Grouse-shooting industry’s reaction to the failed Bleasdale Estate prosecution

The prosecution of a gamekeeper, employed by the Bleasdale Estate in Bowland to manage a grouse moor, collapsed recently on a series of legal technicalities (see here, here and here).

We’ve been wondering how the grouse-shooting industry would react to this failed case. Would they condemn the alleged illegal killing of two breeding peregrines at a nest site on a driven grouse moor? And, seeing as all charges against the defendant were dropped, would the industry put out a public appeal for information to help find the alleged perpetrator?

So far we haven’t seen any public commentary from the owner of the Bleasdale Estate, Mr Jeremy Duckworth. This is a bit surprising. At the time of the alleged offences (April 2016), Mr Duckworth was a Director and a regional representative of the Moorland Association (a group representing the interests of grouse moor owners in England):

According to documents lodged at Companies House, Mr Duckworth resigned his Directorship of the Moorland Association in September 2016. The timing of his resignation coincided with the early stages of the police investigation in to the alleged offences on his grouse moor – obviously nothing to do with damage limitation and purely and simply coincidental, of course:

As well as silence from Mr Duckworth, nor have we seen any commentary from the Moorland Association (MA) itself. As a member of PAW (Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime), it’s not unreasonable for us to expect the Moorland Association to have provided comment. Surely the MA must be concerned that an unidentified individual appears to have repeatedly visited the grouse moor nest site of a specially protected species and allegedly killed two peregrines, no?

What we have seen though, is a press release issued by You Forgot The Birds (YFTB), an astroturfing lobby group funded by the grouse shooting industry.

Perhaps this press release from YFTB was issued on behalf of the Moorland Association, or with the MA’s blessing, or funded by members of the MA? No, that can’t be right, because the YFTB press release wasn’t concerned at all about the alleged killing of two peregrines on a grouse moor, but instead, just like all its other press releases (funded by the grouse-shooting industry) this press release was focused entirely on attacking the RSPB and attempting to undermine its credentials.

The press release was sent out to media journalists last Friday, embargoed until one minute past midnight on Saturday morning, obviously designed to hit the weekend papers. We’re grateful to the journalist who sent us a copy. It read as follows:

Judge accuses RSPB of ‘deliberate circumvention’ of law

A judge in Lancashire has accused the RSPB of “deliberate circumvention” of the law regarding covert surveillance. In a case concerning alleged wildlife crime the judge said the RSPB had “effectively taken on the role of a police officer” and that wildlife crime police officers were “turning a blind eye” to how the RSPB was seeking to avoid complying with the law.

Sitting in Preston last month District Judge Jane Goodwin examined the use of covert videoing by the RSPB of a peregrine falcon nest in the Forest of Bowland. James Hartley, a gamekeeper, had been accused of persecuting the birds.

The judge ruled that the RSPB investigators – who were both former police officers – should have informed the police about their proposed videoing but did not because that would have triggered the safeguards of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

In her decision Judge Goodwin said that “the deliberate circumvention of the RIPA legislation… leaves an air of disquiet.” The RSPB had also “trespassed… without justification [and] breached the PACE Codes of Practice…The RSPB have acted improperly and out with their remit”.

The judge noted two previous occasions when RSPB evidence had been deemed inadmissible by prosecutors because of irregularities.

Last month an FOI response revealed that national police officers had been highly critical of the RSPB’s attempts to dominate the investigation of bird crime. The Defra official in charge of wildlife crimes had written that the charity’s approach could “prejudice the integrity of investigations.”

Commenting on the latest case Ian Gregory of the pro-grouse moor group You Forgot The Birds said: “The RSPB is facing a crisis of trust. It should reflect on why so many find it difficult to work with it. Only through good relations with the justice system and gamekeepers can it help to reduce bird crime.”


Interestingly, two contacts were provided for editors who wanted more information. One was Ian Gregory (the usual YFTB contact) but the second contact was none other than the Bleasdale defendant’s solicitor, Tim Ryan! Imagine that!

