Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category

15
Oct
21

‘Star lot’ in GWCT’s auction is a day’s shooting at an estate currently at centre of police investigation into shot red kite

It’s always interesting to look at the auction lots in the shooting world’s regular fundraising drives. I think it’s useful, and quite telling, to see who’s supporting who and it can often explain a great deal about why many shooting organisations refuse to call out the criminals when yet another raptor persecution crime is uncovered and instead simply pretend not to have noticed that anything’s happened (also known as wilful blindness).

In the era of a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ approach to raptor persecution, repeatedly declared by the large shooting organisations but yet to be effectively demonstrated in any meaningful way (because it’s all just a blatant publicity stunt in my opinion (e.g. see here)) it’s even funnier to scrutinise the auction booklets and see ‘who’s doing who’.

The latest auction from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) reveals an interesting donor, hailed as the auction’s ‘star lot’ on the GWCT website.

This ‘star lot’ comprises a 250-bird mixed pheasant and partridge day for eight guns at the ‘renowned’ Salperton Park in January 2022.

Does Salperton Park ring any bells to anyone? It does to me. This is where a red kite was found in March this year with multiple injuries caused by someone blasting the bird with a shotgun. The extent of the kite’s injuries, with serial fractures, is an indication that it was shot very close to where it was found, critically injured, on the estate (see here and here).

Gloucestershire Constabulary opened a criminal investigation focusing on Salperton Estate and local area, although PC Ash Weller was quoted in the local press:

We are exploring all avenues as this could have been someone travelling through the area rather than someone local to the area“.

Yeah, righto, PC Weller, it wasn’t as if the county was in a Tier 4 ‘stay at home’ lockdown period or anything, or that other alleged persecution incidents had been reported previously at this location, or indeed that raptor persecution has demonstrable links to the game shooting industry. Yeah, let’s focus on the least plausible explanation and go from there.

Needless to say, nobody has yet been charged or prosecuted and nor are they likely to be because the evidence required to link a named individual to this wildlife crime is virtually impossible to attain, even when the police are looking in the right direction.

Where does that leave us?

The sporting agency, Mark Osborne’s William Powell, can continue to advertise the estate as ‘one of the country’s most celebrated partridge shoots”, sporting clients can continue to fork out for shoot days on the estate, and the GWCT can trouser thousands of pounds worth of funds from their auction’s ‘star lot’.

Tremendous.

04
Oct
21

Buzzard caught in primitive illegal trap set inside pheasant pen in Shropshire

Video footage has emerged, filmed in mid-September, of two primitive and illegal traps that had been set inside a pheasant pen in woodland near the village of Chelmarsh, just south of Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

One of the traps had been triggered and had caught a buzzard. The other trap had been baited with a dead pheasant but had not been triggered.

[Screen grab from the video, showing the trapped buzzard inside the illegal trap]

[A photo of the second illegal trap, baited with the dead pheasant. The map shows the location:

The trapped buzzard was released by a member of the public and subsequent covert video evidence shows a man entering the pheasant pen, attending the trap and removing all evidence of it.

I understand that a report has been made to the police.

There is a write-up about this criminal activity on the Hunt Saboteurs Association website (here), where it is claimed the man attending the trap is a gamekeeper. I don’t have any information that can support or refute that claim.

The video can be watched here:

23
Sep
21

Derbyshire Police refuse to publicise report of two shot buzzards on pheasant estate

The blog I wrote a couple of days ago (here) about Police Scotland’s refusal to publicise the discovery of a shot peregrine found on a grouse moor in the notorious raptor persecution area of Strathbraan drew a lot of criticism of wildlife crime policing.

Some of that criticism was fair, in my opinion, but some of it wasn’t. The main point to be made, as has been discussed many times on this blog, is that not all police forces are the same. There are some brilliant, pro-active and creative police forces in the UK, spearheaded by diligent, hard-working officers who feel the same frustration as we all do when cases cannot proceed to court, and not for lack of trying. We’ve seen evidence of these officers’ work in recent months, including at least eight search warrants executed across the country in relation to suspected raptor persecution offences:

On 18th January 2021 there was a raid in Suffolk (here), on 15th March there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August a raid in Herefordshire (here) and on 14th September a raid in Norfolk (here).

Yesterday evening we saw another example (here), this time from Police Scotland, resulting in an individual being charged for an alleged offence that took place last week! Whatever the outcome of this case, Police Scotland’s response cannot be faulted and those officers involved should be commended.

It’s my view that slagging off the police in general, accusing them all of being inept, corrupt, members of the Masons etc, is a lazy and inaccurate response to wider failures within the criminal justice system. I get why people do it – the criminal justice system is hopelessly underfunded and some of the legislation is in dire need of updating to close some gaping loopholes – and the public rightly feels frustrated every time another raptor persecution crime goes unpunished, again and again and again, but that still doesn’t justify some of the criticism aimed at the police in general.

