Posts Tagged ‘gamekeeper

16
May
18

Good grief, Cairngorms National Park!

For those of us hoping to see a progressive move away from intensive grouse moor management inside the Cairngorms National Park, we may have a long wait.

We’ve just found the following written on the VisitCairngorms website (‘the official website for the Cairngorms National Park’). It’s so bad it could have been written by one of the large grouse-shooting estates……..oh, it was.

Good grief! How the hell did that get approved for publication?

A couple of years ago, Will Boyd Wallis, Head of Land Management & Conservation for the Cairngorms National Park Authority wrote an excellent and encouraging blog about how the Park needed to ‘move with the times’, referring specifically to issues associated with intensive grouse moor management within the Park (well worth a read, see here).

He said, “We need to see practical action and clear demonstration that moorland managers are universally responding to modern needs and demands“.

There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that response in the VisitCairngorms article with talk of Highland retreats for wealthy owners, killing ‘vermin’ (whatever that is), controlling predators by shooting and trapping, protecting game from poachers, and breeding gamebirds for release in to the wild.

A National Park, long considered a jewel in Scotland’s environmental crown? Or just a private playground for shooting parties, where killing wildlife for fun (‘sport’) is celebrated, even by the Park Authority?

Come on Cairngorms National Park, get a grip on this. There are some fantastic, forward-thinking estates within the Park and there are also many conservation-oriented staff at the CNPA. Remove the website guff about how Victorian-styled gamekeepers are the ‘life blood’ of the Park’s estates and let’s hear more about some of the conservation initiatives that some estates, and CNPA staff, are pushing forward.

UPDATE 17 May 2018: We’ve been asked to clarify that the VisitCairngorms website is not run by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the CNPA has no editorial control. The VisitCairngorms website is run by the Cairngorms Business Partnership (the Chamber of Commerce) on behalf of their business members, and even though the website is adorned with the CNP logo and claims to be the Cairngorms National Park’s ‘official website’, it has its own Board and staff and its views are not neccesarily those of the CNPA. Clear? As mud.

Interestingly, the current Chair of the Cairngorms Business Partnership is Angus McNicol. By coincidence, the Factor of Invercauld Estate is also called Angus McNicol.

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15
May
18

Stink pits – the disgusting reality of 21st century grouse moor management

Over the weekend, charities OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland released the following video footage, filmed on a Scottish grouse moor earlier this year.

It shows a ‘stink pit’ (also known as a ‘midden’) which is a pile of rotting animal carcasses (including the corpses of native wildlife and sometimes domestic pets) that are dumped in a heap and surrounded by snares. The putrefying stench from the corpses attracts predators to the pit who are then caught in the snares, killed and thrown on to the pile of death.

WARNING – GRAPHIC FOOTAGE:

This is the grisly reality of how the so-called ‘Custodians of the Countryside’ deal with native wildlife, including inside the boundaries of our National Parks. Snared, trapped, shot, killed and then dumped, like a pile of rubbish.

You have to wonder how this is still legal in the 21st Century, especially given the strict regulations imposed on farmers who generally cannot bury dead livestock unless at certain remote, designated locations. Gamekeepers? They can do what they like, even hanging the corpses of dead foxes over tree branches so their stench can be carried further afield.

We’ve blogged about stink pits before, as have others, e.g. see this blog written last year by OneKind and this article published by The Ferret (but beware, both contain more disturbing photographs).

In May 2017, Christine Grahame MSP (SNP) lodged a Parliamentary motion on the continued use of stink pits on game-shooting estates (see here). Her motion received cross-party support and resulted in a Parliamentary debate, in which Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the use of stink pits would be reviewed as part of the grouse moor management review, which is currently underway.

14
May
18

Case against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin: part 3

Criminal proceedings continued on Friday (11 May 2018) against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin, who is accused of a series of alleged wildlife crimes, including the shooting of two short-eared owls in April 2017 at Whernside, Cumbria in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is further alleged he was in possession of items (a shotgun and an electronic calling device) capable of being used to kill wild birds.

Following a farcical hearing at Preston Magistrates Court in March 2018 (see here), the case was due to be heard last Friday but it was adjourned, again, at the request of the defence.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 2018.

For legal reasons, we won’t be accepting any comments on this post.