Blog readers who have been following this case and have read the farcical court proceedings (see here, here & here) will see how YFTB has cherry-picked all of District Judge Goodwin’s criticisms of the RSPB and then tried to present them as a coherent representation of what happened in court, completely ignoring the ridiculous legal technicalities which caused the collapse of this case. YFTB’s intentions are clear: ignore the details of the horrific alleged peregrine persecution and instead besmirch the integrity and reputation of the RSPB’s Investigations Team.

Unfortunately for YFTB, this attempted smear against the RSPB didn’t really go to plan. We saw two articles in the weekend press that were clearly informed by YFTB’s press release (one in The Times on Saturday [behind a paywall] & one in the Mail on Sunday [not behind a paywall]) but neither of those articles presented the case as YFTB had intended. Instead, those two papers took a rather more balanced view and as well as mentioning the judge’s criticism of the RSPB, they also both focused on the alleged crimes, particularly the Crown’s case that one of the peregrines had been caught in a trap for over ten hours, and that peregrine DNA had been found on a knife and a hammer recovered from the defendant’s home/outbuildings. They both also included a response from the RSPB which said similar evidence [to the Bleasdale Estate case] had been accepted in other court cases.

Blimey, is this an indication that mainstream journalists have finally got the measure of YFTB and understand that YFTB press releases require detailed scrutiny to get beyond the spin?

It certainly looks that way.

33 Responses to “Grouse-shooting industry’s reaction to the failed Bleasdale Estate prosecution”

  1. April 16, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    They are not going to say anything, because they at elaughing all the way. This judge has made vitually any prosecution next to impossible as covert camera traps are the only way to go to catch these devious bastards’ .

    • April 16, 2018 at 5:44 pm


      The Judge’s ruling applies only to this case. Her decision isn’t binding on other cases (although doubtless it won’t help) as each case has to be assessed on its invididual circumstances.

  2. April 16, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    One always wonders how barristers representing reprehensible people accused of disgusting crimes sleep at night. Perhaps they are reprehensible people themselves.

    • 4 Loki
      April 16, 2018 at 6:22 pm

      One wonders if these barristers have shooting interests themselves – LinkedIn appears to show some leanings for one of them. Shouldn’t they recuse themselves from these cases owing to conflict of interest? Judges do it – Sherriff Cowan recused herself owing from presiding over a raptor poisoning case owing to her RSPB membership. Do barristers recuse themselves?

      • April 16, 2018 at 6:25 pm

        I don’t see why they should. The barristers aren’t making a legal decision, they’re simply presenting a legal argument. It’s the judge that makes the decision and therefore has the potential for a conflict of interest.

        • 6 Loki
          April 16, 2018 at 11:01 pm

          But some barristers present a more sophisticated legal argument than their counterparts – as in the recent Bleasdale case. And these arguments influence the judges decision. A legal eagle with shooting interests is a formidable influence…

          • April 16, 2018 at 11:12 pm

            A formidable influence, perhaps, and a big part of the barrister’s job is to seek to persuade, but still the only person with a potential conflict of interest is the judge because it is the judge making the legal decision, not the barrister.

    • 8 Jonathan Wallace
      April 17, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      “One always wonders how barristers representing reprehensible people accused of disgusting crimes sleep at night. Perhaps they are reprehensible people themselves”.

      No, they are not. It is a fundamental part of the rule of law and of a free society that anyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial which means amongst other things getting proper legal representation. The barrister representing the accused is simply doing his or her job by conducting the defence as effectively as he/she can and probing every potential weakness in the prosecution case. Should you ever be unfortunate enough to find yourself accused of a disgusting crime you might be glad to have a barrister who is prepared to defend you vigorously.

