Peregrine persecution on a grouse moor: Bleasdale video footage finally released

In April this year, a high profile prosecution case for alleged raptor persecution collapsed after covertly-filmed video evidence was deemed inadmissible.

The prosecution was being brought against a gamekeeper from the Bleasdale Estate in Bowland, who had been charged with a string of wildlife offences including the alleged killing of two peregrines in April 2016.

We had followed this case since September 2017, attended each court hearing, and blogged in detail after the case collapsed on a series of technicalities earlier this year (e.g. see here, here, here, here).

The details, as described in court, of what had happened to those two peregrines, were horrific. It was alleged that the adult female peregrine had been shot whilst leaving her nest and the adult male had been caught by the leg in a spring trap that had been set on the nest ledge, where he struggled to escape, in vain, for over ten hours, before being shoved in a bag by an unidentified man and removed from the site.

We’ve been waiting for the RSPB to publish this video footage ever since the case collapsed and the accused walked free. We understand there have been some legal issues about publishing the video and although we don’t know the details, it’s probably a safe bet to guess that some influential people from the grouse shooting industry have probably been working hard to ensure this footage never sees the light of day.

Today the RSPB has released video footage of peregrine persecution in Bowland and although the Bleasdale Estate is carefully not mentioned, it’s quite obvious from the dates cited and the video images that what is being shown in this footage fits the description of what allegedly happened to those two Bleasdale peregrines as desribed to the court earlier this spring.

The RSPB has published a blog describing the circumstances of this footage (here).

Watch the video here but beware, it contains graphic content:

Ater you’ve watched it, think about why nobody has been successfully prosecuted for these crimes.

And then think about why nobody will ever be prosecuted for these crimes.

And then think about why these crimes continue to be committed on grouse moors in 21st Century Britain.

And then think about what you can do to help bring it to an end.

Change must come, but it will only come if people stand up and demand it.

See you at a Hen Harrier Day event this weekend.

UPDATE 10 August 2018: Moorland Association’s response to peregrine persecution on Bleasdale grouse moor (here)

65 Responses to “Peregrine persecution on a grouse moor: Bleasdale video footage finally released”

  1. 1 Richard Andrews
    August 8, 2018 at 10:56 am

    [Ed: comment deleted as libellous]

  2. August 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

    How can this be allowed without a successful conviction? What amazes me more is that our media ptomotes actively the estates where this occurs. It shows that neither the English or Scottish justice systems are doing the job the public expects. As for the media? How can they explain their stance?

    • 3 Paul Fisher
      August 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      ‘And then think about what you can do to help bring it to an end.

      Change must come, but it will only come if people stand up and demand it.’

      I like Hen Harrier days as it brings us like minded people together. But therein lies the problem.
      We that attend them are already converted, we all know what a HH is, but the vast majority of the public don’t.
      Now, if they were renamed ‘Save our wildlife from extinction day’, it might at least get a bit more interest from the public, it may even encourage them to ask questions.

      We can’t wait for the likes of the RSPB to inform their members, they’ve had plenty of chances and not taken them. And all licensing will do is give the grouse moor owners another 20-30 years to ‘see if it works’ and nothing will change.

      If we want change, we will have to do it ourselves. Crowdfund a publicity campaign. Organise walks on grouse moors. Crowdfund our own stands at County fairs.
      We must inform the public that Golden Eagles, hares, owls, etc are being slaughtered for a Victorian richmans pastime. Talk about things that everyone has heard of, not HH’s that only birders know.

      We may stand up for change, we may be demanding change, but are we willing to pay for change.

      The government will take no notice of 123k who signed the petition, but they would hate to see that figure increase to 1.23million.

      Oh yes, and of course, the more of us that ‘Walk for Wildlife’ on the 22nd Sept, the more publicity we will get. See you all there.

      • 4 Les Wallace
        August 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm

        Another supplementary approach is undermining the phony economic argument for DGS. Show that it actually drives away more jobs than it creates and it will be finished politically. You don’t have to be a top rank economist to realize that something which compromises virtually every other activity over vast stretches of land for a tiny minority group and which isn’t and never will be a spectator sport is not a good path to go down, otherwise why haven’t the Scandinavians, Baltic States, Russia and the U.S of A got grouse moors? It’s basic common sense that economic diversification is far, far better and wouldn’t take much pushing in the public arena to get that point across. To help please sign, share and promote this – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/226109

  3. August 8, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Well I am pleased the RSPB has finally released the video which can only help to demonstrate the appalling nature of the persecution that continues to be directed at our birds of prey in complete defiance of the law. I struggle to understand why the film was not released sooner or why the RSPB refrains from specifying where the incident took place. If it is a matter of fact that the incident took place – which it clearly is – then stating exactly where can hardly provide grounds for a libel suit (provided they do not say or suggest who actually committed the crime). If someone wishes to bring such a suit I think the RSPB should say ‘bring it on’. It has deep pockets and can surely afford the risk and, in the absence of a criminal prosecution, it would at least get the details of the case heard in a civil court. Am I missing something here?