 

08
May
18

Three dogs & two buzzards die after being ‘deliberately poisoned’ in Perthshire

BBC News article (8 May 2018):

DOGS AND BUZZARDS DIE AFTER BEING DELIBERATELY POISONED

Police in Highland Perthshire are appealing for information after three working dogs and two buzzards were deliberately poisoned.

The incidents took place between October 2017 and April this year in and around the Edradynate and Pitnacree Estates area.

The poisons used to kill the dogs and birds are banned in the UK.

[Photo of a poisoned buzzard found in the area in 2015, by RPUK]

A Police Scotland spokesman said the animals’ owners were “understandably upset” at the loss of their dogs.

He said: “Once again, we also find ourselves investigating the illegal killing of raptors and this is extremely disappointing.

We have searched the areas and our investigations to date would suggest that there is not a wider threat to public safety.

However, all members of the public in the area are asked to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour, especially during the hours of darkness.”

ENDS

Hmm. Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“. The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases (nobody has ever been convicted for any of the alleged offences). The summary also includes information about links between the estate and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

[Edradynate Estate, photo by RPUK]

More recently, in March 2015 two dead buzzards were found near to the estate. Toxicology tests revealed they’d been poisoned with a banned substance (although the name wasn’t revealed). A police raid of the estate uncovered a third dead buzzard. A thorough police investigation followed but in May 2017 the Crown Office rejected a plea from Police Scotland to bring proceedings against an estate gamekeeper (see here). The Crown Office has so far not provided a clear explanation for this decision.

However, in September 2017 SNH imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Edradynate Estate, presumably in response to the alleged buzzard poisonings in 2015 (see here). Some felt sympathy for the new gamekeeper who would now be subjected to these restrictions even though he’d only just begun his employment following the ‘retirement’ of the previous Head gamekeeper in February 2017.

And talking of that previous Head gamekeeper, you may remember last year he was charged with a number of offences including the alleged malicious damage of crops on Edradynate in April 2017 (it is claimed he poisoned them by spraying with an unknown substance, causing them to rot and perish) and the alleged theft of a thermal imaging spotting scope (see here). This resulted in some court proceedings that were mysteriously shrouded in secrecy (here).

Presumably he has pleaded not guilty as we now know a trial will take place at Perth Sheriff Court on 11 June 2018 for alleged ‘malicious mischief’.

20
Apr
18

SNH issues licence for mass raven cull in 5-year ‘experiment’

To the utter disbelief of conservationists, statutory conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a licence authorising the mass killing of ravens in a large area of Perthshire (an area identified as a wildlife crime hotspot where six satellite-tagged eagles have suspiciously disappeared in recent years), as part of a proposed five-year experiment, on the basis of ‘seeing what happens’ to wader populations when ravens are removed.

The licence has been issued to a consortium calling itself the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW) which, according to the licence application, ‘represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)‘.

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

The following has been written by a group of Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) members as a guest blog:

STRATHBRAAN RAVEN LICENCE

The news about the missing white tailed sea eagle disappearing in Glen Quaich on Tuesday 17th April could sadly not have been more timely as Scottish Natural Heritage, (SNH), have issued a licence to several estates in the Strathbraan area in Perthshire, including Glen Quaich Estate, for the killing of 300 ravens in a large scale trial over five years to see if wader productivity and populations can be improved by removing raven predation.

The manner in which the government’s statutory nature conservation agency have conducted themselves has come as a shock and there is grave concern about the mis-application of science, the lack of consultation with key stakeholders, such as the RSPB and SRSG, their choice of estate partners and the lack of transparency, trust and honesty, and even seasoned SNH watchers are aghast.

We have raised our concerns and are unhappy with the response so far and have resorted to writing this blog to make the matters public. Following the “suspicious” disappearance of the white tailed sea eagle and the fact the police are describing this as ‘an illegal act’ we call upon SNH to conduct a review and if the circumstances fulfil what we consider to be the established criteria set out in SNH’s own report then we expect the licence to be withdrawn.

Our concerns focus on three areas, firstly the choice of partners:-

Firstly when selecting a trial area why would you choose an area dominated by driven grouse shooting with a history of illegal raptor persecution? What message does this send out to the many law-abiding estates? Is it that persecution will enable you to ‘cut a deal’ with the statutory nature conservation body? Cynics might suggest this is more about an opportunity to kill ravens in an attempt to protect red grouse stocks and it could also be argued that a licence has been issued to kill one species of bird to enable another bird to be shot for fun.

