Posts Tagged ‘buzzard


Stody Estate exonerated after gamekeeper’s conviction for mass raptor poisoning

Regular blog readers will remember the mass poisoning of birds of prey on the Stody Estate, Norfolk in 2013.

In October 2014, Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert was convicted of a series of wildlife crime offences on the estate, including the mass poisoning of birds of prey (10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk) which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides and other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’) and a firearms offence (see here and here).

Photo of nine of the buzzards poisoned by gamekeeper Lambert [photo: RSPB]

In our opinion, gamekeeper Lambert got off pretty lightly when he was sentenced in November 2014. Even though the judge acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes had passed the custody threshold, Lambert received a 10-week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six-week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and dead buzzards (suspended for one year) and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge. In our opinion (see here), this was absurdly lenient for one of England’s biggest known mass raptor poisoning incidents, and on top of that, Lambert wasn’t even sacked – it was reported that he’d been allowed to take early retirement from the Stody Estate.

However, even though Lambert appeared to have got off lightly, his employers at Stody Estate were hit with a massive financial penalty (through cross-compliance regulations), believed to be the biggest ever civil penalty imposed for raptor persecution crimes.

Today though, the High Court has ruled that Lambert’s actions were “not directly attributable” to Stody Estate or its senior management and the subsidy penalty has been quashed!

In other words, the employer (Stody Estate) cannot be held accountable for the criminal actions of its employee (Allan Lambert). That’s quite astonishing, although it’s difficult to comment in detail without knowing the finer details of Lambert’s employment contract with Stody Estate. [UPDATE 7th March – full written judgement now available at foot of this blog post]

It does seem like yet another example of the need to introduce vicarious liability legislation for specific offences against birds of prey in England, as has been done in Scotland.

Stody Estate photo by RPUK

The following article has been published in the EDP:

A farm company was wrongly penalised after a gamekeeper poisoned wild birds of prey to preserve game birds for shooting, the High Court has ruled.

Allen Lambert poisoned 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk which he saw as a threat to 2,500 pheasants and partridges laid down for a 10-day “family shoot”.

The gamekeeper on the 4,200-acre Stody Estate in north Norfolk was convicted of an offence under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1981 in October 2014.

And, in January last year, then Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, stripped Stody Estate Ltd of 55pc of its farm subsidy for that year.

Overturning the penalty today, a senior judge noted that there had been “no finding of fault” against the company, based in Melton Constable, or its senior management.

The mere fact of Mr Lambert’s conviction did not prove that poisoning the birds was “directly attributable” to his employer, said Mrs Justice May.

“Some further enquiry directed at the level of fault, if any, on the part of Stody Estate in connection with Mr Lambert’s actions was required,” she added.

“In the absence of any finding of fault there was no proper basis for the imposition of a penalty.”

The Stody Estate, which has 15 employees, has been farmed by the MacNicol family for 75 years and Charles MacNicol is its managing director.

Estate manager, Ross Haddow, has day to day management of the farm and Mr Lambert had been a gamekeeper since 1990, living in a tied cottage.

The Rural Payments Agency, which administers the single farm payment subsidy scheme, at first said the company should lose 75pc of its subsidy.

That was reduced to 20pc by the Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel, but the penalty was upped again, to 55pc, by Ms Leadsom last year.

Stody Estate Ltd and its management were “exonerated” from any involvement in poisoning birds, the court heard.

But Ms Leadsom concluded that “the intentional acts of Mr Lambert, acting within the scope of his employment, were to be treated as those of the farmer, being Stody Estate.”

The issue was of such importance to the farming industry that the National Farmers Union intervened in the case, arguing that the penalty could only lawfully have been imposed if Charles MacNicol, or possibly Mr Haddow, had poisoned the birds.

Mrs Justice May said that that was going too far, but nevertheless ruled that Mr Lambert’s actions could not be “directly attributed” to Stody Estate or its management. The penalty was quashed.


