so underfunded and overworked that cases like this – an unprepared poorly briefed prosecutor facing a well prepared and briefed defence team – is increasingly common in all manner of cases. It is a malaise that does not seem to be limited to wildlife crime alone although, arguably, it is where it can be particularly problematic as most prosecutors have little experience of such cases.

      • 25 Gordon Milward
        April 14, 2018 at 8:49 am

        John – I retired as a senior cop in 2015. From 2012/13, I was the Force’s lead in Criminal Justice matters. The CPS were in dire straits then and from what I hear from those still in the job, remain so. This ‘last minute’ approach to prosecution occurs day in/day out, across the land and for many, many offence types. The best way to deal with this in the short term is for the prosecuting authority to anticipate the challenges the CPS have and go on the front foot. Pester the CPS for meetings well in advance, ask to personally brief the Prosecutor, turn up at the Court on the day early and speak to the Prosecutor there/then. Act as his/her ‘runner’ and do the prep belatedly but at least it’s done or attempted. The days of submitting a file of evidence and relying upon the CPS to grasp it and do their business effectively without further intervention from the OIC disappeared years ago.

    • 26 crypticmirror
      April 14, 2018 at 3:24 pm

      I’m thinking of a quote from House of Cards….

  9. April 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Breaking News: HBO have just commissioned a new series Better Call Rouse.

  10. April 13, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Is there no scope for a crowd funded private prosecution? At least we could fund a full well informed and determined team?

  11. 29 Dougoutcanoe
    April 13, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    It is wrong that crucial evidence can be dismissed so easily (RIPA or not). A serious case failing like this is simply (or maybe not simply) DISGUSTING!

    One very disgusted Doug

  12. April 13, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    As I implied in my other comment, I think these problems of admissibility of evidence are something of a red herring.

    What seems to be certain is that Peregrines were killed, and there is huge hard and good circumstantial evidence to suggest that there is wide-scale persecution of raptors on grouse moors and other types of managed shoots, The almost complete disappearance of raptors in the vicinity of managed shoots over very wide areas, when many of these raptors such Peregrines are doing well elsewhere give testament to what is going on, In the last decade or so the intensity of this illegal persecution appears to be at an all time high.

    In virtually every other type of crime or instances of anti-social behaviour, where there are few successful prosecutions, but plentiful evidence of what is happening. the government and the authorities have responded by creating new legal powers, new laws, more severe punishments. I can think of no other analogy, where when most cases are brought they are dismissed on legal technicalities despite there being solid evidence, and where in the rare cases there are successful convictions, the punishment is paltry so light that it is no deterrent.

    There seems to be little doubt that these loopholes have been left deliberately open through an inexplicable will to close them. Actually it’s not inexplicable at all because the only beneficiaries of this persistent and organized wildlife crime are some of the most senior members of the establishment in the country.

    Much more could be done to detect and successfully prosecute those responsible for these crimes, with real deterrent punishments. Where the likelihood of getting caught and prosecuted, was also a major deterrent. Unfortunately it needs the will to implement it, which is what is lacking.

    • 31 Gordon Milward
      April 14, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Generally, evidence obtained unlawfully or not lawfully is excluded no matter how good it is. If the police and RSPB are collaborating to gain prosecutions, I am not aware of a good reason why the police, even if they are not the lead agency, cannot apply RIPA and thereby lawfully obtain evidence. Being new to the issue of raptor persecution via this site I see a huge amount of goodwill but an equal measure of uncoordinated effort by those with good intent that need to be channelled to be effective. There will be a College of Policing Lead and may be s/he should be leading the issue.

      • April 14, 2018 at 9:03 am

        Hi Gordon,

        It’s our understanding that RIPA is only available for ‘serious crime’. It isn’t available for so-called ‘low level’ crime like raptor persecution, unless the landowner’s permission is gained.

        • 33 Gordon Milward
          April 14, 2018 at 2:52 pm

          I am not aware of this Seriousness Test per se. The one used when I was involved in this aspect of crime investigation is one of Proportionality, which does have some relevance to seriousness (are there less intrusive methods of gathering the evidence?). But then there are other factors such as collateral intrusion in other words what might the camera also capture that is not relevant to the case and I guess in the circumstances of a nest that’d be not a lot. Then what measures have been implemented to reduce them. So let’s say the nest was near a public footpath, then the camera would be focused on the nest and not elsewhere (the field of view would be tight). The thing with granting RIPA authorisations is to be explicit in the reason why the camera is there and to stringently monitor the product so review it on a weekly basis. Has the implementation of the technology and potential impact on others’ human rights been properly assessed and managed so as to show how serious the matter has been/is being taken. There has been much criticism of Local Authority use of RIPA and that it was a huge hammer to crack small nuts but I’m not readily aware of the same focus being levelled at police use. I’ll do some further digging.