[Map of proposed cull area in north Perthshire, from the licence application, running from Loch Tay in the west to the A9 in the east]:

Raptor workers over the years have been monitoring the area and can speak with authority on raptor persecution. The Scottish Government’s review of satellite-tagged golden eagles showed that four of these birds have disappeared suspiciously in this area, with a satellite-tagged red kite also disappearing in 2010. In all cases, the tags can be classed as “stopped – no malfunction” as used in the review – ie. highly suspicious.

[Map of north Perthshire showing the last known fixes of five satellite-tagged golden eagles that disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Sea Eagle Blue X also disappeared in Glen Quaich last month]:

In addition, a radio-tagged white-tailed eagle was tracked to this area, but disappeared in January 2012, while a further satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle recently similarly disappeared in Glen Quaich. An illegal clam trap was found in November 2012, while a buzzard was spring-trapped in January 2012. A red kite was found poisoned in January 2015. A raven was poisoned in 2017. In addition, licenced raptor study group members have noted a number of cases of suspicious failure of nesting attempts by hen harrier, red kite and buzzard across the area. They have also recorded a higher than usual turnover of red kites and a loss of breeding pairs at nearby sites. All of which indicates on-going illegal persecution.

Even bearing in mind these detected incidents represent an unknown proportion of actual persecution taking place, this is an area where land management practices have displayed a proven criminal intolerance to protected species, stretching back for many years. All this has been in the public domain so why did SNH press on knowing that their partners in this initiative have such a dubious record, and what level of confidence can we have in their honesty and integrity?

Secondly, science and key questions that remain unanswered:-

  • What monitoring is in place to assess that this cull will not affect the raven population status?
  • How will SNH be able to differentiate from other factors affecting the decline of waders such as other predatory pressures, the loss of suitable habitat and changes in agricultural practices?
  • What criteria will be used to differentiate between breeding and non-breeding birds? This year we have noticed that the breeding season is later than usual.
  • What allowance has been made for the immigration of immature flocks into the proposed licence area?
  • Why has the licensing decision been taken in the absence of the raven population modelling report, as it was commissioned with the sole, or at least the main, purpose of underpinning raven licensing decisions with sounder background information?
  • What is the nature and extent of the independent scrutiny that has been carried out?
  • If any raven roosts are located during the period of the licence, can we be assured that any Schedule 1 non-breeding species and other protected species (possibly also using the same roosts) will not be disturbed?
  • What safe guards are in place to ensure the numbers killed will remain within that permitted?

Thirdly, the lack of engagement

SNH are always keen to trumpet words such as ‘trust’, ‘building relationships’, ‘shared objectives’ ‘working collaboratively’ but we have seen none of this.

  • There has been no communication with SRSG workers who have been active in the proposed licence area and have many years of breeding data on ravens and raptors.
  • We understand that not all landowners/managers within the area of licence have been contacted about this licence, contrary to reassurances provided.
  • This proposed application was developed outside the much lauded ‘Working for Waders’ initiative and we only became aware of this by accident; hardly working together or building trust!
  • Under the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme raven data are submitted to SNH (who is a key partner), yet it seems this information was not included in the licence considerations, (we know this as under the permission sharing protocols raptors workers who collected the information in the first place would have had to have been consulted).

We are deeply suspicious that the lack of engagement was deliberate as SNH knew their proposal was weak and would not stand up to the rigour of an independent scientific review.

We again call upon SNH to withdraw the licence.

ENDS

It’s well known that SNH issues a number of licences every year to cull ravens where they are considered a ‘serious threat’ to livestock (e.g. see here, here) but these are apparently for a limited cull, not related to game management and supposedly based on sound scientific evidence of a perceived local problem.

It’s also well known that gamekeepers have long wanted ravens to be added to the General Licence (e.g. see here, here) because they are seen as a perceived threat to grouse stocks.

It’s also well known that ravens are routinely demonised in the press, including this outrageous piece published by the BBC (see here, and well worth a read to understand the hysteria whipped up around this protected species).

However, this latest licence authorising a multi-year mass culling of ravens over a large area for spurious reasons (and apparently very little, if any, scientific justification) is unprecedented. That it also happens to be a well-known raptor persecution hotspot just adds to the lunancy of this situation.

