Archive for the '2017 persecution incidents' Category

20
Aug
19

Scottish Gamekeepers Association fails to influence the criminals within its membership

Gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 61, sentenced yesterday for his appalling crimes against protected raptors and mammals on the Longformacus Estate in the Borders (here) was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

[Convicted criminal gamekeeper Alan Wilson photographed outside court yesterday, photo by Daily Record]

As an SGA member, Wilson cannot possibly claim that he wasn’t aware of the laws protecting birds of prey and mammals such as badgers and otters, nor that the deadly poison he had in his possession, Carbofuran, has been banned for approx 14 years, because although the SGA can be viewed as a bunch of raptor-hating Victorian throwbacks who lobby to have birds of prey added to the lists of ‘vermin’ that can be killed with impunity (e.g. see here), it has always made it clear that the illegal killing of these species is unacceptable. It wants to kill raptors, yes, to stop them interfering with game bird stocks, but acknowledges that so far, this is still unlawful unless the Scottish Government decides to issue licences to kill birds of prey.

Wilson carried what looks to be his SGA member’s log book in the same bag as he kept one of his bottles of Carbofuran.

Here’s his bag, with the bottle of Carbofuran in the front pouch [SSPCA photo]

Here’s the small bottle of Carbofuran (remember only a few granules are enough to kill a human) [SSPCA photo]

Here’s his SGA member’s log book, contained in the side pouch [photo SSPCA]

The irony of this is not lost on us.

The SGA issued a statement yesterday, after months of refusing to say anything, confirming that Wilson was indeed a member and his membership has now been terminated. Expelling criminals from within its ranks is a relatively recent endeavour by the SGA (in the last five or so years) and undoubtedly is a result of public and political pressure. The organisation has to at least make an effort to appear civilised and expelling criminal members is one way of doing this.

It begs the question, though, how many more criminals are hiding in plain sight within the SGA’s membership? It’s worth bearing in mind that, despite the industry’s claims, gamekeeping is not a profession in the sense that potential candidates don’t have to pass a formal qualification process to enter the ‘profession’ (although increasingly they do need to be certified in certain areas of their work) and absolutely anybody can become a member of the SGA unless, it seems, you have a recent conviction for wildlife crime. There’s no independent register of gamekeepers and nor is there a professional body to whom members of the public can complain about a gamekeeper’s behaviour or conduct, which when you think about it is pretty odd, given the job mostly involves killing things. Those responsible for caring for animals have to be highly qualified and are answerable to their professional bodies (e.g. vets) and yet those who kill animals for a living can do so without any professional oversight.

It’s pretty clear from the criminal activities of SGA member Alan Wilson that the SGA had absolutely no influence or control over his behaviour whatsoever. Did the SGA know about Wilson’s crimes? It seems unlikely, given the risk he posed to the SGA’s reputation.

So how many more Alan Wilsons are out there, fully-signed-up members of the SGA but with a huge appetite for killing protected wildlife with impunity?

How can the SGA possibly claim that gamekeepers are law-abiding members of society (e.g. see here) when the SGA hasn’t actually got a clue what its members are up to?

We won’t know, of course, until the next time. And there will be a next time, and another one, and another one, and another one….

Meanwhile, the SGA will be kept busy on a damage limitation exercise for the next few months trying to counter the media coverage of Wilson’s atrocities:

 

 

 

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19
Aug
19

Monumentally inadequate sentence for convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson

In July this year, Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, then 60, pleaded guilty to nine of 12 charges of wildlife crime at Henlaw Wood on Longformacus Estate in the Borders (see here).

[Convicted wildlife criminal Alan Wilson, a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association. Photo by ITV Border]

Wilson’s crimes included the shooting and killing of two goshawks at Henlaw Wood between March 2016 and May 2017, three buzzards, three badgers and an otter. He also pleaded guilty to charges of setting 23 illegal snares and possession of two bottles of the highly toxic (and banned pesticide) Carbofuran (see here).

[SSPCA photos]

Following Wilson’s guilty plea, the Sheriff adjourned sentencing for a few weeks to allow reports to be submitted.

Soon after his conviction, Scottish Land & Estates issued a statement of condemnation and claimed the Longformacus Estate was being managed for low ground pheasant shooting but in its desperation to avoid any bad publicity of grouse moor management, completely failed to mention that part of the estate was also managed as a grouse moor. Here’s a photograph of Henlaw Wood (now felled) and its proximity to the grouse moor:

[Original photo by Richard Webb; additional text by RPUK]

Alan Wilson, now 61, was sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court this afternoon. Astonishingly (or not!), despite his litany of violent crimes against protected raptors and mammals which easily passed the threshold for a custodial sentence, Wilson has dodged jail, has dodged a fine, and instead has been issued with a 10-month curfew and an instruction to carry out 225 hours of unpaid work as part of a Community Payback Scheme. His firearms and other equipment was confiscated (it’s not clear for how long).