UPDATE 7 March 2018: The written judgement can be read HERE (with thanks to @borobarrister)


Buzzard found shot dead in Suffolk

From East Anglian Daily Times (26 Feb 2018)


Police are investigating the shooting of at least one Common buzzard – a legally protected bird of prey – that was found dead in a Suffolk wood.

Two buzzard corpses were reported to Suffolk Constabulary’s wildlife crime team in an incident described by naturalists as “appalling and abhorrent.” The bodies were found in woodland known as Little Carr, “on the edge of a shooting estate” on the banks of the River Dove, near Hoxne, the team’s Sgt Brian Calver said yesterday.

The discovery was reported by “a person with shooting rights”, but when a police officer visited the site only one corpse could be found. It was believed that the birds died in January, he said.

At first it was thought the bird that was found may have died as a result of poisoning but analysis of X-rays has proven that the bird was shot. We are in the process of looking into this and we will be as absolutely thorough in our investigations, as we are with all wildlife crime – and we will be trying to secure a prosecution,” said Sgt Calver.

He urged members of the public who discovered any bird of prey corpse in the countryside to report their find and its exact location to police. Any corpse should not be handled, because of the risk of poison being involved, but photographic evidence would be helpful, he added.

[Buzzard photo by RPUK]

Gi Grieco, chairman of the 400-strong Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group, said the latest persecution case was “appalling and abhorrent.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on the grouse moors of upland Britain is a well-documented, ongoing and major conservation issue but cases such as this latest one in Suffolk – which is certainly not the first of its kind – shows that this illegal activity is also a problem in lowland Britain,” said Mr Grieco.

This is a disgraceful incident and we hope that the police investigation results in a prosecution that ends with the appropriate penalty imposed on the perpetrator.”

The site of the incident is in Waveney Bird Club’s catchment area and club founder Steve Piotrowski, the author of The Birds of Suffolk, said: “This is yet another upsetting case of raptor persecution. It’s a shame that countryside thugs are tarnishing the name of the shooting estates that do stick to the law and do some good things for conservation.

The criminals think they can get away with it. The police do seem to struggle with prosecutions and they need all the help a vigilant public can give them.

Common buzzards were rare in Suffolk up to the 1980s because of heavy persecution that took place previously but now they are recovering, hopefully, to the level they should be at. For them to still be persecuted is not just upsetting, it’s illegal.”

Lewis Thornley,the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s director for central England, said: “While it’s important to remember that an investigation is ongoing, BASC utterly condemns crimes against protected raptors and would urge anyone with information to assist the police.

Anyone shooting a protected species damages shooting’s reputation and puts at risk the freedoms currently enjoyed by those who shoot legally and sustainably. Such actions have no place among the law-abiding shooting community.”

Anyone with information relating to the buzzard deaths is asked to contact Suffolk police on 101 and ask for Pc Lee Andrews-Pearce, quoting the crime reference 37/8990/18



Buzzard found shot dead near Powys

From ITV News:

A buzzard which was found illegally shot near Powys has prompted concern by the RSPB and police.

The bird was found dead on the ground by a walker near Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant on 10 February, and it was reported to the police.

The bird was X-rayed by a local vet and found to contain at least eight pieces of shot.

Buzzards, like all birds of prey, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Jenny Shelton of the RSPB said: “It is saddening and concerning to hear that another protected bird of prey has been shot. This is a serious problem in Wales and the rest of the UK, and one which the RSPB employs a specialist team to tackle. We recently launched a hotline to provide a means of reporting crimes against birds of prey in complete confidence. Someone out there will know what has happened to this bird – please speak out and help end this brutal and illegal behavior“.

41 reports of wild bird crime in Wales were made to the RSPB’s Investigations unit in 2016, according to the 2016 Birdcrime report, published last November.

The report also revealed that there were no prosecutions for bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016.

RSB Cymru Biodiversity Manager Stephen Bladwell said: “Knowing another bird of prey has fallen foul to persecution in Wales is disheartening. The latest Birdcrime report showed Powys was joint second highest UK County for raptor persecution from 2012-16 – with 22 confirmed incidents during the period. It seems there is a real problem in the county that needs addressing quickly if we are to protect the area’s wildlife. Our investigations team will continue to support Natural Resources Wales and the Rural Crime Team to address the issue“.



