Posts Tagged ‘gamekeeper

13
Feb
17

Poisons cache on East Arkengarthdale Estate: no prosecution, no subsidy penalty

In December 2016 we blogged (here) about the discovery of an illegal poisons cache, buried in a small forestry plantation on Hurst grouse moor, part of the East Arkengarthdale Estate in North Yorkshire.

east-arkengarthdale

The discovery had been made (and filmed) by the RSPB’s Investigations team in December 2014 and March 2015. RSPB Investigator Guy Shorrock wrote a blog about it (here).

We learned that an unnamed gamekeeper had been responsible for the poisons cache but the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to prosecute due to ‘procedural concerns’. Nevertheless, North Yorkshire Police revoked this gamekeeper’s shotgun and firearms certificates. The gamekeeper appealed this decision (and was represented by the BASC Chairman, no less) and the court decided his certificates should be returned.

So we asked the Rural Payments Agency (as did many of you, thank you) whether the illegal poisons cache was a breach of the conditions under which the Estate had received almost £200,000 of agricultural subsidies (public money) and if so, whether any part of those subsidies would be withdrawn as a penalty, in the same way a penalty had been applied to the Stody Estate in Norfolk for poisoning offences that took place in 2013 (see here).

Here’s the Rural Payments Agency’s response:

You have asked the following questions about the discovery of a hidden pesticide cache on Hurst Moor, North Yorkshire in 2014:

1. Did the CAP subsidies received by the specified business in 2014 cover the land where the poisons cache was discovered?
2. If so, does having a poisons cache, administered by a gamekeeper, qualify as a cross-compliance breach?
3. If so, will the Rural Payments Agency be applying a subsidy penalty?

The RPA has determined that a subsidy penalty was not appropriate, for the reason set out below. It therefore did not need to establish the precise location of land where the poisons cache was discovered.

We considered this case under the cross compliance rules that applied in 2014 and we hope the following will explain why RPA does not have the scope to apply cross compliance penalties for breaches of this nature.

Within cross compliance, all breaches relating to storage of pesticides were provided for by a set of rules known as the sustainable use rules.  These were part of the wider set of rules covered by the plant protection product Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) which, in 2014 was SMR 9. Please refer to page 63 of the Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2014, for further information.

From 1 January 2014 a change to European legislation meant the sustainable use rules were removed from the scope of SMR 9 as far as cross compliance rules applicable to SPS payments were concerned. This meant there was no scope to apply cross compliance penalties to SPS payments for pesticide storage and unapproved product breaches that occurred from 1 January 2014 onwards.

The sustainable use rules continued to apply to rural development schemes covered by cross compliance rules, for example the full range of Environmental Stewardship schemes. This was the case until the end of 2014, after which further changes to European legislation fully removed the sustainable use rules from the scope of cross compliance.

In the rural development legislation that applied in 2014, the obligation to comply with the statutory management requirements did not apply to non-agricultural activities on a holding. In this case the evidence is that the breach was committed in connection with the non-agricultural activity of game shooting. In addition, the evidence is that the cache was not found on agricultural land, but within a small plantation of trees. Therefore it is not possible to apply cross compliance penalties to rural development payments for a breach of this nature.

END

So, no prosecution, no revocation of firearms, and no subsidy penalty.

arken

But what about a positive reaction from the grouse shooting industry itself? Surely, as members of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) and the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), organisations like the Moorland Association and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation would want to move swiftly to distance themselves from this Estate and this gamekeeper?

Well, we asked them about this (as did many of you, thank you) two months ago (here) and guess what? We haven’t heard a word of condemnation or any hint of expulsion. Just the standard wall of silence we’ve come to expect.

What we did find, though, was East Arkengarthdale grouse moor being listed as among ‘the best shoots in the UK 2015/2016‘, as recommended by ‘prominent figures and agents’ from the industry. It’s really worth having a look at this list – there are a few other ‘interesting’ names that many of you will recognise.

If ever you wanted evidence of a criminally-riddled industry protecting its own, or evidence of sham partnership working, you’ll be hard pressed to beat this case as an example.

31
Jan
17

ECCLR Committee’s latest thoughts on gamebird licensing petition

This morning the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee considered how to progress the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s petition calling for the introduction of a state-regulated licensing system for all gamebird hunting in Scotland.