  13. 34 Peter Shearer
    April 14, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    This is all too depressing to read. I have no real legal knowledge but find it really hard to accept that given the difficulty in pursuing these matters, when we have a chance to do so and send a message to those carrying out these deeds,we are unable to effectively liaise/communicate in a competent and sensible way.Would the RSPB not have been able to discuss the case and tactics with the CPS beforehand?

  14. 35 crypticmirror
    April 14, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    “Alternatively, as has been suggested a few times now, the RSPB could simply forget about reporting suspected incidents to the police for a potential prosecution and instead could just place the footage in the public domain for the public to make up its own mind”

    That is what I’ve been saying and being censored for saying all these last few years. The “justice” system is rigged and ignoring and going straight to the public it is the better way to achieve real justice. You wouldn’t keep on playing in a fixed poker game, would you?

  15. 36 dave angel
    April 14, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    ‘(2)Subject to subsection (6), surveillance is directed for the purposes of this Part if it is covert but not intrusive and is undertaken—

    …….(b)in such a manner as is likely to result in the obtaining of private information about a person’



    Are we to assume that (speaking hypothetically) being present at a peregrine site is ‘private information’?

  16. 37 secret shooter
    April 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Serious crime is defined in RIPA (Section 81(3). There is no reason why a surveillance authority could not be granted if the requirements of section 81 (3)(b) can be met.

    • 38 dave angel
      April 14, 2018 at 7:19 pm

      Unlikely, taken in the round.

      ‘Those tests are—
      that the offence or one of the offences that is or would be constituted by the conduct is an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more;
      that the conduct involves the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose.;

  17. 39 Secret shooter
    April 14, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    What is the value of a driven grouse moor with resident raptors against the value of a moor without raptors. I gather rather significant so is that not significant financial gain?
    I understand that those involved in the management of moors often employ agents. If they use agents who manage a number of moors and a team of keepers might that not amount to a group of people acting in common purpose?

    • 40 dave angel
      April 15, 2018 at 9:32 am

      No. The links are far too tenuous and disputable.

      I think a better approach would be to argue that RIPA doesn’t apply because the cameras weren’t installed to detect a crime but to monitor a nesting site.

      The shooting industry maintain that raptor nests fail for a whole variety of reasons: natural predation, adverse weather, lack of food supply, inadequate parenting, disturbance by bird watchers, and only very, very occasionally by persecution by a tiny, tiny minority of shooters/keepers.

      That being the case, it follows that if the RSPB monitor a site they suspect has failed previously and is going to fail again, it cannot be that their prime motivation is to detect a crime or identify a criminal but rather to observe natural predation, adverse weather, lack of food supply etc etc or whatever factor or combination of factors are causing the failure. If persecution is as vanishingly rare are the shooting industry maintain then it clearly cannot be the prime purpose in installing surveillance cameras, though the fact that it does occur, even though extremely rarely, justifies the cameras being covert.

      • 41 Willie Speirs.
        April 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

        I agree that’s a logical and unambiguous approach. What right thinking individual, with the interests of the natural world at heart, could be critical of the installation of equipment to monitor the progress of the nesting and feeding habits of any legally protected species.

        • 42 Gordon Milward
          April 15, 2018 at 4:09 pm

          Monitor a nesting site? With regard to what? Predation? By the time someone realised the nest’s contents had gone and viewed the ‘tape’ it’d be a complete waste. Only live-time viewing would be any use, surely. Any retrospectively viewed material would beg the question, ‘so what was the camera there for for’. There’s a heap of RIPA good practice out there and stated cases, RIPA itself and more. It should not be beyond the wit of man (or woman) to consolidate this into a skeleton application for an OIC to give to an Authorising Officer or for the CPS to use in future to fully understand the basis for the evidence gathered and the case before them.

          • 43 Willie Speirs.
            April 15, 2018 at 5:33 pm

            Gordon – Who said anything about retrospective viewing ? – I did look back to your earlier post where you have referred to “monitoring” on a regular basis. My response was to the post by dave angel. I initially understood it to mean live monitoring was inferred. I’ve read it again and I should have been clearer in my comment – live monitoring covert where necessary ?

          • 44 dave angel
            April 15, 2018 at 5:55 pm

            Monitor a nesting site? With regard to what? Predation?


            Amongst other things, yes. It’s called science. It’s how you learn stuff. Surely you’ve seen Springwatch?