If you share the concerns of the SRSG members, please consider sending an email to Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, calling on him to withdraw the licence with immediate effect. Emails to: chair@snh.gov.uk

UPDATE 14.20hrs: Thanks to the blog reader who brought this article to our attention, reporting on the results of a scientific study that dispels many of the myths associated with ravens and wader population declines. And here is the scientific peer-reviewed paper by Amar et al that specifically warns against making predator control licensing decisions without a thorough evaluation of the evidence.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from SNH Head of Wildlife, Robbie Kernahan:

We understand the concerns over wildlife crime in Strathbraan, but we are also clear that the granting of this licence is wholly unconnected to the issues concerned.

This licence is about a pressing and complex conservation issue. It  is a large-scale collaborative trial which will help improve our understanding of factors affecting key wader species, populations of which are declining at an alarming rate. We are satisfied this licence will not affect the population of ravens overall, and is over a five year period.

The licence places significant responsibility and expectations on all those involved – to be able to show that this approach can work and will help deliver what are essentially shared objectives.

Trust is a key element of this and this presents a great opportunity to develop that trust and relationships with all involved. If it becomes apparent that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence then we will have no hesitation in removing the licence“.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from RSPB Scotland Head of Species & Land Managament, Duncan Orr-Ewing:

We are extremely concerned about the likely scale on impact of this research licence on the local raven population in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire. We are also very surprised that SNH have issued such a research licence  in the vicinity of Strathbraan, which has an appalling  and well documented track record of illegal persecution of raptors, noting also the very recent “suspicious” disappearance of a satellite tagged white-tailed eagle in this very same area.

We, together with local raptor workers who have been monitoring ravens in the area for decades, could have helped SNH with this background detail to the licence application if we had been consulted.

We will be seeking a high level meeting with SNH shortly to discuss. We will be pressing for the research licence to be revoked on the back of the white-tailed eagle incident, and instead consideration given by SNH to removing the use of the Open General Licence in this area, as is within their powers“.

UPDATE 22 April 2018: Raven cull update and what you can do to help (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: Article published in The National (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: Article published in The Herald (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: RSPB Scotland blog in response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 25 April 2018: OneKind blog in response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 25 April 2018: Chris Packham’s response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 26 April 2018: Is the raven cull licence still active whilst SNH review takes place? (here)

UPDATE 26 April 2018: SNH refuses to say whether raven cull licence has been suspended (here)

UPDATE 27 April 2018: Green MSPs seek urgent meeting with SNH re: raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 27 April 2018: ‘No justification’ for raven cull licence, says RSPB Scotland Director (here)

UDATE 28 April 2018: Raven cull licence: SGA evasive on benefits to grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 1 May 2018: Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders: who’s involved? (here)

UPDATE 4 May 2018: Raven cull: next steps to take as SNH blunders on (here)

UPDATE 7 May 2018: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things” says SNH (here)

UPDATE 8 May 2018: Parliamentary questions lodged on raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 9 May 2018: Alison Johnstone MSP lodges Parliamentary motion on raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 12 May 2018: Raven cull: please ask your MSP to support this Parliamentary motion (here)

UPDATE 23 May 2018: Raven cull update: scientific advisory committee not being asked to repeal licence (here)

UPDATE 23 May 2018: Raven cull: Parliamentary questions and answers (here)

UPDATE 20 May 2018: Raven cull: latest update (here)

UPDATE 5 June 2018: Legal challenge to raven cull licence: your help needed! (here)

UPDATE 6 June 2018: Raven cull: legal challenge crowdfunder smashes £10k target on day one! (here)

UPDATE 19 June 2018: Raven cull: a few updates (here)

UPDATE 20 June 2018: #Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise now available (here)

UPDATE 22 June 2018: Preston man receives warning for raven cull death threat (here)

UPDATE 1 July 2018: Last push on #Justice4Ravens crowdfunder (here)

UPDATE 1 July 2018: #Justice4Ravens crowdfunder target smashed! (here)

UPDATE 5 July 2018: #Justice4Ravens: application lodged for judicial review (here)

16
Apr
18

Grouse-shooting industry’s reaction to the failed Bleasdale Estate prosecution

The prosecution of a gamekeeper, employed by the Bleasdale Estate in Bowland to manage a grouse moor, collapsed recently on a series of legal technicalities (see here, here and here).

