Posts Tagged ‘carbofuran


First vicarious liability prosecution: part 4

scales of justiceCriminal proceedings continued yesterday against Mr Ninian Robert Hathorn Johnston-Stewart in the first known vicarious liability prosecution under the WANE Act 2011.

Mr Johnston-Stewart, the landowner of Glasserton & Physgill Estates, is charged with being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of Glasserton gamekeeper Peter Bell, who was convicted in 2013 of laying poisoned bait which killed a buzzard (Carbofuran), and for possession of three banned pesticides (Carbofuran, Strychnine and Alphacloralose) (see here).

Yesterday’s intermediate diet was continued, with another intermediate diet scheduled for 23rd December 2014.

Previous blogs on this case here, here and here


Wildlife crime penalties: have your say

we want justiceThere has long been dissatisfaction with the penalties handed out to those convicted of wildlife crime. Yesterday’s sentencing of convicted mass raptor poisoner Allen Lambert of Stody Estate merely served to highlight the issue, again. But what we perceive to be unacceptably lenient penalties is certainly nothing new, and especially those sentences given to people (usually gamekeepers) associated with the game-shooting industry.

There’s a huge lack of public confidence in the way the judiciary deals with these criminals, with many people often talking about corruption, vested interests, biased judges/sheriffs etc. We’ve all come to expect unduly lenient measures – you only have to look at the comments on social media even before Lambert’s sentence was announced – people were predicting a metaphorical ‘slap on the wrist’, and in essence, that’s indeed what he got, even though the judge had stated that Lambert’s crimes “had crossed the custody threshold“.

Quite often (although apparently not in Lambert’s case), the accused’s employer (typically a wealthy landowner) will even fork out for a Queen’s Counsel (QC) to put forward the accused’s defence. A QC is considered to be an exceptional lawyer of outstanding ability – it’s hardly a level playing field to pit a QC against an ‘average’ public prosecutor, leading to even more public concern about the perceived ‘fairness’ of these trials and any subsequent punishment.

Sentencing for wildlife crimes has been hit or miss in both Scotland and England. For most wildlife crime offences (although not all), the maximum sentence available for each offence is a £5,000 fine and/or a six month custodial sentence. So for example, if someone had been convicted of poisoning two buzzards, they could potentially be hit with a £10,000 fine and a 12 month custodial sentence. As far as we’re aware, the maximum sentence has never been given. Instead, a large dollop of judicial discretion has been applied, resulting in weak and inconsistent penalties and a growing level of frustration amongst the general public who wish to see justice being done.

For example, in 2011, a gamekeeper in South Lanarkshire was convicted of poisoning four buzzards with the banned pesticide Alphachloralose. His sentence? An admonishment (basically a telling off). The maximum penalty available to the Sheriff was a £20,000 fine and/or a two-year custodial sentence. What was even more astonishing about this case was that the gamekeeper had been convicted of another wildlife crime three years earlier (illegal use of a crow cage trap in which he’d caught a buzzard), on the same land, for which he’d received a £300 fine. So the poisoning of four buzzards with a banned pesticide was his second conviction and yet he was given the most lenient penalty available.

A few months later, and just down the road in South Lanarkshire, a second gamekeeper was convicted of possessing the banned pesticide Carbofuran, which had been found in his vehicle. No charges were brought for the discovery of a dead buzzard and a pheasant bait (both tested positive for Carbofuran) found on land where this gamekeeper worked. His sentence? A £635 fine for possession (maximum sentence available was a £5,000 fine and/or a six month custodial sentence).

Things may be about to change in Scotland. Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse has, to his credit, instructed a review of wildlife crime penalties. The group’s remit is:

“To examine and report on how wildlife crime in Scotland is dealt with by the criminal courts, with particular reference to the range of penalties available and whether these are sufficient for the purposes of deterrence and whether they are commensurate with the damage to ecosystems that may be caused by wildlife crime”.