5 red kites, 1 buzzard & 1 raven found dead in suspicious circumstances in Oxfordshire

Press article from today’s Oxford Mail:

A police investigation has been launched after five red kites, a raven and a buzzard were discovered dead in a village in Oxfordshire.

The birds were discovered by a family on Sunday, September 17, near the village of Pyrton, on the edge of the Chilterns, who reported them to the RSPB.

All the birds were recovered and x-rayed by a local vet. The x-rays revealed no signs of shot.

However, the birds have now been sent off for toxicology testing by Natural England as part of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), to see if the birds have been poisoned.

All birds of prey and ravens are protected by UK law, making it illegal to kill or harm them. Those found to have done so could face six months in jail or an unlimited fine.

Thames Valley Police, Natural England and RSPB are now working together on a joint investigation and are appealing to the public for information.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Thames Valley Police on 101.

With their six-foot wingspan, red kites are Britain’s third-largest bird of prey and feed mainly on carrion.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551, email or fill in the online form:


Four months after discovery and still no toxicology report?


£500 fine for man who mistakenly shot buzzard on Ralia Estate pheasant shoot

From an article in today’s P&J:

A protected bird of prey died when an oil executive shot a buzzard he thought to be a pheasant when it flew out of woods on a Highland estate, a court heard yesterday.

Keith Riddoch, of Craigden in Aberdeen, was on a shoot on the Ralia Estate near Newtonmore last November when he made the fatal mistake.

[Ralia Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Estate boundary details from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website. Map by RPUK]

Even after he fired the first shot of the day, the 65-year-old self-employed consultant was convinced he had bagged a hen pheasant.

But all but one of his fellow “guns” on the same shoot knew that the bird was a raptor. Riddoch was informed of his error at the end of the shoot, Inverness Sheriff Court was told.

[Photo from P&J]

They said it was the first time in their experience that a raptor had been shot by mistake.

The buzzard was so badly injured by the shotgun blast, it had to be destroyed.

Riddoch yesterday denied injuring the bird by recklessly shooting it on November 26 last year at a corporate shoot.

However after hearing evidence from the people accompanying him, including gamekeeper Alistair Lyon, Sheriff Margaret Neilson convicted the businessman of a contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. She fined him £500.

Riddoch refused to comment after the trial, but told the court: “I made a genuine mistake. I didn’t misassess the situation.”

Defence solicitor David McKie accepted his client had made a mistake, but added: “It was negligent or perhaps careless, but not reckless.”

It was accepted by both prosecution and defence that a buzzard was of a similar size and colour as a brown female pheasant.

Mr Lyon was in charge of the outing where beaters scared the birds out of woods into the line of fire.

The 52-year-old gamekeeper told the court: “It was the first shot of the day and I glanced round. I saw the bird falling. It was a brief glimpse. But it didn’t look right. Buzzards fly differently to pheasants. But if it just came out of the trees it would look similar.”

Defence solicitor David McKie said the guilty verdict may have wider consequences for his client, saying he frequently travelled to the USA and the conviction could present problems for entry to the country.

He could also lose his shotgun licence.


Could lose his shotgun licence? Good grief! If he can’t differentiate between a pheasant and a buzzard he shouldn’t be let anywhere near a bloody shotgun!

This is an interesting case. We’re pleased to see a prosecution and even more pleased to see a conviction, which are all too rare, but we’re left wondering how this crime came to the attention of the Police. Did somebody from the shoot alert the Police? Good on them if they did.


New report reveals widespread raptor persecution in Northern Ireland

The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI) has today published its latest report on bird of prey persecution 2015-2016.

The report reveals that there were five confirmed illegal persecution incidents reported in 2015 and a further six in 2016, involving the killing of 12 protected birds of prey in Northern Ireland (6 x buzzards, 5 x peregrines, 1 x sparrowhawk). As with every other annual raptor persecution report these figures are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The report’s lead author, Dr Eimear Rooney (Raptor Officer for the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group) commented: “This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem. It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hot-spot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread. It is heart-breaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran. The PAW NI group will continue to take action to tackle raptor persecution and it is encouraging to see all the partners proactively working together on this report.”