We’ve been wondering how the grouse-shooting industry would react to this failed case. Would they condemn the alleged illegal killing of two breeding peregrines at a nest site on a driven grouse moor? And, seeing as all charges against the defendant were dropped, would the industry put out a public appeal for information to help find the alleged perpetrator?

So far we haven’t seen any public commentary from the owner of the Bleasdale Estate, Mr Jeremy Duckworth. This is a bit surprising. At the time of the alleged offences (April 2016), Mr Duckworth was a Director and a regional representative of the Moorland Association (a group representing the interests of grouse moor owners in England):

According to documents lodged at Companies House, Mr Duckworth resigned his Directorship of the Moorland Association in September 2016. The timing of his resignation coincided with the early stages of the police investigation in to the alleged offences on his grouse moor – obviously nothing to do with damage limitation and purely and simply coincidental, of course:

As well as silence from Mr Duckworth, nor have we seen any commentary from the Moorland Association (MA) itself. As a member of PAW (Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime), it’s not unreasonable for us to expect the Moorland Association to have provided comment. Surely the MA must be concerned that an unidentified individual appears to have repeatedly visited the grouse moor nest site of a specially protected species and allegedly killed two peregrines, no?

What we have seen though, is a press release issued by You Forgot The Birds (YFTB), an astroturfing lobby group funded by the grouse shooting industry.

Perhaps this press release from YFTB was issued on behalf of the Moorland Association, or with the MA’s blessing, or funded by members of the MA? No, that can’t be right, because the YFTB press release wasn’t concerned at all about the alleged killing of two peregrines on a grouse moor, but instead, just like all its other press releases (funded by the grouse-shooting industry) this press release was focused entirely on attacking the RSPB and attempting to undermine its credentials.

The press release was sent out to media journalists last Friday, embargoed until one minute past midnight on Saturday morning, obviously designed to hit the weekend papers. We’re grateful to the journalist who sent us a copy. It read as follows:

Judge accuses RSPB of ‘deliberate circumvention’ of law

A judge in Lancashire has accused the RSPB of “deliberate circumvention” of the law regarding covert surveillance. In a case concerning alleged wildlife crime the judge said the RSPB had “effectively taken on the role of a police officer” and that wildlife crime police officers were “turning a blind eye” to how the RSPB was seeking to avoid complying with the law.

Sitting in Preston last month District Judge Jane Goodwin examined the use of covert videoing by the RSPB of a peregrine falcon nest in the Forest of Bowland. James Hartley, a gamekeeper, had been accused of persecuting the birds.

The judge ruled that the RSPB investigators – who were both former police officers – should have informed the police about their proposed videoing but did not because that would have triggered the safeguards of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

In her decision Judge Goodwin said that “the deliberate circumvention of the RIPA legislation… leaves an air of disquiet.” The RSPB had also “trespassed… without justification [and] breached the PACE Codes of Practice…The RSPB have acted improperly and out with their remit”.

The judge noted two previous occasions when RSPB evidence had been deemed inadmissible by prosecutors because of irregularities.

Last month an FOI response revealed that national police officers had been highly critical of the RSPB’s attempts to dominate the investigation of bird crime. The Defra official in charge of wildlife crimes had written that the charity’s approach could “prejudice the integrity of investigations.”

Commenting on the latest case Ian Gregory of the pro-grouse moor group You Forgot The Birds said: “The RSPB is facing a crisis of trust. It should reflect on why so many find it difficult to work with it. Only through good relations with the justice system and gamekeepers can it help to reduce bird crime.”

ENDS

Interestingly, two contacts were provided for editors who wanted more information. One was Ian Gregory (the usual YFTB contact) but the second contact was none other than the Bleasdale defendant’s solicitor, Tim Ryan! Imagine that!

Blog readers who have been following this case and have read the farcical court proceedings (see here, here & here) will see how YFTB has cherry-picked all of District Judge Goodwin’s criticisms of the RSPB and then tried to present them as a coherent representation of what happened in court, completely ignoring the ridiculous legal technicalities which caused the collapse of this case. YFTB’s intentions are clear: ignore the details of the horrific alleged peregrine persecution and instead besmirch the integrity and reputation of the RSPB’s Investigations Team.