Now, while we don’t for one minute think that a potential increase in penalties will be the great panacea to stopping wildlife crime (for that to happen there also needs to be a significant change in investigation and enforcement procedures…’s pointless having a severe penalty in place if the criminal knows the chances of being caught are virtually nil…but more on that in due course), it is nevertheless an encouraging step, assuming of course that the review committee recommends an increase in penalties. They may not – see here for our previous comments on the membership of this review committee, which inexplicably includes the owner of a game-shooting estate.

This is where you come in. There is an opportunity for you to share your views with the review committee by answering a simple questionnaire that includes some carefully-thought out questions. The deadline for responding is two weeks today (21st November 2014) and the questionnaire can be filled in on-line and emailed to the committee. Please click here to download.

This is an excellent opportunity to have your say and perhaps have some influence on future wildlife crime sentencing options. Although the review is only applicable to sentencing options in Scotland, you do not have to live in Scotland to participate – it’s open to anyone from anywhere. And who knows, if improvements are made in the Scottish system then it provides more leverage for calls to do a similar review of wildlife crime penalties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The review committee is due to report its findings (and recommendations) early in the New Year.


First vicarious liability prosecution: part 3

scales of justiceCriminal proceedings continued today against Ninian Robert Hathorn Johnston Stewart in the first known vicarious liability prosecution under the WANE Act 2011.

Mr Johnston Stewart, the landowner of Glasserton & Physgill Estates, is charged with being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of Glasserton gamekeeper Peter Bell, who was convicted in 2013 of laying poisoned bait which killed a buzzard (Carbofuran) and possession of three banned pesticides (Carbofuran, Strychnine and Alphacloralose) (see here).

Today’s hearing was continued for an intermediate diet on 8th December 2014.

Previous blogs on this case here and here


Ross-shire Massacre: unbelievable press release from Police Scotland

RK7Following the mass poisoning of raptors (16 red kites & 6 buzzards) at Conon Bridge, Ross-shire, seven months ago, Police Scotland has this evening put out the following press release:

Appeal for information in relation to death of raptors

Police Scotland has issued a further appeal for information relating to the deaths of raptors in various locations across the Ross-shire/Black Isle area earlier this year.

Following investigation Police Scotland can now confirm that the birds, 12 red kites and four buzzards, were most likely not targeted deliberately but instead were the victims of pest control measures. The raptor deaths occurred over March and April this year.

The criminal investigation into their deaths is still ongoing and Police Scotland continues to work closely with partners.

Detective Superintendent, Colin Carey, said:

“Investigations into the suspicious deaths of wildlife and especially raptors can be difficult and prolonged. The areas covered can be vast and it is seldom immediately apparent why a bird may have died.

“We work closely with partners to identify and thoroughly investigate all wildlife crime. The death of the raptors in Ross-shire remains an on-going investigation during which we are endeavouring to establish all of the circumstances around this crime. We would ask anyone who may have further information to come forward.”

A significant reward is being offered for witnesses or further information.

Partner agencies would seek to remind members of the public that if anyone finds any further dead birds or animals in the area they are asked to make a note of its location and inform the police on 101. Under no circumstances should anyone touch or attempt to recover any dead animal.

If anyone has any information regarding this matter please contact Dingwall Police Station, telephone 101.


This police statement is staggering. Pay close attention to the second paragraph: Police Scotland can now CONFIRM…..

How can they possibly CONFIRM this, without a full confession from the person who laid out the poison baits? Does this CONFIRMATION mean that they’ve got the poisoner? That he/she has been arrested? That he/she has been charged?

The truth of the matter is, they haven’t got the poisoner, so they cannot possibly CONFIRM whether the poisoner meant to target raptors or meant to target a legitimate ‘pest’. Besides, the only legitimate method of poisoning ‘pests’ is by the controlled use of rodenticides. We already know that the poison(s) involved in this case included a banned poison – the police said so months ago. According to the Vice President of the RSPB, the poison used was Carbofuran. We don’t know that for sure because Police Scotland has refused to say, and the Government toxicology lab who would normally publish this information has mysteriously chosen not to on this occasion. We also know that poisoned baits were picked up at the crime scene – as reported here and here. How can this possibly be classified as a ‘non-deliberate’ poisoning?! It’s illegal to even possess these banned poisons, let alone to use them!