    • August 8, 2018 at 11:32 am

      [Ed: some] DGM estates actually enable wildlife crime and cover it up. Quite the opposite of their media spin Andrew Gilruth.

    • August 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      I do agree that the RSPB could do more. I’m pleased that they posted the video. As you say, they could not be accused of any crime if either the individual or the estate makes a civil claim against them. If they need money to fight a civil claim, I can assure them that it will be there. Does the estate deserve privacy? It cannot be argued that it did not happen where it did. That is a a fact, not a matter of opinion. A civil case would help highlight the issues in the criminal justice system, and the media can hardly spin this in favour of the individual or estate. The RSPB can and should do far more, as well as involve the membership more.

    • 8 Loki
      August 8, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      Well said, Jonathan.

    • 9 Alauda10
      August 8, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      I’d suggest that the reasons for the delay are probably twofold, 1) the rspb has held this back until the run up to the start of the grouse season for maximum impact, 2) they’ve been mulling over how they were going to spin the pasting they got from the judge in her judgement. Opinions on here are obviously going to vary on the content and impact of her words, but she has provided some very strong soundbites with which to attack the rspb.

      I can see the rspb reaching a similar position with regards to their raptor persecution investigations that the rspca has reached with their private prosecutions relating to hunting with dogs, in short “It’s outside your remit as a charitable organisation so leave it to the police.”

      • August 8, 2018 at 2:57 pm

        Much of that “remit” issue was largely due to many years of pressure from the CA, an organisation which covers both hunting with hounds and shooting. The CA have several prominent MP’s in their pockets who were no doubt lobbying where they could.

        The police simply don’t have the resources to conduct this sort of operation and generally speaking from experience don’t have the officers with the knowledge either.

        This is ultimately what the CA want. Take away the powers of the organisations which oppose them and then crack on with whatever their members wish to do untroubled by any legal ramifications.

        • 11 steven broadbent
          August 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm

          The police will not do anything .They [Ed: rest of this comment deleted as we can’t be sure it’s true. If you’re able to provide supportive evidence we’d be happy to publish. Thanks]

        • 12 Who is watching the watchers
          August 9, 2018 at 10:38 pm

          Firstly can I say I find raptor persecution abhorrent in every respect but the law of the land, however bitter a pill it is to swallow in some respects, must be fair and balanced without emotion or predudice.

          You are however completely wrong in your statement regarding the Police who could in fact do a far better job in respect of enquiries like this. However, the difference between the Police and RSPB ‘investigations’ teams and the like, is that the Police are obliged to work within the framework of The Regulations of Investigatovery Powers Act (RIPA) and RIPSA in Scotland.

          This results in a higher likelihood of convictions as

          1. The evidence is always admissible in court.

          2. The evidence obtained has been done so legally with the appropriate authorities in place (helps with point 1).

          People may not this rather inconvenient truth but unless these points are met the so called ‘surveillance operations’ carried out by these groups is a waste of members money.

          Another point to note is that concealed cameras or any cameras placed on land without the owners permission is in fact illegal and, leaves the persons deploying these, or any other surveillance devices open to both criminal and civil prosecutions.

          Ultimately the Police would not get the authorisation to mount and conduct such a covert operation (which incidentally would require a Part III property interference authority), as there is insufficient grounds, intelligence or evidence available to mount such an operation and they will not allow officers to go on what is ultimately a fishing trip, but then charities can spend their members subs with little scrutiny unlike the Police budgets.

          And before anyone suggests that such operations could be carried out but a charity please give your head a wobble as a charity is not a law enforcement agency whatever way you wish to present it.

          The above may sound facetious, but, as provenance to what I have typed, I can honestly say that with almost two decades of experience in relation to covert Law Enforcement enquiries encompassing every tactic available resulting in hundreds of convictions in actual criminal courts as opposed to internet kangaroo courts, nothing annoys me more than poor or illegal evidence being presented in court which, if presented by law enforcement agencies, would have that agency shut down.