This monumentally inadequate sentence is in no way a reflection of the severity or extent of Wilson’s crimes, nor does it offer a suitable deterrent for other would-be offenders. According to this article in the Guardian by Sev Carrell, Sheriff Peter Paterson acknowledged that Wilson’s offending warranted a custodial sentence but said that as the Wildlife & Countryside Act only allowed sentences of up to six months, and Scottish Ministers had recently introduced a presumption against jailing offenders for less than 12 months, he felt he had no choice but to impose a different sentence.

This doesn’t make sense to us. Sure, the W&CA does, currently, impose a limit of six months but that’s six months per offence, so in Wilson’s case, where he had pleaded guilty to multiple offences, this would have amounted to much more than one six-month sentence and so in our opinion, he should have received a custodial sentence. We don’t know if this sentence will be appealed by the Crown Office – it must first be satisfied that the sentence was unduly lenient (e.g. see here). We’ll have to wait and see.

What is absolutely crystal clear is that the Scottish Government needs to get on and implement the penalty increases for wildlife crimes that it agreed to do way back in 2016.

This is Wilson’s second conviction in relation to offences at Longformacus Estate: in February 2018 he was sentenced to a £400 fine and disqualified from keeping birds of prey for ten years after he was convicted of animal welfare offences in relation to an Eagle Owl he had kept in appalling conditions (see here).

We don’t know whether Wilson’s employer (which may be a landowner or a sporting agent) will face a charge of alleged vicarious liability. We know that two individuals were originally charged with alleged offences at Longformacus Estate (e.g. see here) but we don’t yet have any more details. We will be following up on this and will report here if there is news. [Please note: if you are commenting on this aspect of the crimes at Longformacus Estate, remember there is a potential defence to any allegation of vicarious liability – Wilson’s employer is not automatically guilty just because he was Wilson’s employer].

Interestingly, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has, after months of refusing to comment, now finally admitted that Wilson was indeed an SGA member when he committed these wildlife crimes. Here is the SGA statement posted today:

We’ll be discussing Wilson’s SGA membership in a later post.

It is not clear to us whether the Longformacus Estate is a member of Scottish Land & Estates. So far SLE hasn’t issued a statement about today’s sentencing. Instead, it’s website is leading with an article with the unfortunate headline, ‘Making it Happen’.

More on this soon.

It only remains to acknowledge the huge efforts of all those involved in detecting, investigating and prosecuting this case. This successful conviction was the result of genuine partnership working between the League Against Cruel Sports, Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, Police Scotland and the Crown Office, along with experts from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, SASA, and veterinary pathologists from Scottish Agricultural College. Well done and thanks to all those involved in exposing this filthy criminal activity on yet another grouse moor.

Wildlife crime is endemic on many grouse moors. We see it over and over again and we also see the offenders escape justice time and time again. If you’d like to help bring it to an end, please consider signing this new petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – PLEASE SIGN HERE

 

24
Jul
19

How has the game-shooting industry reacted to conviction of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson?

We’ve been watching with interest how the game-shooting industry has reacted to the news that Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson has pleaded guilty to nine wildlife crimes on the Longformacus Estate in south Scotland.

We are especially interested to find out whether (a) Wilson is/was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association when he committed his crimes against protected wildlife and if so, whether he’s been booted out, and (b) whether the Longformacus Estate is/was a member of Scottish Land & Estates when these wildlife crimes took place, and if so, whether the estate has since been booted out.

It turns out that both the SGA and SLE are being a bit coy about this information.

First up, here’s the full statement from the SGA in response to Wilson’s guilty plea for multiple criminal offences:

It’s not very impressive, even though it took the SGA 24 hours to come up with it!

No mention, then, of the exceptionally high number of wildlife crimes.

No mention, then, of the number of protected species that had been shot illegally, including birds of prey, badgers and an otter.

No mention, then, of the 23 illegally set snares.

No mention, then, of the two containers of a highly toxic and banned poison (Carbofuan) that had been found.

And no mention, then, that it was a Scottish gamekeeper who was responsible for this disgraceful litany of wildlife crimes.

Moving on, here’s what Scottish Land & Estates posted:

It’s a bit of an odd choice of photograph to illustrate the piece – that’s Lord David Johnstone, Chairman of SLE; it’s not criminal gamekeeper Alan Wilson. You might have thought SLE would choose an image of one of the protected species that had been illegally shot, or a poison skull & crossbones, or perhaps even an image of the location, a bit like this one:

[Photo by Richard Webb]

Ah, but hang on a minute, using a photo like this one to illustrate SLE’s statement wouldn’t have worked because look, what’s that behind the wood? Is it the tell-tale strip muirburn indicative of a grouse moor?