You may recall the petition was submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee last summer. That Committee took evidence in October 2016 from the SRSG and RSPB Scotland (see here) and then evidence from the Scottish Moorland Group and BASC in December 2016 (see here) before deciding to pass the petition to the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee for further consideration.

This morning the ECCLR Committee spent 7 minutes discussing the petition and various ways forward. The video of this morning’s discussion can be viewed here (the relevant start time is 1:46.11) and we’ll post the official transcript here when it becomes available.

One Committee member, Alexander Burnett MSP (Scottish Conservative & Unonist Party, Aberdeenshire West), declared his shooting interests before suggesting that the petition should be dismissed outright because, amongst other things, “those who shoot are already licensed by extremely rigorous shotgun and firearms regimes“. He clearly hasn’t been following the case of the East Arkengarthdale Estate gamekeeper who was able to keep his shotgun and firearms certificates, despite admitting his involvement with an illegal poisons cache (see here).

Fortunately, Mr Burnett’s suggestion found no support from other Committee members and a decision was made to:

(a) Write to the Environment Cabinet Secretary to ask when the gamebird licensing review will be published, and to suggest that it be made available pronto so the ECCLR Committee can continue deliberations without further delay. It was suggested that the Committee would like to be in a position to proceed by March. (Remember, the publication of this review is already overdue and this delay is now affecting other areas of Parliamentary process).

(b) Write to the Environment Cabinet Secretary and ask for her opinion on the effectiveness of other measures such as vicarious liability, general licences etc.

(c) After receipt of the gamebird licensing review, and following a short period of time to consider its findings, the ECCLR Committee will potentially invite the Petitioner (Logan Steele of the Scottish Raptor Study Group) and a range of stakeholders to give further evidence.

25
Jan
17

Vicarious liability prosecution: Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate), part 13

Criminal proceedings continued yesterday (24 January 2017) against landowner Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan, who is alleged to be vicariously liable for the crimes committed by gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick in April 2014.

Gamekeeper Dick was convicted in August 2015 of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Mr Dick was sentenced in September 2015 and was given a £2000 fine (see here). Mr Dick attempted to appeal his conviction but this appeal was rejected on 15 July 2016 (see here).

Here’s a quick review of the proceedings against Andrew Duncan so far:

Hearing #1 (18th August 2015): Trial date set for 23rd Nov 2015, with an intermediate diet scheduled for 20th Oct 2015.

Hearing #2 (20th October 2015): Case adjourned. November trial date dumped. Notional diet hearing (where a trial date may be set) scheduled for 18th January 2016.

Hearing #3 (18th January 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet & debate scheduled for 11th March 2016.

Hearing #4 (11th March 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 4th April 2016.

Hearing #5 (4th April 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 3rd June 2016.

Hearing #6 (3rd June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 17th June 2016.

Hearing #7 (17th June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 15th July 2016.

Hearing #8 (15 July 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet scheduled for 2 August 2016.

Hearing #9 (2 August 2016): Proceedings moved to trial. Intermediate diet scheduled for 15 November 2016 and provisional trial date set for 7/8 December 2016.

Hearing #10 (15 November 2016): The case was adjourned for another intermediate diet scheduled for 22 November 2016. Trial date of 7/8 December 2016 is dumped.

Hearing #11 (22 November 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 6 December 2016.

Hearing #12 (6 December 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 24 January 2017. A provisional trial date (this will be the third time a trial date has been assigned) is scheduled for 24 April 2017.

Hearing #13 (24 January 2017): Guess what? The case was adjourned for another intermediate diet, scheduled for 11 April 2017. As far as we know, the provisional trial date of 24 April still stands although this could change depending on what happens at the intermediate diet on 11 April.

Vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of raptors in Scotland (where one person may potentially be legally responsible for the criminal actions of another person working under their supervision) came in to force five years ago on 1st January 2012. To date there have been two successful prosecutions/convictions: one in December 2014 (see here) and one in December 2015 (see here).  One further case did not reach the prosecution stage due, we believe, to the difficulties associated with identifying the management structure on the estate where the crimes were committed (see here).

14
Jan
17

Public funds to promote wildlife criminals in Scotland?

In December 2016 we blogged about the ‘Game for Growth’ strategy, which is a plan to promote Scottish country sports and boost its value to the economy. The strategy, which was launched at a parliamentary reception on 20th December 2016 (here) is being led by the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) and is being part-funded by VisitScotland using tax payers’ money (see here).