      It is hugely frustrating that this and other prosecutions have collapsed but I believe that if people try to explain this in terms of the entire legal system being in cahoots with the owners of grouse moors all they achieve is to allow the shooting industry to present us as hysterical conspiracy theorists. Far more productive in my view to focus on whether or not the rules on admissibility of evidence (which are also an important plank of all of our human rights) have been correctly interpreted and if so if there is a case to be made for amending the rules. It seems video evidence has been treated differently in different cases and if it has been incorrectly ruled as inadmissible in this case and similar ones then perhaps what is needed is some guidance to the courts and the prosecution service. We should all be writing to our MPs to keep them aware of the fact that crimes are happening for which, under the present rules (or their interpretation), the perpetrators cannot be successfully prosecuted.

  3. April 16, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    “Particularly the Crown’s case that one of the peregrines had been caught in a trap for over ten hours, and that peregrine DNA had been found on a knife and a hammer recovered from the defendant’s home/outbuilding”…

    I fail to understand why this was not evidence enough.

  4. April 16, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    While the statement is A1 bollocks… if it had attracted coverage it would have opened it up for questioning… and demands to see the video. I would have thought that when filling that great media washing machine, YFTB would not want draw attention to their filthy underwear. And my goodness they have not changed in a long time.

  5. 11 John Cantelo
    April 17, 2018 at 8:47 am

    This case may not have unmasked the culprit of the alleged crimes but, by their silence or unprincipled attacks on the RSPB, it has unmasked representatives of the grouse industry as paying no more than disingenuous lip service to the laws regarding the protection of raptors. The press release issued by You Forgot The Birds may play well amongst its pro-hunting constituency but its failure to condemn the illegal persecution of raptors will not go unnoticed by the wider public.

  6. April 17, 2018 at 11:26 am

    It is a mistake to believe that if a judge doesn’t personally go grouse shooting, that they have no sympathy or connections to the grouse shooting or general driven shooting industry. Driven shooting is sort of like a freemasons fraternity for the senior members of the establishment. In other words most of the Royal Family are involved in it, as are most members of the aristocracy, and other titled and non-titled large landowners. Lots of senior bankers, financiers, business people etc, are involved. Foreign Royalty and dignitaries come to Britain to shoot. Likewise many members of the judiciary and the best paid lawyers, both QCs and solicitors go on driven shoots. Many politicians, peers etc also go on driven shoots.

    In other words if you attended any social event for the elite, the most powerful people in the country or regions of any type, a large proportion of the people there would be involved in driven shooting. A person who receives an invite to one of these shoots, even if they are not a shooter themselves, no they have arrived. If you are a social climber, you have got to kowtow to this driven shooting cartel. Given the seniority of those involved in driven shooting, no ambitious person in any field can fail to be aware of this. What is most of the elite involved in driven shooting i.e. those that shoot on the large manage shoots, directly or indirectly benefit from the illegal persecution of raptors, even if they do not personally organize it.

    You only have to look at the immense difficulty there was in passing the ban on hunting with dogs act through parliament, despite it being supported by the vast majority of both the public and MPs, to know what a grip that so called fieldsports has on the establishment in this country. And what is more, Hunting, which in British English means hunting with hounds, usually, but not always mounted, was a much more niche thing than driven shooting. In other words many of those who Hunt, shoot, but many shooters, even from the elite do not Hunt, or even approve of Hunting.

    It is very, very clear that all people, and all activities are not equal before the law. It is strange in the extreme that a judge expresses concerns about the conduct of the RSPB in placing hidden surveillance cameras, but does not express concern about the serious wildlife crime being committed by those the RSPB are trying to detect.

    Let me explain the issue of so called trespassing. I know the Bleasdale Estate as one time I lived close to it. I don’t know the exact location of the Peregrine nest involved, But most of this is CRoW Access land. However, there is a technicality of the terms of access. It is not for commercial activity, which bizarrely includes paid members of conservation NGOs monitoring for conservation purposes. It is absurd to believe that the RSPB should have to get permission from landowners to place surveillance cameras when they employ the people carrying out this illegal persecution, quite possibly on the behalf of the landowner.

    I make no specific allegations against individuals here, and just make general observations about the overall situation.