Ah, that’s a bit awkward seeing as SLE’s statement doesn’t mention grouse moor management, only low ground pheasant shooting – perhaps a deliberate omission? Surely not.

To be fair, the hill in the background is part of a neighbouring estate (Kettleshiel Farm), although if you look at a satellite image of the area it’s pretty clear that there’s also strip muirburn on Longformacus Estate, right up to the edge of Henlaw Wood where all those shot protected species were uncovered: [UPDATE 9pm: According to a comment from Professor Ian Poxton, all the land shown in the above and below photos, including the grouse moor hill, belonged to Longformacus Estate at least up to a couple of years ago – see comments section for more details]:

So it looks very much like there is a combination of both low ground pheasant shooting and grouse moor management on Longformacus Estate – how odd that SLE would appear to want to only mention the pheasant shooting and not the grouse moor management.

Actually, it’s not odd at all – they tried the same trick when golden eagle Fred ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances next to a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills just outside Edinburgh, playing down the prevalence of grouse moor management in the area.

Hmm, can’t begin to imagine why SLE might want grouse moor management out of the spotlight.

Anyway, back to SLE’s statement – at least it includes the fact that a gamekeeper has been convicted of wildlife crime – that’s a definite improvement on the SGA’s pathetic statement, but rather tellingly, SLE’s statement doesn’t mention whether Longformacus Estate is a member of SLE but does seem to want to demonstrate support for the estate. How interesting.

As we’ve said previously, as we understand it there is an ongoing police investigation in to whether gamekeeper Alan Wilson’s employer may face a potential charge of alleged vicarious liability, but we don’t know any more detail. We don’t even know if that would be the landowner or whether there’s a ‘middle-man’ involved such as a sporting agent.

We’ll have to wait and see, although it’s interesting to note that back in August 2018, Police Scotland issued a statement that said two men had been charged in relation to this case (see here).

23
Jul
19

Convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson & his litany of wildlife crimes

Further to the news yesterday that Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 60, had pleaded guilty to nine of the 12 charges of wildlife crime against him (see here), here is some further detail.

From The Times (by Robert Fairburn):

Gamekeeper killed protected birds, badger and otter

A gamekeeper shot dead badgers and buzzards and set dozens of illegal snares in Scottish woodland in what one wildlife expert described as the greatest cull of protected species he had ever seen.

Alan Wilson, 60, has pleaded guilty to priming 23 illegal snares in a small wood on the Berwickshire estate where he worked. A court was told that the League Against Cruel Sports had been tipped off by a member of the public out hiking that snares were being operated at Henlaw Wood on the Longformacus Estate.

[RPUK map of the location of Longformacus Estate]

In March 2016 a research officer found snares and a “stink pit” containing a pile of dead animals designed to attract other animals. A year later he returned and found the carcass of a badger and dead birds.

The site was visited by police officers and Scottish SPCA officers when the full catalogue of shot protected species emerged.

David Anderson, conservation manager for the Forestry Commission Scotland, attended Henlaw Wood, which is 550 metres in length, and wrote in his report: “In 40 years working in wildlife management I have never seen so many protected species dead in such a small area.”

Jedburgh sheriff court was told that Wilson was the sole gamekeeper for the Longformacus estate. He had worked as a gamekeeper in France for ten years before returning to Scotland and lived on the estate with his partner.

Wilson pleaded guilty to shooting and killing two goshawks at Henlaw Wood between March 2006 and May 2017, three buzzards, three badgers and an otter. He also pleaded guilty to charges of using illegal snares and possession of two bottles of carbofuran.

Wilson was fined £400 last year and banned from keeping birds of prey for ten years after admitting failing to protect an eagle owl in his care from suffering. He had pleaded guilty to keeping the pet bird in filthy conditions in a pigsty at his home in Longformacus [see here for RPUK blog on that case].

Wilson admitted nine offences and will be sentenced next month [19th August we believe] after background reports are prepared. Sheriff Peter Paterson told him: “These charges are serious and numerous and before I decide on an appropriate sentence I will need a report to see what sentencing options are open to me. Society, whatever you may think, takes a dim view on this.”

There has been growing debate about Scotland’s grouse moors. Chris Packham, the naturalist and broadcaster, has urged ministers to introduce a strict licensing system on moors, with powers to ban shooting estates where protected species are vanishing. A Scottish government review of grouse moor practices is expected to be published within weeks.

ENDS

It’ll be all eyes on Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 19th August when this criminal gamekeeper is sentenced. We believe the custody threshold has been easily met and given the range of offences against these protected species, in addition to being found in possession of the highly toxic (and thus banned) pesticide Carbofuran, only a custodial sentence will suffice.