Hotspot map of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution, and poisoned baits & wildlife, reported in Northern Ireland from January 2009-December 2016.

Download the PAW NI report here

Read the PAW NI press release here

On the subject of illegal raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, a 13-year old boy named Dara MacAnulty is doing a 45km sponsored trek in January 2018 to help raise funds for a new raptor satellite-tagging project in Northern Ireland.

Dara is a pretty special young man, passionate about the environment, especially raptors, and he has an exceptional talent for expressing his thoughts – have a read of his blog and you’ll be constantly questioning how a thirteen year old can possibly write so well!

Dara’s fundraising project is off to a good start but he needs more support. If you’ve got a few quid to spare, please consider supporting his efforts HERE. Thanks.


Buzzard shot in Barnsley: South Yorks Police abandons case, RSPB appeals for info

RSPB press statement:

Buzzard shot in Barnsley sparks investigation

A buzzard found illegally shot in a wood near Barnsley has prompted concern by the RSPB and police.

A local birder saw the bird fall out of a tree in Warren Wood, Stainborough on 9 August and reported it to the RSPB’s Investigations unit ( An RSPB investigator recovered the bird and it was taken for an X-ray. The X-ray identified a broken wing and a shotgun pellet lodged in the wing, which was deemed to have caused the break.

The wound was thought to be several days old and had become infected, so sadly the bird had to be euthanized.

It is illegal to intentionally kill or harm any bird of prey, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

The incident was reported to police immediately, and last week the RSPB was informed that the enquiry had concluded with no prosecution. The RSPB is now appealing to the public for information.

The RSPB’s recent Birdcrime report, published on 1 November 2017, revealed that the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey is a big problem in Yorkshire. Last year the RSPB received reports of 153 incidents of wild bird crime in the North England Region: this was 33% of the total incidents for the UK and the highest number for any region. 10 of these occurred in South Yorkshire, and many more are suspected to have taken place unseen and undetected. The report also revealed that there were no prosecutions for bird of prey persecution in the whole of 2016.

David Hunt, RSPB Investigations Officer, recovered the body.

David said: “It is sickening to think that this bird was deliberately shot. Seeing a buzzard soaring high in the sky or picking up worms from a freshly-turned field is part of the joy of a walk in the countryside. However majestic birds like these are, more often than people realise, being intentionally and brutally killed in Yorkshire, and is a cause for local concern. This is not the first time I have been called out to a case like this and unfortunately it is often very hard to find out who is responsible. If you do have information, please come forward.”

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a successful conviction. If you have any information relating to this incident, call South Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference number 617 10082017.


Warren Wood, where the injured buzzard was found is within the grounds of Stainborough Park and Wentworth Castle. Warren Wood forms part of Broom Royd Wood (see point 8 on this map) where visitors are encouraged to “visit in spring for a beautiful display of bluebells“.

Wentworth Castle and its parkland was open to the public but now appears to have closed to visitors, according to the website.

What’s really interesting about this case though is how South Yorkshire Police have responded to it. The RSPB press statement says the “incident was reported to the police immediately“, which presumably means on 9th August 2017 when the bird was found. And yet now South Yorkshire Police have told the RSPB that the enquiry has concluded and there’ll be no prosecution.

So how come South Yorkshire Police didn’t launch a public appeal for information back in August? How come the Police enquiry ‘has concluded’ without asking for the public’s help to identify a suspect? That’s pathetic, and only serves to highlight the importance of reporting suspected raptor persecution crimes to the RSPB as well as to the Police. Had the RSPB not been informed about this particular crime, we’d all be none the wiser and the crime probably wouldn’t have made it on to the ‘official’ list of reported wildlife crimes.

Well done RSPB for keeping the public informed.

UPDATE 14.50hrs:

South Yorkshire Police haven’t got a clue. This has just appeared on Twitter:


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