    • April 17, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Bizarre it certainly is.
      The judge’s weighing up (or whatever it was called as i don’t know the legal term) really demonstrated how mad the law is. She repeated the defences argument, and i paraphrase, that because a crime was suspected then there was a problem with the admissibility of video surveillance. She listed several lines evidence to there being a suspected crime and yet this is not given as evidence for the Prosecution but as reasons to dismiss the video surveillance and any evidence gathered as a result of it..
      The law in this case is about as far from common sense as you could get. Lewis Carroll, Kafka, Dickens and Orwell were not making it up and were not reflecting on history but the continuing present.
      Write to your MP because the law needs to change.

      • April 17, 2018 at 5:11 pm

        I entirely agree with your points. This is the weakness of contrived and false argument. Essentially the inconsistencies become more and more apparent. Why is there so much concern about the supposed legality of the RSPB’s evidence, and so little concern about the most clear cut illegal killing of supposedly highly protected birds of prey. After all all, Peregrines could only have been killed, or their nest attacked with a licence from Natural England, and no such licences exist. It is truly Kafkaesque and Orwellian as you imply.

    • 15 Simon Grace
      April 17, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      Quote..”Driven shooting is sort of like a freemasons fraternity for the senior members of the establishment. In other words most of the Royal Family are involved in it, as are most members of the aristocracy, and other titled and non-titled large landowners. Lots of senior bankers, financiers, business people etc, are involved. Foreign Royalty and dignitaries come to Britain to shoot. Likewise many members of the judiciary and the best paid lawyers, both QCs and solicitors go on driven shoots. Many politicians, peers etc also go on driven shoots”

      I shoot driven game and I’m a BT Telephone Engineer!
      You really have no idea have you.
      A little knowledge is a dangerous thing should be your mantra.

      • April 17, 2018 at 11:26 pm

        Ah, the old straw man logical fallacy, so beloved of the shooting fraternity. Did I say only the very wealthy do a poor man’s version of driven shooting? No I didn’t. Not reading what someone actually says is a lot more dangerous than a supposed little knowledge. When did you last have an invite to one of the Duke of Westminster’s driven grouse shoot on his Abbeystead Estate, have an invite to Balmoral, Sandringham, or any of the other big estates come to that?

        You’re very presumptuous. I’ve shot when I was younger, and I wanted to be a gamekeeper when I left school. My grandfather was a long time shooter, who shot in a syndicate. I’ve lived on a shooting estate. I’ve attended a few Game Fairs.I know the ins and outs of shooting.The technical bits, the range of people who go shooting. Why do shooters always wrongly presume that anyone critical of the criminal activities of those who run big shoots, know nothing about shooting?

        Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Are you disputing that most of the Royal Family is involved in shooting (even the Queen has been photographed picking up winged pheasants and wringing their necks, and many of the others that don’t shoot or shoot that much, attend driven shoots)? Are you disputing that the aristocracy and a large proportion of those with very large estates shoot or run shoots? Why then are all their ancestral homes essentially shooting estates? Are you denying that an unusual proportion of the very wealthy shoot? Maybe you will explain how Purdey, Holland and Holland, along with all the other English gunmakers got by? I doubt they’ve sold many pairs of shotguns to BT Engineers. Also unless you have a butler acting as your loader, what do you need a pair for.

        You see, absolutely nothing you said contradicted what I said. And it’s not me that has no idea. Are you disputing that the illegal killing of raptors, especially on grouse moors is not a big problem? Do you defend it?

        • 17 Simon Grace
          April 18, 2018 at 7:17 pm

          I’m not defending anything because there is nothing to defend.
          Ignorance is the mother of presumption..There are many who presume a lot of things on this website.