          • 13 Iain Gibson
            August 10, 2018 at 1:52 am

            If the law at present prevents private investigators such as charities from gathering photographic evidence, then surely an urgent course of action should be to campaign effectively to change the law? I know, easier said than done, but according to David, and his explanation is credible, what other option is available? I still have difficulty understanding why we oppose only driven grouse shooting, because allowing walked-up grouse shooting to continue would lead to a whole new set of troubles in the future. It may be less viable commercially than driven shooting, but will not get rid of the environmental, raptor persecution and related problems associated with any grouse shooting. I would happily see an end to ALL grouse shooting, which conveniently would also provide the movement with a more appropriate acronym (BAGS) !

  4. 14 Dylanben
    August 8, 2018 at 11:22 am

    The fact that a successful prosecution of this individual was not possible is almost a side issue. The footage shown here, of both the birds and the installation of the trap, graphically illustrates what [Ed: some unidentifed] bastards get up to when they think that they can get away with it. There is only one answer – and we all know what that is! A ban on DGS would also help.

  5. 15 AlanTwo
    August 8, 2018 at 11:33 am

    ‘And then think about what you can do to help bring it to an end.’
    I think about little else these days, but apart from giving small sums of money when I’m asked, signing all the petitions and endlessly banging on about it to the already converted, I’m pretty much at a loss.
    Wouldn’t it be great if the RSPB and everyone else could work so that this latest footage is viewed by more than the paltry 20,857 who watched the HH being shot last year, the 10,862 who watched the MH nest destruction, and the 6,896 for the Gos nest disturbance.
    Surely YouTube and social media hold the key to bringing about change, but no-one seems to be able to mobilise them effectively.

    • 16 Paul Fisher
      August 8, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      Alan, quite so. As a lifer, I would love to know just what is holding the RSPB back from mobilising 1.2 million members. Something in this scares them and somebody out there knows exactly why.

      You say that social media is the answer. Well, the Scottish wildcat petition on Change.org, has just gone beyond 300,000 signatures. Seems to prove you right!

  6. August 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

    It is of course an utter disgrace, not to mention the suffering involved by those poor birds.

    The fact this evidence was deemed inadmissible is the real issue here.

    Those [Ed: some] involved in the shooting industry will continue to persecute all wildlife by any means regardless of legality until this type of evidence will be accepted by the courts, then brought to justice with strong sentences if found guilty.

    Regarding the gathering of evidence and the lack of permission from the landowner. We secured a conviction against the Fitzwilliam Hunt (pending appeal) with video evidence obtained without the land owners permission and have another pending against the Thurlow Hunt (this is in the public domain so no need to moderate but remove this bit if you like) so we can only assume that it must relate to official bodies and not volunteer groups.

    One wonders if this evidence has been obtained by Joe Blogs and submitted with a complaint of a crime would the courts have been able to apply the same defence?

  7. August 8, 2018 at 11:44 am

    The linked RSPB blog hasn’t appeared on the Official Bowland RSS feed yet.
    All posts starting https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/
    automatically appear on http://www.bowlandwildlife.org.uk/

    I will e-mail RSPB and try to get it fixed although perhaps they all get put it into the ‘archive’ after a few days.

  8. 19 David
    August 8, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I am lost for words which part of ‘evidence’ do they not understand. I suppose the judge who deemed it inadmissable could possibly be a shooter or even worse part own/own a grouse moor. [Ed: There is no evidence whatsoever that the judge was “possibly a shooter or even worse part own/own a grouse moor”. The judge in this case ruled on the law in light of the evidence that was presented by the defence, and, crucially, the evidence that was NOT presented by the prosecution. See earlier blogs on the case for details].

    If this was somebody breaking into the landowners vehicle then the evidence would be allowed then

    And it is not covert footage it is a camera trap monitoring a nest of a Schedule 1 bird so they broke the law just by being there – these cameras are widely used in conservation across the world

    Someone has to do something – [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

  9. 20 Dougie
    August 8, 2018 at 11:59 am

    What an utterly revolting occurrence. People who do that have seriously deranged minds. It is easy to conclude that such people have personalities that make them likely to be a public danger.

  10. 21 Gordon Milward
    August 8, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    I’m no expert in these matters. I was a cop and I am a birder but when these two worlds collide my experience/knowledge is much less than many on here. That said, and I know human resources are always a limiting factor but no nest observations for 10 or more hours and at a place where there must have been some suspicion otherwise the camera would have been installed elsewhere.