            If all the ‘dodgy’ sites were monitored and every one showed failures due to causes other than persecution then resources can be directed towards dealing with those specific threats in future. So that would have been a worthwhile exercise.

            As it is, the cameras aren’t preventing persecution in the individual cases anyway. At most they can highlight, after the event, where persecution has caused the loss and hopefully reduce future similar incidents, one way or another.

            In any case I can’t see your approach working. I can’t see the police agreeing to install covert surveillance cameras without the knowledge or consent of the landowner. Apart from anything else the crimes involved don’t reach the threshold of seriousness required by the RIPA.

            • 45 Gordon Milward
              April 15, 2018 at 7:10 pm

              Wasn’t meant to be appear as arrogant or smug or a smart @r$e, Dave. If it came across that way, I apologise. What I was trying to say, and clearly badly, was that if the police were to use the rationale that the camera was there to monitor the nest then only live time viewing would support that. That said, having re-read your post, I can see that monitoring could be for education and not just to spot the bad lads in the act.

  18. 47 Willie Speirs.
    April 15, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Is there a case here for trying to find out if there are any landowners, grouse shoot or not, who would be willing to allow surveillance equipment to be installed on private property ? Clearly if there happened to be an encouraging response, some form of selective set-up might be possible, with priority established in areas where protected species are most endangered. Is there a known cost of covert surveillance ?

  19. 48 Dylanben
    April 15, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    The bottom line here is that CPS would have been aware that the reliance on the use of video evidence was contentious. They presumably weighed the key factors in the balance and decided that the case should proceed. In the circumstances, it is quite unbelievable that they did not ensure that a prosecuting lawyer should be both appointed in good time and fully briefed on the potentially difficult points of the case. If the defence could do it, so should the CPS have done.

  20. April 16, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Others have mentioned the idea that PAWS and PAW-UK ‘stakeholders’ should be required to allow video surveillance on their land or the land where they work if they want to be so called ‘partners’. This is obviously the right and sensible way to proceed (which undoubtedly means it won’t happen) but are there any real obstacles to it. It would mean that all SGA, SLA, BASC, GWCT, SACS, SCA members in Scotland would have to comply. [I spent 15 minutes looking on the PAW-UK and police website for their members but drew a blank and their last publication was in July 2014. Wildlife priority my arse.]
    But seriously is their a problem with this idea? Obviously (to me anyway) none of the organizations i listed would participate and PAW would fail but this is a good thing. It would mean that governments would have to start looking at real solutions. The brood persecution scheme would fail and English government would have to stop hiding behind the ridiculous HH Action Plan.
    If the organizations did allow video surveillance it would be a major step forward in eliminating raptor crime on shooting estates. The estates which don’t comply should also be named and shamed.
    I have written to Cat Smith who is MP for part of the Forest of Bowland and it would be great if others wrote to her and other MPs for Bowland to let them know we care. These MPs should be there at Hen Harrier Day!

    • 50 dave angel
      April 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      I think the answer is a licensing system, with it being a condition of any licence that the landowner consents to covert surveillance cameras being installed to ensure compliance with the law and the licensing regime.

      • April 16, 2018 at 1:23 pm

        Yes Dave that is the way but not with this government. Even Scotland is only talking about licensing grouse moors which only accounts for 57% of the problem. It needs to be all shooting lands and estates..

  21. 52 Dougoutcanoe
    April 16, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I have sent the following email to my MP. He has declared his support for the shooting industry and the usual cods wallop about how it benefits the community.

    Damien Moore Tory MP,

    You have told me that you support the shooting industry but this is an industry bent on destroying raptors and any other predators. They seem to be above the law, why?

    In addition, too many times, our justice system seems to fail on technicalities, squeezed into view by clever barristers.

    Although Mr Hartley pleaded not guilty and his QC spent a considerable time ensuring that valuable evidence would become inadmissible, there was little fight by CPS to pursue the case through court.

    Mr Yip of the CPS seemed to be quite ineffective in making a case for valuable evidence to admissible. It was a give away by the CPS.

    Yet again raptor persecution by the shooting industry seems to get away without scrutiny in court.

    I can only conclude that, friends in high places, considerable wealth and a corrupt system allows these people to be above the law.

    Please investigate this failure of our justice system. The killing of our raptors by people living in the Victorian idea of “kill all raptors” is still rife. It is time to introduce penalties that will deter these criminals including land owners and estate managers.

    Doug (I’m still disgusted.)

  22. 53 Colin McP
    February 6, 2019 at 11:33 am

    See https://www.metro.news/4k-dog-poo-fine/1422781/ .. recent case in England where video evidence was admissable.

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