          • April 19, 2018 at 6:35 am

            You just displayed gross ignorance in wrongly presuming that I didn’t know anything about shooting. Not once did you actually contradict anything I said. You argued against a complete misrepresentation of what I said. At no time did I ever remotely imply that only the upper classes went shooting, or even engaged in driven shooting. My point was that an exceptionally high proportion of the establishment were involved in driven shooting. Essentially these big country estates are managed for driven shooting. It is a type of driven shooting you almost certainly do not engage in if you are a BT engineer, because you have to be very wealthy to engage in driven grouse shooting, or indeed driven pheasant shooting on one of the large shooting estates – or to be invited by these members of the establishment. You have offered not one iota of evidence to suggest that anything I said was incorrect. Nearly all of the grand country estates still in private hands were or still are managed as driven shoots. Now contradict me. Don’t just make abusive personalized comments.

    • 19 Loki
      April 19, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      Well said, steb1

  7. 20 Simon Grace
    April 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    The fact is that the case has been dropped so live with it.Sour grapes and bitching won’t turn the result around so get on with your lives and concentrate your efforts on something else.
    You can disect and scrutinise as much as you like but Mr.Hartley simply has no case to answer.
    Great news as far as I and many others are concerned.

    Simon Grace

    • 21 Jonathan Wallace
      April 17, 2018 at 11:26 pm

      But you don’t address the issue raised by the original post. What exactly is “great news” in your opinion? Are you thrilled by the fact that someone (whether it was Mr Hartley or someone else) has got away with illegally killing peregrine falcons?

      • 22 Simon Grace
        April 18, 2018 at 7:10 pm

        There was no proof.No case to answer.
        The case was dropped,thrown out,ripped up and dumped.
        End of story.
        The great news is that Mr.Hartley didn’t get punished for something he didn’t do.
        Is not not what British Law is all about.Innocent until proven guilty??
        As he wasn’t found guilty of anything it’s a simple case that he is therefore innocent.I’m sure even you can understand that.

        • April 19, 2018 at 6:18 am

          There was evidence, not proof which is a mathematical concept. It is just that it was ruled inadmissible because it didn’t conform to certain rules.

    • April 17, 2018 at 11:32 pm

      Ah so you are defending serious wildlife crime. There seems to be little doubt that someone illegally killed protected Peregrines, regardless of the technicalities on the admissibility of evidence. You see what people are concerned about here is not people being convicted, but preventing the illegal killing of raptors. Some species of raptor became extinct in the UK because of persecution, and others were driven to very low numbers. Taunting people concerned about conservation is doing the shooting fraternity no good at all. It’s because the attitude you are displaying, that makes lots of people want to see shooting banned. They are fed up with the arrogance, where shooting interests blatantly break the law, and then thumb their noses at right minded people. In fact we need more shooters with your attitude, because then the public would soon move to ban shooting.

      • 25 Simon Grace
        April 18, 2018 at 9:00 pm

        “Ah so you are defending serious wildlife crime”

        You idiot..

        • April 18, 2018 at 10:26 pm

          So if he is wrong why are concerned only about the defendant?
          He xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx but the crime still exists.

        • April 19, 2018 at 6:27 am

          You said.

          “The fact is that the case has been dropped so live with it.Sour grapes and bitching won’t turn the result around so get on with your lives and concentrate your efforts on something else.”

          The fact is the judge seemed to accept that there was clear evidence that Peregrine Falcons had been illegally killed. We are concerned with legally protected raptors being illegally killed and you arrogantly tell us to get over it, because the video evidence was ruled inadmissible on legal technicalities. Then you call me an “idiot”, Where’s your moral compass?

        • April 19, 2018 at 7:04 am

          I am quite shocked that it is considered okay to personally abuse me by calling me an “idiot”, and where no attempt was made to actually address what I said i.e. the ad hominen logical fallacy. This person was telling us to get over the illegal persecution of raptors and to “concentrate your efforts on something else”. The inadmissibility of video evidence makes no difference to the fact that Peregrine Falcons were illegally killed. Why should we forget about it, just because someone orders us to? No wonder raptor persecution continues, when such personal abuse is considered acceptable, rather than addressing the fact that raptor persecution continues.

          My point was very simple. This person is engaging in false argument, persistently used by the shooting lobby, that if no one is convicted, then there is no proof that raptors are being killed, which just happens to be illegal.

          There are 2 entirely separate parts to this argument.

          1) Raptor persecution by shooting interests. This can be considered a problem, irregardless of whether it is legal, illegal, and whether an individual is found legally culpable. I would be quite entitled to condemn this as would other birders and conservationists, even if it was legal like it used to be. There is copious evidence of the type dealt with by science, that there is widespread persecution of raptors. Evidence of the existence of something, and scientific evidence exists completely independent of what the law says. What is more, many things which may not be technically illegal, or which don’t result in a criminal prosecution are still immoral land wrong.

          2) Then there is the law, which operates on man made procedures and rules. For instance a case might not meet criminal standards, but civil courts can still rule that person responsible.

          This is why shooters like Simon Gracie and many others are engaging in entirely false argument. The lack of successfully breeding raptors on driven grouse shoots and other driven shoots, may not result in criminal prosecution of individuals. But any ecologist with their head screwed on the right way round knows full well that this can’t be the product of random chance, where breeding attempts persistently fail, year in and year out. Science operates on the basis of probability. In science there is no attempt to prove things, that is a legal or mathematical concept, not a scientific principle. It is hugely improbable that this pattern could be produced by random natural events, which is why in 2008 the Natural England report, A Future For The Hen Harrier In England, concluded quite properly from the evidence that the lack of breeding Hen Harriers was due to persecution by shooting interests, This is scientific reasoning, not the convoluted sophistry on which legal reasoning is based. Laws are created by people, and a very large proportion of our laws have been created by the very same people who own these vast shooting estates.

          Not understanding this is what allows the shooting lobby apologists to falsely argue that the lack of successful convictions for raptor persecution means that it does not exist. This is a false argument i.e. sophistry. Trying to claim that we should just move along and forget about it because an individual was not prosecuted because of a legal contrivance over the admissibility of evidence, and calling it “great news”, whilst not acknowledging that there was hard evidence that Peregrine Falcons had been killed (forget about the legality of it), most definitely is “defending serious wildlife crime”.

          Let me give an analogy. The vast majority of people who use or even deal in illegal drugs, are never detected or prosecuted. But it doesn’t stop all sorts of people condemning it, especially politicians. You never hear the argument, that because most are never convicted, we must pretend that it isn’t happening, or a widespread problem. But this is what the shooting lobby would have us believe, which is why they are engaging in sophistry. There are no grounds to call me an idiot for pointing this out. So why was this personal abuse allowed?

    • 29 kevind
      April 18, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Its interesting that you dont show any concern for the killing of the peregrines by parties unknown.
      I would have thought any responsible shooter would be absolutely appalled by the fact they were killed. Unless of course the concern for raptors by many shooters is a bit of a myth?

      By the way. Arent you being a tad misleading describing yourself as just a BT engineer? As opposed to a dog trainer and part time gamekeeper as you do elsewhere unless someone else just happens to have the same name and works for BT.

      • 30 Simon Grace
        April 18, 2018 at 8:58 pm

        What I do for a living has no bearing on any of this at all.It was just to prove a fact that you don’t have to be a member of the Royal Family or a Lord to shoot driven game.
        Yes,I shoot,train Gundogs and I’m involved in a couple of shoots helping out here and there but so what?
        What’s that got to do with any of this and why you’re bringing up information from my profile on the Salmon Fishing Forum is just pety and childish.You never change you?

        • April 18, 2018 at 10:31 pm

          ‘What I do for a living has no bearing on any of this at all’
          Then don’t use it as pretext to avoid the part of kevind’s post that wasn’t a ‘by the way’.
          Since you conveniently forgot, here it is again ..
          ‘Its interesting that you dont show any concern for the killing of the peregrines by parties unknown.
          I would have thought any responsible shooter would be absolutely appalled by the fact they were killed. Unless of course the concern for raptors by many shooters is a bit of a myth?’

    • 32 dave angel
      April 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      The fact that the case had to be dropped has probably hastened greater controls on shooting.

      The less stupid amongst the shooting fraternity realise that.

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