What on earth are Police Scotland playing at? This press statement is a disgrace. If we applied their logic to every other raptor that has been poisoned by a banned poison over the last ten years, then they’ve all been accidental! An unfortunate mistake by someone carrying out pest control measures! What sort of message does this police statement send to those who continue to use banned poisons to kill wildlife? ‘Ah don’t worry lads, we know you didn’t mean to deliberately target that golden eagle/red kite/buzzard with your illegal poisoned bait’.


Somebody needs to be asking questions about this. It’s pointless us trying to ask Police Scotland – we’ll just get the stock response of “It’s a live investigation so we can’t comment”. So much for police accountability, eh? All this guff about how the SSPCA shouldn’t be given extra powers because they’re ‘unaccountable’ – Jesus.

So seeing as we have no confidence in Police Scotland to be (a) accountable, (b) competent or (c) trustworthy about this case, how about we ask the partner agencies “working closely” with the police on this case, whether they agree with Police Scotland’s CONFIRMATION that this incident was accidental?

Let’s ask Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB: and let’s ask Mark Rafferty, Head of Special Investigations Unit at SSPCA: We’re not asking them to reveal any confidential information about the case, just whether they agree with Police Scotland’s assertions that these poisoned birds were not deliberately targeted, and if so, on what basis has the assertion been made?


First vicarious liability prosecution: part 2

wane1Last week we blogged about what we believe to be the first prosecution under the 2011 vicarious liability legislation (see here), relating to poisoning offences that took place on the Glasserton & Physgill Estates in December 2012. Gamekeeper Peter Bell was convicted in June 2013 for those crimes, including the laying out of a poisoned bait that subsequently killed a buzzard, and the possession of three banned poisons (Carbofuran, Strychnine and Alphachloralose) which were found in his tool shed and in his home (see here).

The vicarious liability prosecution was adjourned yesterday and the next hearing is due in November.

Definitely one to watch.


Ross-shire Massacre: seven months on

It’s been seven months since 22 birds of prey (16 red kites and six buzzards) were illegally killed in a mass poisoning incident near Conon Bridge, Ross-shire.

Here’s an imaginary update from the police:


No arrests.

No charges.

No prosecution.

No justice.

Previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre here.


Update on first vicarious liability prosecution

wane1Regular blog readers will know that we’ve been interested in the first prosecution of a landowner under the vicarious liability legislation for some time now….in fact ever since the legislation was enacted as part of the WANE Act on 1st January 2012 (see here for background info on what vicarious liability is and to what wildlife crime offences it can be applied).

We believe the first prosecution relates to the employers of gamekeeper and (now ex) SGA member Peter Bell, who was convicted in June 2013 of various poisoning offences that took place in December 2012 on the Glasserton & Physgill Estates. Those offences included laying a poisoned bait that subsequently killed a buzzard, and the possession of three banned poisons (Carbofuran, Strychnine and Alphachloralose) found in his tool shed and in his home (see here).

We’ve been asking whether there would be a vicarious liability prosecution against Bell’s employers for over a year, but each time we asked, various obstructions were put in our way (see here and here). However, in May this year, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced during a parliamentary debate on raptor persecution that vicarious liability proceedings had commenced (see here).

Since May, we’ve heard nothing at all, which we find surprising given the high level of public interest in how this new (well, nearly 3-year-old now)  and significant legislation will work.

We’ve been doing quite a lot of research since then and have finally discovered that this case is indeed in progress, and the next court hearing will take place next week. It won’t be an evidence-led hearing – it’s a special hearing that is designed to hear legal arguments. What happens next will depend on what the Sheriff decides at the end of the hearing. We’ll keep you posted.

We’ve also heard that there is a second vicarious liability case underway…..more on that in due course.

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