    • 22 Secret Squirrel
      August 8, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Gordon, but that’s where the evidence laws fall down on what the ordinary punter would expect – cameras set to specifically catch criminals have been deemed to be inadmissable. The RSPB would have put the camera to monitor the next over an extended period, to detemine causes of failure (It may have been predation) rather than have constant observation.

      • August 8, 2018 at 10:24 pm

        Yes, but that begs the question – how many other nests, where “loss to predation” is the logical answer, could have been destroyed in this manner over a 24 hour period. If there had been no footage and all traces of the use of a spring trap removed, there would be the presumption that the adult birds would have survived. This isn’t just about removing the nest – this is a sure-fire way of reducing breeding populations with minimum effort.

        There’s an obvious contradiction in the way these charges are defended as well. Why should a landowner not want video footage publicised if it could lead to the apprehension of an unauthorised trespasser indulging in criminal activity.

      • 24 Iain Gibson
        August 9, 2018 at 6:14 pm

        Can someone explain why cameras are installed all over our towns, cities and roadways, ostensibly “to catch criminals,” including cameras installed in shops and other private establishments, which are used as evidence to convict shoplifters and other criminals; Yet when RSPB installs a camera at a Peregrine nest and gathers clear evidence of criminality, it is ruled inadmissable? I’m not just pointing out the irony, which is clear for all to perceive, I’d genuinely like to hear a proper explanation. I know there must be one, because RSPB et al don’t seem to appeal against the judgements, but I’ve yet to hear a truly credible legal justification.

        • August 10, 2018 at 9:43 am

          Iain, I suspect that hypothetically if a covert RSPB camera had picked up sheep being stolen or some similar incident and that came to the notice of the police – for the sake of argument where perpetrators ventured close to the nest. You can imagine that if the case made it to court (I’m presuming that RSPB or other monitors OK’d the use of their footage) there would likely be no objection from the landowner – so in this case the defence representing trespassing sheep stealers would have little input into the admissibility argument – conversely the landowner almost certainly would welcome the use of footage – as we know, without footage the case would probably and similarly not have made it to court. Footage usually always appears be found inadmissible following legal argument.
          Probably worth keeping in mind that without footage of persecution there is no case to go to court – it’s only when it gets there, legal pressure is applied by very competent, and well paid defence counsel to push the inadmissibility issue often with little resistance from prosecution. It’s about the landowners stance and how they want to be perceived if and when the footage is much more widely viewed.

        • 26 Adam
          August 12, 2018 at 10:11 pm

          Unlike parks, roads and streets, grouse moors are not public spaces. The RSPB had as much right to install a camera there as in your garden.

          A CCTV system also comes under the Data Protection Act 1998 if it records the public. The Information Commissioner must be notified, the operator must put up signs, and disclose images if receives a Subject Access Request, etc.

          What is odd is that the RSPB appears to persist with installing cameras in aid of criminal investigations and then hands everything over to the police who will then report the case to the CPS. Maybe they have a good argument which could support the way their investigation teams operate and if so they could be more successful if they prosecuted their own cases.

          • August 13, 2018 at 12:30 pm

            To be clear I have no issues whatever in how you describe the legality of installing camera without permission on private land.
            I can’t speak for the RSPB but I don’t think that they would say they would ever install cameras on private land to intentionally aid a criminal investigation. That would clearly be routinely inadmissible in court. The installation would have been intended to monitor the nest. The issue arises when an incident of criminality occurs and is picked up. Why wouldn’t anyone in that situation feel obliged to report it to police even in the knowledge that the footage would probably be deemed inadmissible in court. (without the footage, criminality might be suspected but proving a case would be well nigh impossible – and it would never get to court)
            What should the RSPB do ? There is a recognition that if it’s good enough for the CPS to make the case you would assume that it would be backed up with some preparation for court – or is there simply the assumption that the footage will inevitably be deemed inadmissible.
            Maybe it’s not about winning any single case, at least for now. Perhaps the bigger picture is about promoting the “possibility” of the presence of cameras and, where an incident occurs, at least being able to have the case aired in public, inadmissible as it might be.
            If and when the case is thrown out, that’s the right time to engage with the wider public, drawing attention to the shortcomings in the legal system, by showing the footage where legally possible. Any legal resistance to that from a land owner or association would risk adverse publicity.

            • 28 Iain Gibson
              August 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm

              The comments here are enlightening. However, it seems to me to imply that landowners can commit criminal acts (or be vicariously liable), yet escape prosecution if the crime was committed on their own land. The fact that photographic evidence cannot be allowed in court is surely a legal anomaly which needs to be sorted? To dismiss it as at least part of the evidence seems to be counter to natural justice. If such a camera captured someone in the act of murdering a human being, would it be regarded as inadmissible because the photograph was taken without the landowner’s permission? Obviously that would be regarded as a far more serious crime, but a crime is a crime after all. The law would appear to be an illogical ass on this and similar occasions. Presumably to resolve the apparent anomaly, either the law needs revision, or the RSPB needs to advise on detective operations in liaison with the official police authorities, when wildlife crime is justifiably suspected.

              • August 13, 2018 at 4:53 pm

                Iain, I don’t have many answers here, but I would have thought that the first logical step might be to ensure that detailed legal argument should be prepared to prosecute the case, to prevent the “inadmissibility card” being played too easily without some solid resistance.
                Even if it’s unsuccessful first time it provides something to build on and keeps it in the public eye.
                To seek permission in advance (to install monitoring equipment) is probably impractical and very likely counter-productive. Any approach to police at that stage would probably result in a consultation process with the landowner / agent anyway.

  11. August 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    So what can we do? Genuine question, it’s so frustrating to see this happening and no end in sight.

  12. August 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    That is really sickening. What can those of us too far from any Hen Harrier Day events do this weekend? I will be in Devon.

  13. 32 David
    August 8, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    My first comment has disappeared altogether possibly because I hinted that the Judge may have other interests i.e. shooting or friends that do

    In reply to the person that commented about a Charity and leaving prosecutions to the Police.

    There has been a law broken so why are the Police not taking it forward [ED: David, please read our earlier reports on why the prosecution collapsed. It’s not the police who can “take this forward”, it’s a decision for the CPS, and there is no case to take forward anymore because the central evidence has been deemed inadmissible by the judge].

    The problem I have with this is that it wasn’t covert footage – It was a camera trap placed on a nest of a Schedule 1 species by a licensed individual to monitor the nest and it’s productivity and unfortunately filmed this henious act.

    The camera trap was placed to monitor the nest not to trap miscreants (this was an extra)

    The individuals have already broken the law by disturbing a Schedule 1 species, let alone shooting the female and trapping the male so why are the Police not pursuing this ?? [Ed: see comment above about why the police aren’t pursuing this. They can’t!]

    Despite what the Judge commented about land owners permission and RSPB – the police should still prosecute [Ed: see comments above]

  14. 33 crypticmirror
    August 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    This is why it is important to put footage like this into the public domain before reporting it to the police, then the same pressures which sink it (politicians and old boys from pressure groups) will keep the chances of prosecution alive (politicians suffering blowback from the public who want something done). Once the footage goes into the hands of the police then they have say over who gets to see it and when in the name of protecting an investigation. I’m not saying that we should ignore police or court orders, but before it goes to the cops or reported as a crime then we the public ought to be able to see it first.


  15. August 8, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    So, if I understand this correctly, if a murder is committed and filmed on an unauthorised camera, it catches the full details of the attack, identifies the murderer and leaves nobody in any doubt as to who committed the crime, but there is no other evidence, the murderer walks?

    • 35 Loki
      August 8, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      If this level of evidence was for a child protection case rather than a raptor protection case; it wouldn’t have been thrown out of court.

  16. 36 Jimmy
    August 8, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Highlights again the real vermin that stalk our uplands

  17. August 8, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    This makes me so angry. There’s no doubt whatsoever that this was the deliberate killing of 2 Peregrine Falcons at their nest. This is not an egg collector, but someone wanting to kill the adults and destroy the nest. Ockham’s razor tells us a lot about the motivation, as only one party could have benefited from this. What is absolutely disgusting, is the way the shooting industry denies what is going on. As these things happen in remote places, and I use to know this particular area well, the chance of someone being observed in these acts are small, and we all know this is the tip of the iceberg.

    The fact that this is ignored, and these fake defences are so successful is institutional corruption. The authorities do not want to know what’s going on as grouse moors and other driven shoots are often owned by some of the most senior members of the establishment, and if more prosecutions were successful, it would raise serious and scandalous questions about these people.