You may recall that Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman lodged a parliamentary question about the use of these public funds, as follows:

Question S5W-05930: Andy Wightman (Lothian, Scottish Green Party). Date lodged: 22/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the recipients of financial contributions from VisitScotland to the strategy, Game for Growth Strategy – Country Sports Tourism in Scotland 2016; what information it has regarding how each recipient will use this; what action it has taken to ensure that no money was provided to the owners or managers of landholdings on which crimes against wildlife have been committed; whether it will publish the strategy on its website, and what aspects of this it is supporting or plans to support with public money.

This question has now been answered:

Answered by Fiona Hyslop MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs) on 11/1/2017:

VisitScotland has approved a grant of £17,925 to the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group to promote Scotland as the destination of choice for all country sports. The Group will use this to develop content and supporting digital activity to attract visitors from across the UK and Scandinavia. As this money is for a specific project, no funding will be provided to individual estates or land owners. There is no intention to publish the strategy on VisitScotland’s website and so there will be no funding support for this.

It’s an interesting response. It does clarify that public funds (at least these public funds) will not be given directly to individual estates or landowners, but it is also clear that individual estates will still benefit from this public funding, albeit indirectly, because the SCSTG will use the funds to promote these individual estates as part of an online PR campaign.

In our December blog, we noted that the SCSTG website was promoting the Dunmhor Sporting Agency as a provider of country sports activities in Scotland:

We were surprised to see Dunmhor Sporting being promoted on the SCSTG website because Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December 2015 of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate. We just looked at the SCSTG’s website again and Dunmhor Sporting is still being promoted as a country sports provider.

So much for the game shooting industry ousting its criminal members.

We wonder whether the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, is aware that a now (part) publicly funded organisation (the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group) is promoting a convicted wildlife criminal and if so, whether she thinks this is an appropriate use of public funds?

Emails to: scottish.ministers@gov.scot and mark it FAO Fiona Hyslop

27
Dec
16

Parliamentary reception for group promoting wildlife criminal

Yesterday we blogged about the launch of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s new initiative, Game for Growth, aimed at promoting the value of country sports to the Scottish economy (see here).

We mentioned that Andy Wightman MSP had lodged a Parliamentary Question asking whether public funds (via VisitScotland as part of the Game for Growth initiative) had been given to the owners or managers of landholdings where wildlife crime had taken place.

We also mentioned our surprise that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s website is promoting a sporting agent with a current conviction for raptor persecution.

What we didn’t mention was that the launch of the Game for Growth initiative took place at a prestigious parliamentary reception at Holyrood on 20 December 2016, with wide media coverage.

This parliamentary reception was hosted by Edward Mountain MSP (Conservative, Highlands & Islands) and included speeches from Malcolm Roughead, Chief Exec of VisitScotland, and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP.

Here is a photo of some of the attendees: (L-R: Tim (Kim) Baynes from the Gift of Grouse, Malcolm Roughead from VisitScotland, Edward Mountain MSP (host), and Sarah Troughton from the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group).

The revelation that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group is actively promoting a convicted wildlife criminal will probably be a surprise to Edward Mountain MSP, and undoubtedly a source of deep embarrassment; he surely wouldn’t have hosted them had he known. It’s reasonable to assume he didn’t know because his expertise appears to be in fishing rather than gamebird hunting. Sustainable sport fishing does bring in millions to the rural economy and it isn’t underpinned by wildlife crime, so it’s easy to see why he would lend support to the Game for Growth initiative.

Unfortunately for Edward, as well as the sport fishing industry, the Gift of Grouse is also prominently involved with the Game for Growth initiative (check out that banner in the photo) and this isn’t the first parliamentary reception they’ve been involved with that has led to awkward questions being asked.

We await the Scottish Government’s response to Andy Wightman’s Parliamentary Questions about public funding for wildlife criminals with great interest.

26
Dec
16

Parliamentary Question: is public money being used to promote wildlife criminals in Scottish shooting sector?

scstg-logoLast week it was announced that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) has plans to boost the value of game shooting, stalking and fishing to the rural economy by £30 million, via its new ‘Game for Growth’ strategy.