However, I think it’s also fair to criticise police forces and officers when it is obvious that investigative procedures are not up to standard. That was the point of the blog post about Police Scotland’s response to the shot peregrine in Strathbraan and it’s also the focus of today’s blog, which looks at Derbyshire Constabulary’s appalling response to a report of the shooting of two buzzards, witnessed by a member of the public on a pheasant-shooting estate in Derbyshire during last year’s first lockdown (April 2020).

To set the scene, this is a large, private estate in the lowlands, heavily wooded and with some lakes and open parkland. Approximately 20,000 pheasants are released for commercial shooting each year. Some of the estate is closed off to the public but other parts are criss-crossed by public footpaths and bridleways, making this a popular location for visitors.

On 1st April 2020, a visiting member of the public was watching two buzzards circling above a wood when he heard a shot and witnessed the buzzards falling. The incident was reported to Derbyshire Police as a suspected raptor persecution crime. The police quickly attended the scene but, I’m told, did not conduct a search of the wood but did speak to the gamekeeper and a number of other estate residents.

With no corpses found and no other witnesses, the next most obvious move would be for the police to issue an appeal for information. But Derbyshire Constabulary had other ideas.

The following is an email sent by a member of the police wildlife crime team to somebody who was asking whether an appeal for information might be forthcoming, given that raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. The police response is astonishing:

This is such a jaw-dropping response I don’t really know where to begin!

The police officer seems to think that if the estate residents didn’t see anything then there was ‘zero chance‘ of further evidence coming to light. Er….what about other visitors? The country was in lock-down at the time but the estate is located in a village where local residents may well have been taking their daily allowance of exercise and who may have witnessed something of relevance.

The police officer also seems to think that issuing an appeal for information would mean accusing the gamekeeper of shooting the buzzards. That’s not the case at all! Just a statement of the facts was all that was needed – without accusing anybody. Police forces do this all the time. And surely, the gamekeeper and the estate owner would welcome an appeal for information if it was possible that someone without authority was wandering around the estate discharging a firearm?! Fear of upsetting the gamekeeper/estate owner ‘when we may need the cooperation of the estate for future things‘ is not a valid reason for not progressing this investigation.

I think the most worrying aspect of the police response is this:

I think we all know that it would inevitably lead to repeated discussions which we’d have to become part of if it was our publication about gamekeeping practices in general. We’ve found that, for our team’s purposes, propaganda is of no value to us and is something we try to avoid‘.

Again, an appeal for information would not need to include any mention of gamekeeping practices. It would just be a statement of facts – that a member of the public reported what he believed to be the shooting of two buzzards at this location, at xx:xx hours on 1st April 2020, if anyone has any information that might help please contact the police on Tel 101 and quote incident ref number xxxxxxx.

How does Derbyshire Constabulary expect to maintain the public’s confidence to report suspected wildlife crime when reports are likely to be viewed as ‘propaganda’ by the police?

This isn’t the first time that Derbyshire Constabulary has faced criticism for the way it deals with reported raptor persecution crimes.

In January 2020, the RSPB issued a press statement about an illegally poisoned buzzard, found next to a poisoned bait, in the Peak District National Park. This crime had been uncovered the year before, in April 2019, but Derbyshire Constabulary had chosen not to say anything about it, nor to warn the public about the danger of poisoned baits being laid out in the countryside, let alone in a National Park (see here).

In response to that press release and the subsequent criticism of the police, Derbyshire Constabulary issued a remarkable statement on Facebook claiming that the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the poisoned buzzard, lying next to the poisoned bait, were ‘inconclusive’ as to whether the buzzard had been deliberately poisoned (yes, really – see here).

More criticism followed, quite rightly in my opinion, and shortly afterwards Derbyshire Constabulary posted another statement on Facebook, where they discussed the size of the geographic area they had to cover, their high workload, the lack of resources available to them and the small size of the team. They did though, commit to doing better (see here).

Just six weeks later this reported shooting of two buzzards landed on their desks.

As I said at the top of this blog, I have no interest in a general slagging off of the police. And particularly of Derbyshire Constabulary – a few years ago an elderly member of my family, suffering from advanced dementia, was prone to wandering off in a confused and distressed state, often for hours on end. Time and again, officers from Derbyshire Constabulary went looking for him and brought him home safely. I will always be grateful for the care and diligence shown by those officers, who went above and beyond my family’s expectations. Their efforts were exemplary and hugely appreciated.

My point is, again, that bringing the perpetrators of wildlife crime to justice, and particularly those guilty of raptor persecution, is difficult enough without some police officers seemingly doing their best to obstruct investigations. Blogs like this one make for uncomfortable reading but it’s clear that there needs to be a root and branch overhaul of procedures, with examples of best practice being highlighted and encouraged, at a national level. This is a role the so-far useless Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) can play in England & Wales, and by the so-far useless PAW Raptor Group can play in Scotland, supported by the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

There are some seriously good officers dealing with wildlife crime but they need to be seen as the rule, not the exception.