  18. 38 Harry Bickerstaff
    August 8, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Why is it, that other crimes are solved by dash-cam cameras, neighbours’ security cameras, personal pictures taken by smartphones, but not video cameras which don’t have a qualified operator? Is someone picking and choosing which law to implement and which to discard, or am I simply suspicious and possibly an uppity member of the working class, who doesn’t know my place and expects the rich grouse moor owners, to be bound by the same laws, which bind me?

  19. 40 Zafar Ali
    August 8, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you for publishing the blog with the links to full details of the case which, for me was very interesting. I like many others on here love our wildlife and against driven Grouse shooting due to the persecution of our raptors. After reading the reasons here I feel for the Judge who at the skill of QC Rouse and the lack of preparation and knowledge of the crown appointed Barrister Mr Yip was simply backed into a corner. I suspect personally she wanted Mr Yip to grab all the hooks she gave him and it’s not her place if he was not up to the job to step in for the Crown.

    I can see a career for myself as a specialist advisor to organisations like RSPB and others. And as we are about to embrace the new Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) which, brings another set of challenges it requires anyone investigating to be at the very top of their game in the preparation, planning, authorising, collation and presentation of evidence.

    Quite simply and I don’t mean to sound harsh here because my heart is with those trying to protect our wildlife but those tasked with investigating wildlife crimes are not in general terms skilled and accomplished in their approach. As it’s not classed as serious crime its left to the junior levels of the Police to advise RSPB staff and RSPCA et al and when it comes down to matters such as Disclosure under CPIA which, is a minefield anyway they are well out of their depth never mind RIPA 2000 and the IPA.
    I would hasten a bet that there is very little in the recorded rationale of the thought and decision making process if it even exists that justifies the neccessity, proportionality and the collateral intrusion considerations around the investigation plan and the subsequent deployment thereafter.

    Until Wildlife Crime becomes serious crime and the definition is changing (not yet decided under IPA) possibly in our favour as the threshold is being lowered then cases will always struggle unless the case officer is looking ahead for all the challenges.

    I live in hope that we can still protect our wildlife but we have to accept that if we are to do so we have to be smarter in our approach to the law.

  20. 41 Tom Gun
    August 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    This is career criminals using advanced and specialised methods to commit crime and avoid detection.
    This type of criminality will continue unless there is serious changes in enforcement which requires proper resourcing.
    Sadly police are powerless.

    Well done RSPB and keep up the good work.

  21. 42 Robin Waterman
    August 8, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve thought about it. It would seem that the reason that nobody has been prosecuted for these crimes is because a Judge ruled that the RSPB’s actions in obtaining this “evidence” was illegal. Unfortunately, the RSPB has got “form” for this but instead of dealing with the issue, seem intent to plough on regardless. They need to take a long hard look at themselves. Just what are they trying to achieve? Gaining successful prosecutions doesn’t seem to be it. I think their membership would be appalled by their actions.

    • 43 Reece Fowler
      August 8, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      RSPB members would be appalled at the RSPB trying to get raptor persecution convictions with covert cameras ( i.e. pretty much the only way they can get convictions)? Really?

      This evidence has been deemed admissable for a load of previous cases before. It seems to have failed because the RSPBs side was poorly represented in court.

    • 44 Chris T
      August 8, 2018 at 10:06 pm

      Perhaps you should think again. The reason nobody has been prosecuted is because the law says that evidence of a crime cannot be used if covertly obtained (even the police need a warrant).

      Video evidence for ‘minor’ crimes must have approval of the landowner. How can RSPB get this? It’s a shooting estate, do you think the landowner would give consent and yet not tell ‘potential’ criminals ‘possibly’ in their employ? They’d simply say no. So, should RSPB give up?

      The covert camera was just on the nest of a schedule 1 species, only licensed persons should have been present and there was no risk of ‘innocent’ people being captured on film, which is what the law on collection of evidence is supposed to be about. The judge actually prompted the CPS lawyer to ask the RSPB investigators to predent evidence about why it was placed there and he failed to do so and with that missing, she had no option but to find it inadmissable. She did not rule that their actions were illegal. The further physical evidence of a hammer identical to the distinctive one in the video and a sack with Peregrine DNA, found during the search of the gamekeepers house was never even tested.