The Game for Growth strategy document can be read here: sctsg-game-for-growth-strategy-document-dec-2016

It’s a pretty turgid read, full of tedious marketing soundbites, but basically it sets out how the industry plans to promote Scottish country sports over the next four years to reach a wider national and international market. This will be achieved mostly, it seems, by claiming the industry is sustainable with fabulous conservation benefits and ignoring the vast environmental damage and wildlife crime associated with some activities within this sector.

visit-scotland-1Interestingly, VisitScotland (the national tourism agency linked to the Scottish Government) has apparently committed to boosting the country sports tourism sector and has announced a matched ‘Growth Fund’ to help SCSTG develop its marketing strategy and increase its online presence.

We’re not the only ones to raise an eyebrow at this. Andy Wightman MSP has lodged the following Parliamentary Question about it:

Question S5W-05930: Andy Wightman (Lothian, Scottish Green Party). Date lodged: 22/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the recipients of financial contributions from VisitScotland to the strategy, Game for Growth Strategy – Country Sports Tourism in Scotland 2016; what information it has regarding how each recipient will use this; what action it has taken to ensure that no money was provided to the owners or managers of landholdings on which crimes against wildlife have been committed; whether it will publish the strategy on its website, and what aspects of this it is supporting or plans to support with public money.

Expected answer date: 19/01/2017

These are legitimate questions, and especially when you take a closer look at the SCSTG website, which has been developed to connect potential visitors with various country sports providers across Scotland. For example, if you want to pay money to shoot mountain hares in Scotland, you can use the website’s search facility and a number of sporting agents/estates who offer this ‘sport’ will be highlighted.

We used the search facility to look for various ‘sporting’ opportunities and were very surprised to find that sporting agency Dunmhor Sporting was being promoted:

Why the surprise? Well, Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December last year of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate.

Why is the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group promoting an agent who has a current conviction for wildlife crime? And why is VisitScotland providing match funding to an organisation that is promoting a convicted wildlife criminal?

22
Dec
16

Gamekeepers want sea eagles, kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks & ravens added to General Licences

Further to this morning’s blog about RSPB Scotland’s damning response to SNH’s General Licence consultation (see here), we said we’d write a separate blog about some of the other responses that SNH received.

SNH has now published all the responses, and they’re well worth a read: all-responses-to-snh-general-licence-consultation-2016

There are many organisations and individuals calling for ravens to be added to the General Licences (no surprise) and, yet again, there are a number of requests for buzzards and sparrowhawks to also be added, which would allow these species to be casually killed across Scotland without any monitoring or regulation, although some have suggested these raptors should be on ‘regional’ General Licences to limit the casual killing to a particular area. How thoughtful.

One of the reasons given for adding ravens and buzzards to the General Licences was this: “There are arguably too many of them around and they cloud the skies in our local area“.

Here’s a photograph of some ravens and buzzards clouding the skies:

Actually, this is a photograph (by Richard Barnes) of Dunlin flocking on the coast of North America but it could just as easily be a plague of swarming raptors over a Scottish grouse moor, if you happen to be a pathological raptor hater stuck with an 18th century attitude, that is.

Take a look at the consultation response from Garry MacLennan. Surely not the same Garry MacLennan, Head Gamekeeper at Invermark Estate? Aren’t raptors supposed to be ‘thriving’ there? Perhaps the headline should have read ‘Raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors and we want licences to kill them’.

Also have a look at the responses from Iain Hepburn (the same Iain Hepburn as the head gamekeeper at Dunmaglass Estate?), Duncan Mackenzie and Calum Kippen (the same Corrybrough Estate gamekeepers who attended the recent meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority & the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association?). Aren’t these the gamekeepers who want licences to monitor and ring raptors? Don’t they see a bit of a conflict of interest there if they also want licences to kill these raptors?

Best of all though, is the response from Bert Burnett (presumably of the SGA). Bert suggests that ravens should be added to the General Licences and argues that regional general licences “could be rolled out for various species that may start to cause problems like sea eagles and kites etc“. Ah yes, that very serious problem of sea eagles mistaking small children for prey.

Of course, these calls for licences to cull raptors are nothing new. Scottish (and English) gamekeepers and land owners have been asking for these for 20 years (see here, here, here, here, hereherehere). So far, SNH has resisted but given Natural England’s recent capitulation on buzzard-killing licences, how much longer before we see the same in Scotland?




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 2,702,325 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors