North Yorkshire police watchdog plans inquiry on raptor persecution

Article reproduced from Richmondshire Today (16 July 2018):


A wide-ranging inquiry examining why North Yorkshire has the country’s worst bird of prey persecution record and efforts to crack down on the crime have failed is set to be launched.

A move has been proposed to create a select group of the county’s Police and Crime Panel to collect evidence from bodies ranging from the Crown Prosecution Service to the RSPB to find potential solutions to the persistent issue.

One of the possible solutions the inquiry will focus on is expected to be ‘vicarious liability’, where landowners are deemed responsible for the actions of their gamekeepers.

Another key line of inquiry will be resolving how to bolster prosecutions, as defendants’ specialist lawyers are regularly seen to “outgun” prosecutors, using legal loopholes.

The latest Government maps of recorded bird of prey shootings, trappings, poisonings and cases where nests have been destroyed between 2011 and 2015 show there were 39 in North Yorkshire – the same number as the next worst three counties, Norfolk, Cumbria and Derbyshire.

The county has been named as the worst area in the UK for criminal attacks on birds of prey for more than a decade.

[Graph from RSPB’s Birdcrime 2016 report]

A report by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner to the panel outlined a range of actions North Yorkshire Police were running to tackle the issue, but did not highlight any successful prosecutions.

The report states to address wildlife crimes issues, the force had increased the number of wildlife crime officers from 14 in 2015 to 20, and would further increase the number of officers looking at wildlife crimes in November.

It said while the county’s ‘abundance of natural habitat which suits raptors’ contributed to its bird of prey persecution ranking, it would be ‘naive to believe this was the sole cause of the problem’.

The report also highlighted Operation Owl, a joint initiative launched by the force, the RSPB and the RSPCA, and the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks in February, which features surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots to disrupt offender activity.

Councillor Peter Wilkinson, deputy chairman of the police watchdog, said a change of culture was needed on a minority of shooting estates, alongside more effective prosecutions.

He said the Government figures represented just the tip of the iceberg and more solutions that got to the root of the issue were desperately needed.

The Northallerton politician, who is a keen ornithologist, said: “Birds of prey persecution is a disgrace for North Yorkshire, but my view is the police are taking it very seriously.”


This is encouraging news. It looks like this proposal for an inquiry will be discussed at the next North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel meeting, due to take place tomorrow (19 July 2018).

The report by the North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner to the panel, as mentioned in the above article, can be read here: Wildlife Crime in North Yorkshire_Police and Crime Panel Report_July2018

The more pressure that is brought to bear on the raptor killers in North Yorkshire, the better, given this county’s appalling track record. For an overview of the scale of ongoing raptor persecution in North Yorkshire, which is what the Police and Crime Panel are faced with, this recent map from the RSPB says it all:

There is news circulating on social media today about a successful hen harrier nest on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the first since 2007(!). That is clearly the result of increased pressure and is to be welcomed, although one token pair in such a vast county won’t persuade anyone that illegal persecution is in decline – we’ll need to see many more successful nests, over a sustained period of years, to be convinced that things are changing for the better. And of course successful nests are meaningless if the young harriers from those nests are still routinely killed on other grouse moors once they’ve fledged.

UPDATE 22 July 2018: Prosecutors accused of ‘failing to take raptor persecution seriously’ in North Yorkshire (here)



12 Responses to “North Yorkshire police watchdog plans inquiry on raptor persecution”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    July 18, 2018 at 11:25 am

    How will it tackle the endemic collusion between cops and magistrates with the keepers and farmers responsible for the crime? It’ll be a showpiece whose idea of a result will be nabbing a couple of nyaffs from a sink estate, same as always.

  2. 3 Alex Milne
    July 18, 2018 at 11:26 am

    This is the best news I’ve read for a long time. Could it be that the efforts of this website and others is starting to bear fruit? This good news is excellent for Yorkshire and England in general but unlikely to spread to Scotland where the efforts of the police are frustrated by the Crown Office, and SNH are completely out of control.

  3. 4 George M
    July 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Fingers crossed … but the I’m losing faith in committees, enquiries etc because whenever the rich are subject to investigations by any means or for any reason, it is inevitable that it is kicked into the long grass and procrastinated about until the energy of the movement is sapped. What we need are politicians pressurised by direct but peaceful action. Changing the law or the approach will, in itself not alter the situation unless it is effectively enforced.

  4. 5 Dougie
    July 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    “A move has been proposed to create a select group” ……….. Proposed ? Not exactly written in tablets of stone. Wildlife crime is seriously endemic. Who can be trusted to investigate – damned few I think.
    The cinic in me says that nothing of any significance will come of this.

  5. 7 Chris Dobson
    July 18, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Call me a cynics, but I’ll believe in this if it makes a visible difference. Until it does it’s just window-dressing

    • 8 Mike Whitehouse
      July 18, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      If there are hen harrier chicks in the Dales for the first time since 2005 then that is a magnificent, tangible difference. It is a direct result of applying pressure and publicity to this issue in North Yorkshire. We need the various authorities to continue to react and this new review will be another small contribution to opinion forming and the cranking up of further pressure on grouse shooting and moorland interests.

      We should not be adverse to enjoying a degree of success when it comes our way. In the meantime I would like to wish the new hen harrier chicks in the Yorkshire Dales a charmed life.

  6. July 18, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Like most, I will remain cynical until the police do something pro-active. How about an amnesty for the handing in of illegal pesticides and traps? Then a planned campaign of inspection of farms and estates looking for aforesaid illegal items? After all, as we are often told, if they have nothing to hide, the landowners have nothing to fear.

    A review of shotgun ownership / licensing, with a focus on the “need” for ownership is long overdue for the whole country as is full cost licensing.

  7. July 19, 2018 at 3:15 am

    How about restricting the issue of shotgun licences and monitoring the quantity of shells each owner uses ?

  8. 11 Dales Resident
    July 19, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Not before time, the situation in the Dales is very poor for wildlife. The problem areas, estates and perpetrators are well known locally but the intense persecution of wildlife and the illegal behavior associated with the shooting industry goes unchecked. Vicarious liability is a must so that the landowners and sporting agents who are ultimately responsible for this persecution are held to account. A cultural change is also essential, it is not acceptable that commercial shooting interests that support an activity enjoyed by a tiny minority (of generally non locals) are allowed to cause such damage to our environment and wildlife which should be there to be enjoyed by all.

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