      I’m certain that RSPB would like nothing more than a successful prosecution, and as a member for most of my life, I’m not appalled but applaud theIr efforts. It’s the courts that I am appalled with for failing to pursue a clear case on a legal technicality. Without the ‘illegal’ camera no-one would ever have known a crime had been committed

    • 45 Dylanben
      August 8, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      So the RSPB should have gone and knocked on the landowner’s door and sought permission to install a camera. I can think of one or two who might have given the go-ahead, but I imagine that many others would not only have refused but would also have told the gamekeeper about the approach. As I have indicated earlier, we have video evidence that these crimes are being committed – even though the stupidity of the law sometimes, but not always, prevents it being used as evidence. I take the view that video cameras should continue to be used in cases where there is good cause to believe that our wildlife is at serious risk. It is to be hoped that the law will be clarified or reviewed so that we know where we stand on this issue. Currently it’s a lottery with some video evidence being admitted and other not. Continuing to obtain evidence in this form provides a chance that it might be admitted – but even if it isn’t, it is still yet more evidence of what is going on. Surely we need every bit of evidence we can lay our hands on.

  22. 46 Paul V Irving
    August 8, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    [Ed: sorry Paul, comment deleted, you probably already understand why!]

  23. 48 Tom Gun
    August 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    What about a civil case where the level of proof is less…..balance of probability

    Wonder if RSPB have ever considered this if not crowd funding and case brought by RPUK?

    Any thoughts

    • 49 Dougie
      August 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

      At one time evidence, no matter how obtained, was admissible in civil cases. From what I have read that has not been so for quite a few years. How we have arrived at a situation where criminals cannot be prosecuted using ALL true and verifiable evidence I cannot explain.

      However, we are where we are. Nevertheless, if video recordings of criminality are obtained and cannot be used in evidence then there can be no good reason not to make it public together with date, place and time. No accusations need be made, but leave viewers to draw their own conclusions.

      There are endless TV programmes showing dodgy workmen swindling people (I recall one showing a scumbag pissing in a house owners loft). If that sort of recording can be shown then why cannot wildlife criminals be similarly exposed. Too much treading on eggshells perhaps.

      Delaying publication to allow the police to investigate makes sense, in theory. In practice the police commonly let months and months pass before revealing reports of wildlife crime and asking the public if anyone noticed anything strange many moons ago.

      • 50 Gordon Milward
        August 9, 2018 at 12:19 pm

        Key principle of British Law is that evidence must be lawfully obtained.

      • August 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        Surely it would be helpful if the video footage could be aired nationally even if there was no direct reference to the location. We know similar acts of criminality occur nationwide – public reaction would hurt the landowners badly if the footage was seen for what it is. That’s the big fear for the estates and landowners. No-one would dare defend or condone this on a public platform. It would probably pressure large parts of the shooting lobby into having to publicly criticise wildlife crime in general and to further distance themselves from the practices even they know are prevalent on driven grouse estates.

  24. 53 David
    August 9, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Gordon define lawfully obtained ?? This was actually a camera monitoring a Schedule 1 species – there was no entrapment, duplicity, covert or secret filming involved it accidently recorded a crime , probably three crimes if I am honest.

    The xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx are not going to give permission for anyone to erect cameras that might catch them in the act so they can hide away from the public and continue their despicable acts. Frankly I am not bothered about being libellous anymore it is only libel if it isn’t true. Direct action is the only way forward – we cannot get them legally the ways and means act must come into play.

    • 54 David
      August 9, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      I can see my rude word being redacted but the other two words were xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

      [Ed: David, it’s more subtle than that, and in the context of talking about this particular case what you wrote was potentially libellous].

    • 55 Gordon Milward
      August 10, 2018 at 8:02 am

      David – I’ve rattled on here for too long about RIPA and policy documents and thorough/timely entries therein. I spent years in the police dealing with these matters so have some experience. That said, I have no first hand knowledge of every nook and cranny of this case to be able to attribute its failure to these aspects and to what degree. Whilst RIPA would not apply to a camera sited to monitor non-crime behaviour, applying the essence of RIPA would do no harm. It shows a desire to do the right thing and be seen to do so imho. Clearly, here, there were other shortcomings and I’ve commented on them in earlier iterations of this topic. And I’m as angered as anyone else that these offenders have killed two stunning birds, terminated their genome and are then possibly elevated to Hero status in the deplorable circles in which they exist.