15
Sep
21

Multi-agency raid following suspected raptor persecution in Norfolk

Norfolk Police led a multi-agency raid in yesterday, executing a warrant in Breckland in relation to suspected raptor persecution crimes.

The police were joined by staff from Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Investigation’s team. Items were seized and dead birds of prey were found.

The investigation is ongoing.

[Photo by RSPB]

The Breckland district of Norfolk:

This is at least the 8th multi-agency search in England this year, all in response to raptor persecution crimes. On 18th January 2021 there was a raid in Suffolk (here), on 15th March there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August a raid in Herefordshire (here) and now this raid in Norfolk.

That’s a lot of raids in a relatively short space of time, in comparison to recent years. It’s testament to the agencies involved that they are being so proactive and working well together in a genuine multi-agency partnership, which is brilliant to see. It’s also testament to the fact that raptor persecution continues in many locations across the UK, despite what the game-shooting organisations would have us believe.

Whether these investigations result in prosecutions is another matter entirely, but personally I’m delighted that at least this early part of the criminal justice process appears to have been re-energised after a long period of stagnation. Well done to all those involved.

26
Aug
21

Trial date set for Suffolk gamekeeper accused of poisoning buzzard

A couple of days ago I blogged about a gamekeeper who was due in court this week to face allegations that he was responsible for the alleged poisoning of a buzzard in Suffolk (see here).

This prosecution resulted from a multi-agency investigation and raid conducted at premises in January this year involving Suffolk Police, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Natural England and the RSPB’s Investigations team (see here).

[Police seized guns and pesticides during the multi-agency raid in January 2021. Photo via Suffolk Police]

News from the court today (via the RSPB) is that this gamekeeper has pleaded guilty to some charges but not guilty to others, so this case will now proceed to trial.

The gamekeeper pleaded guilty to six charges relating to firearms and pesticide storage.

He pleaded not guilty to two further charges relating to the illegal buzzard poisoning.

The trial is due to begin on 8th November 2021.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

22
Aug
21

Dead kestrels & hedgehogs dumped in layby on Isle of Sheppey, Kent

Gruesome photographs have emerged this morning of dead wildlife found dumped in a pile in a layby near Harty on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

The person who found the corpses (@neish397) identified them as three kestrels and ten hedgehogs. He posted the photos on Twitter and asked for advice about what to do. He tried to report this incident as a suspected wildlife crime to Kent Police using the 101 reporting system but was apparently told by a call handler that he needed to report it online.

Fortunately, the RSPB Investigations team were also alerted and are currently dealing with this incident.

15
Aug
21

Multi-agency raid following suspected raptor persecution in Herefordshire

Herefordshire Police led a multi-agency raid on Thursday 12th August following a suspected raptor persecution incident in the south west of the county.

The police were joined by staff from Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Investigation’s team. Items were seized and enquiries are apparently continuing.

[Photos from RSPB]

This is at least the 7th multi-agency search in England this year, all in response to raptor persecution crimes. On 18th January 2021 there was a raid in Suffolk (here), on 15th March there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August a raid in Shropshire (here) and now this raid in Herefordshire.

Well done to all the agencies involved in these follow-up investigations. It’s good to see genuine partnership-working in the fight to catch the raptor killers.

15
Aug
21

Trial date set for gamekeeper accused of killing buzzards

A gamekeeper appeared in court on 12th August 2021 accused of the alleged killing of a number of buzzards in Nottinghamshire in January 2021.

He was charged after a joint investigation by Nottinghamshire Police and the RSPB’s Investigations Team (see here).

The gamekeeper pleaded not guilty so this case will now progress to trial.

Trial dates have been set for 6th-7th January 2022.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court reporter. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

11
Aug
21

Gamekeeper on trial for alleged killing of buzzards

A gamekeeper is due in court tomorrow (12th August 2021) accused of the alleged killing of a number of buzzards.

This prosecution relates to the joint investigation undertaken by Nottinghamshire Police and the RSPB’s Investigations Team in January this year (see here). It’s a good example of what genuine partnership-working can achieve.

Tomorrow’s court hearing will provide an opportunity for the defendant to enter a plea.

If he pleads not guilty, the case is expected to continue to go to trial at a later date.

If he pleads guilty, he may be sentenced tomorrow or the magistrate may ask for background reports before sentencing at a later date.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court reporter. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

UPDATE 15th August 2021: Trial date set for gamekeeper accused of killing buzzards (here)

06
Aug
21

Police attend suspected peregrine shooting near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Yesterday, Thames Valley Police (Aylesbury Vale) posted this on Facebook:

I haven’t been able to find any follow-up information, e.g. whether the peregrine was x-rayed to confirm/rule out shooting and there isn’t an incident number or an appeal for information on the Thames Valley Police website.

Meanwhile, the local press are reporting this as a confirmed shooting. Eg. see this headline from the Bucks Free Press:

Wouldn’t it be good if there was a national standard on how to report suspected raptor persecution crimes, that every police force could follow? And a central location where these verified reports could be found?




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