There have been questions asked about Wilson’s employer and whether a charge of alleged vicarious liability is being pursued. We believe there is currently a live investigation on this and as such we won’t be blogging about it, or accepting comments specifically about it, until proceedings have concluded.

The conviction of gamekeeper Alan Wilson can now be discussed, however. We look forward to finding out whether he is/was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and if so, how they explain his appetite for illegally killing protected raptors and mammals, why he was setting illegal snares and why he had two bottles of Carbofuran in his possession.

Presumably the SGA knew nothing of Wilson’s crimes, which begs the question, how can the SGA make so many claims about the number of supposedly law-abiding gamekeepers when they haven’t got a clue what those gamekeepers are up to, nor do they have sufficient influence to prevent them committing wildlife crimes?

Over to you, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg…..

Previous blogs about this case: herehere here  here herehere, here, here, here here.

UPDATE: 24 July 2019: How has the game-shooting industry reacted to conviction of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson? (see here).

 

22
Jul
19

Scottish gamekeeper pleads guilty to nine charges of wildlife crime

BREAKING NEWS…..

We understand from a journalist that Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 60, has this morning pleaded guilty to 9 of the 12 wildlife crime charges against him. Not guilty pleas were accepted on the other three.

Sentencing has apparently been deferred until 19th August for background reports.

Wilson had been accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faced charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also understand he faced a charge of alleged possession of the banned poison Carbofuran.

Up until this morning Mr Wilson had pleaded not guilty.

More details to follow……

Previous blogs about this case: herehere here  here herehere, here, here and here.

UPDATE 23 July 2019: Convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson and his litany of wildlife crimes (here)

UPDATE 24 July 2019: How has the game-shooting industry reacted to conviction of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson? (here).

10
Jul
19

New trial date for Scottish gamekeeper accused of multiple wildlife crimes

Criminal proceedings continued on Monday (8th July) against Scottish gamekeeper Alan Patterson Wilson who is accused of allegedly committing 12 wildlife crimes.

Mr Wilson, 60, is accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, south Scotland between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of an animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and having no certificate for an air weapon.

We also believe he is accused of the alleged possession of the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.

Mr Wilson has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A previous trial date had been set for 13th June 2019 but for unknown reasons the case was adjourned until Monday 8th July. At Monday’s hearing a new trial date was set for 20th August 2019.

Previous blogs about this case: see herehere here  here herehere, here and here.

Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

19
Jun
19

Scottish Environment Minister visits hen harrier nest with Raptor Study Group fieldworkers

Mairi Gougeon is the Scottish Government’s Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, and she also happens to be the Species Champion for the Hen Harrier (Species Champions are roles devised to help politicians raise awareness of species conservation).

Mairi has been one of the more active Species Champions in the Scottish Parliament, enthusiastically offering her support for this species by way of a parliamentary debate, speaking at Hen Harrier Day, and going on field visits to see hen harriers in the wild.

Earlier this week she was out again with experts from the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, to watch (from a distance, obviously) a male hen harrier food passing to a female who had four chicks in the nest.

Photos from Kelvin Thomson (@thomsok) of Tayside Raptor Study Group.

That’s the smile of a Minister who’s enjoyed seeing hen harriers.

And although the Scottish Government needs to do much much more to combat the illegal killing of this species on grouse moors (remember Scotland has lost more than a quarter of its hen harrier population in just 12 years), Scotland is fortunate to have a Minister who is so engaged and supportive of the species.

Compare and contrast with Mairi’s Westminster counterpart, Dr Therese Coffey – she’s been in post since 2016 and hasn’t said or done anything of significance in support of hen harriers, even after recent Government-commissioned research showed that 72% of tagged hen harriers were presumed to have been killed illegally on grouse moors.

The Westminster Hen Harrier Species Champion is Angela Smith MP, who appears to have been about as productive as Dr Coffey.

Let’s hope the four chicks that Mairi Gougeon saw being carefully looked after on Mar Lodge Estate all survive and fledge. They’ll need plenty of luck though – four of the five hen harriers tagged here in the last few years have all vanished in suspicious circumstances on other grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park, presumed to have been illegally killed (Calluna, Margot, Stelmaria and Marci).

And they’re not the only satellite tagged hen harriers to have come to harm inside this National Park. In August 2016 satellite-tagged hen harrier Brian ‘disappeared’ here (see here) and in August 2015 satellite-tagged hen harrier Lad was found dead, suspected shot, inside the Park (see here).

And it’s not just satellite-tagged hen harriers. At least 15 satellite-tagged golden eagles have also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here). In 2014 the first white-tailed eagle chick to fledge in East Scotland in approx 200 years also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances (see here) and last year year another white-tailed eagle also ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances inside the Park (see here).

The political silence on the recent losses of hen harriers Calluna, Margot, Stelmaria and Marci has been noted. We’ll be revisiting this topic soon.




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