  25. 56 Zafar Ali
    August 9, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    I have read the replies since I posted above and agree, in general terms with most of what has been said. But let’s be clear here – The issue is, not that covert recording is illegal or was done illegally but was not in accordance with some of the RIPA codes of practice ( a smoke screen by the QC) or the voluntary code and so makes the evidence inadmissible which is NOT the same thing as illegal. A small point but makes a massive difference as we sadly know.
    The RSPB should continue to secure and preserve evidence in this way but it is HOW they set out the investigation plan, the rationale to go covert and obviously not to inform the landowner who would frustrate the investigation is acceptable but it was not documented timed and dated. Overall without this pre planning it looks like the investigation was done ‘on the hoof’

    Furthermore aside from a weak performance by Mr Yip, they should have consulted early ( I am being presumptious here they did not) with CPS and an appointed Counsel as is normal in complex cases (this is not) OR where such guidance is needed . At that point in the absence of a skilled investigator as I mentioned in my first post, CPS would have pointed out some of the things I have referred to above and in my earlier post to exactly prevent the proverbial Rabbit being pulled out of the hat as QC Rouse did on the floor of the court.

    RSPB need to stop now all current investigations and conduct a thorough review of where they are. Learning the essons from this case and getting some expert advice on the law not just relying upon a single strand of legislation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and hoping for the best on the day.

    • 57 Paul V Irving
      August 10, 2018 at 8:03 am

      RIPA does not apply to RSPB this could and should have been challenged and probably would have been with a decent prosecution brief.

      • 58 Who is watching the watchers
        August 10, 2018 at 9:25 am

        If the RSPB did apply RIPA/RIPSA theresholds they would not get authority to conduct said operations as Zafar Ali has already alluded to in his replies.

        Aside from legal minefield you have the need of nationally accredited operators (required for authorities) whose evidence is used. Frankly the money to do this is eyewatering and at a cost I’m not sure the charity’s involved would be willing to pay.

        Proportionality in relation to every enquiry has to be considered on its merits. Transparency in the evidence chain from start to finish must be full and open with persons involved potentially cited as witnesses for both the prosecution or defence.

        Authorities aside, because of this, the transparency and evidence chain is flawed from the start.

        That’s before you even look at the identification issues (positive or beyond reasonable doubt) surrounding the perpetrators as like it or not this is a key point to obtain any conviction.

        • 59 Adam
          August 12, 2018 at 10:37 pm

          “If the RSPB did apply RIPA/RIPSA theresholds they would not get authority to conduct said operations as Zafar Ali has already alluded to in his replies. ”

          It wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) make any difference whether the RSPB tried to apply those tresholds. It is not a “relevant public authority” for the purposes of RIPA or RIPSA.

  26. 60 David
    August 9, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Why do we have to pander to them by not publicising the location – it should be on National TV with the estate named xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx it is true so not libellous – this was recorded on a camera monitoring a nest – not a super secret camera trying to catch crime as it has been portrayed covert surveillance etc

    If the estate then wants to play by taking it to court and argue otherwise the camera usually have GPS within them so it proves were it was situated.

    I know a good game which upsets gamekeepers – when I see them from a road i take pictures with my 150 – 500 mm lens of them and their vehicles in the Forest of Bowland it makes them very jittery and they then bring numerous vehicles close to mine on the road – nobody says anything I just keep clicking away

    One day I will get lucky and I will record something and the first thing they will know will be when they read about it in National Newspaper

    [Ed: Again David, please be careful about you write. Yes, the footage was filmed on this estate but the role of the estate in this incident has not been determined in court. Please don’t libel them.]

  27. 61 AlanTwo
    August 10, 2018 at 10:53 am

    My long-held view is that the RSPB (and also the LACS) place too much emphasis on prosecution. The LACS have successfully prosecuted a substantial number of foxhunters over the years, but the impact has been minimal. The punishments are usually minor (with fines and costs often paid by wealthy colleagues or employers) and the publicity usually focusses on details of the proceedings rather than the crime itself.
    I think we should gather as much video footage as we possible can of illegal activities (maybe even ALL activities that involve the snaring, poisoning, trapping and shooting of wildlife, legal or otherwise) and then put the effort and resources into letting the public see what goes on. We don’t have to name the individuals or the estates or even the county, just make it clear that this is what is done every week in the UK in the name of blood ‘sports’.
    I think politicians fear public opinion much more than logical argument. We’ll get little help from TV or the press, so we need people skilled in social media to push the message out there.
    I still believe that the vast majority of the public would be sickened if they could see what some ‘real country folk’ get up to, and maybe the political climate would slowly change.

  28. 62 Dave Armitage
    August 10, 2018 at 11:38 am

    The estates where raptors disappear should always be named and shamed and we should be ensuring that a Labour government is committed to banning grouse shooting when they come into government, just as they banned fox hunting.

  29. 63 lizzybusy
    August 11, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you Les for setting up this petition. It’s a great angle to take.

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