Unfortunately for YFTB, this attempted smear against the RSPB didn’t really go to plan. We saw two articles in the weekend press that were clearly informed by YFTB’s press release (one in The Times on Saturday [behind a paywall] & one in the Mail on Sunday [not behind a paywall]) but neither of those articles presented the case as YFTB had intended. Instead, those two papers took a rather more balanced view and as well as mentioning the judge’s criticism of the RSPB, they also both focused on the alleged crimes, particularly the Crown’s case that one of the peregrines had been caught in a trap for over ten hours, and that peregrine DNA had been found on a knife and a hammer recovered from the defendant’s home/outbuildings. They both also included a response from the RSPB which said similar evidence [to the Bleasdale Estate case] had been accepted in other court cases.

Blimey, is this an indication that mainstream journalists have finally got the measure of YFTB and understand that YFTB press releases require detailed scrutiny to get beyond the spin?

It certainly looks that way.

16
Apr
18

Why other evidence was also ruled inadmissible in the Bleasdale Estate case

This is the third blog in a series about the recent failed prosecution of a Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper.

Gamekeeper James Hartley was accused of nine offences in relation to the alleged killing of two peregrines at a nest site on the Bleasdale Estate, Bowland, in April 2016. He denied all charges.

In blog 1, we outlined the prosecution’s case against Mr Hartley, and the skeleton argument put forward by the defence (see here).

In blog 2 we examined why the judge ruled the RSPB’s covert video evidence inadmissible (see here).

In this blog we examine why other evidence was also ruled inadmissible by the judge. This relates to two points: (1) the legality of the first search of the nest site and surrounding grouse moor on 21 April 2016, and (2) the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act in relation to the way the RSPB handled the ‘data’ (recordings made by the video camera).

Let’s start with the land search. Here is an extract from the judge’s ruling on this point:

Basically Mr Rouse QC for the defence argued that the Police and the RSPB breached Code B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) because they did not notify the landowner of their intention to search the nest site area and surrounding grouse moor.

It seems to us that the Police and RSPB did not notify the landowner due to the exemption listed under 6.4 (iii) (see above) because ‘there are reasonable grounds for believing that alerting the occupier or any other person entitled to grant access would frustrate the object of the search….’

This exemption is routinely used by the police in wildlife crime cases like this one, for obvious reasons. If the landowner, or an employee, was suspected of either committing, or being complicit to an alleged wildlife crime, telling them in advance that a search was about to be conducted would alert any potential suspect who could then hide any evidence in advance of that search.

In this specific case, had the landowner been notified of the search in advance, what do you think would be the chance of the police finding the tool bag & equipment, found on a later search of the defendant’s house and outbuildings, and found on subsequent forensic DNA analysis to contain peregrine DNA?!

That’s an obvious point, isn’t it?

Well apparently not. Mr Yip for the prosecution did not raise this point and nor did he call for a live witness to explain to the court why the exemption applied in this case. The judge was left with no option but to rule a breach of the PACE code.

The other line in the defence’s argument was that the RSPB Investigator (name redacted) had breached the Data Protection Act as he wasn’t a registered data controller:

Mr Yip for the prosecution submitted that the RSPB Investigator did not need an individual licence of registration as he was operating lawfully under the collective registration licence of the RSPB. He wasn’t acting an an individual, but as an employee of a registered organisation. Unfortunately, the collective registation document was not submitted to the court as evidence. As the judge said in her ruling:

Without the evidence, and in the absence of live witnesses to address the point, how am I supposed to be satisfied that what the Crown say is indeed correct?“.

Again, she was left with no other option than to rule a breach of the Data Protection Act.

What a bloody shambles.

As you’ve seen from blog 2 and this blog, the collapse of this case on a series of technicalities was wholly avoidable had the prosecution got its act together.

Now we wait to see whether legal advice will allow the RSPB to release the video footage, which is believed to show one of the peregrines frantically struggling for more than ten hours on the nest ledge as it tried to escape the jaws of an allegedly illegally-set trap clamped around its leg.

Perhaps when the public sees this footage they’ll understand why the defence went to such lengths to have this evidence ruled inadmissible.

And perhaps when the public sees the footage they’ll gain an insight as to why peregrines are doing so badly on many driven grouse moors in northern England and Scotland.

UPDATE 16 April 2018: Grouse-shooting industry’s reaction to the failed Bleasdale Estate prosecution (here)




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