Posts Tagged ‘gin trap

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?

01
Dec
15

Sporting agent on Cardross Estate convicted in latest vicarious liability case

GrahamChristie P&J VL2Press release from the Crown Office:

A self-employed game farmer has pled guilty to wildlife offences, leading to the second conviction in Scotland by vicarious liability for wildlife crime against wild birds.

At Stirling Sheriff Court, Graham Christie was fined a total of £3,200 after admitting his liability for the crimes committed by James O’Reilly, a gamekeeper employed by him.

O’Reilly was previously sentenced to a community payback order after pleading guilty to intentionally trapping and injuring a buzzard, using an illegal gin trap, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Despite veterinary treatment for the severe injury caused to its leg, the buzzard required to be euthanised as it would never be suitable for release back to the wild. The buzzard had been in good condition otherwise.

Graham Christie leased part of the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire to use for his business, Dunmhor Shooting. He had employed O’Reilly as head game-keeper with responsibility for pest control on this part of the estate.

The offences were committed more than a year after the introduction of the vicarious liability legislation.

The law placed responsibility on Christie unless he could show that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to prevent O’Reilly from committing the offences.

When asked by police how he was able to see what was going on ensure everything was done properly and professionally, Christie stated;

“Well I can only tell that by the amount of pheasants that were shown on a shoot day and that he was very good to be fair”.

Helen Nisbet, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit said:

“These offences were committed well after the vicarious liability offence was introduced and the accused had ample time in which to take advice and put appropriate measures in place.

“He failed in his responsibilities and as a result stands convicted of the killing of a wild bird using an illegal gin trap.

“Anyone who seeks to injure or kill wild birds and anyone who employs or engages the services of such persons without taking appropriate precautions to prevent these offences being committed can fully expect to be brought to account before the courts.”

Notes To Editors

1. Section 18A of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the vicarious liability provisions, came into force on the 1st January 2012. They were created in an attempt to tackle raptor persecution by encouraging landowners, employers, and those with responsibility in connection with shooting to be diligent and proactive in countering wildlife crime.

2. James O’Reilly previously pled guilty to:

Intentionally injuring and taking a wild bird (a buzzard) by setting a gin trap (otherwise known as a leg hold trap) on open ground baited by a deer carcase contrary to section 1(1)(a); and,

Setting in position a trap, namely a gin trap (otherwise known as a leg hold trap) being of such a nature and so placed as to be likely to cause bodily injury to any wild birds contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

3. Section 18A(2) makes the accused guilty of the original offence and is liable to be punished accordingly.

4. Wildlife and environmental crime is a priority for COPFS. The development of specialist prosecutors and the creation of the COPFS Wildlife and Environment Crime Unit (WECU) have been significant steps forward in tackling wildlife crime. Our close working relationship with police wildlife crime officers and other specialist reporting agencies has permitted a collaborative building of expertise which has already shown impressive results. In serious cases, prosecutors work with wildlife investigators at an early stage to ensure that cases are prepared and presented to the highest standard.

WECU began operating from 15 August 2011.

END

Dunmhor Sporting LogoThis is good news, after the disappointment of the recent failure to prosecute another vicarious liability case on the Kildrummy Estate (see here). The penalty in this latest case (£3,200) is a considerable improvement on the pathetic £675 penalty given in the first successful vicarious liability case (see here), although it still falls far below what it could be and the fine itself is unlikely to act as any sort of deterrent to other would-be raptor killers. When you also consider the penalty handed to Christie’s gamekeeper for the original horrific offence (240 hours unpaid work – see here) it’s hard to get away from the sense that, although technically justice has prevailed in this case, the penalties do not reflect the seriousness of the crime. Whether the reputation of Christie’s sporting agency, Dunmhor Sporting, will suffer as a consequence of his criminal conviction remains to be seen although that would be hard to measure. Let’s hope Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod gets on with accepting the recommendations of the recent Willdife Crime Penalties Review group (see here), which include raising the penalty for this type of offence to fines of up to £40,000 and a 12 month custodial sentence. It’ll also be interesting to see whether SNH  decides to slap a General Licence Restriction Order on the Cardross Estate.

In the meantime, huge congratulations to Fiscal Kate Fleming for a successful prosecution and to all those involved with the initial investigation, especially the SSPCA.

Photo of Graham Christie from Press & Journal.

Media coverage

BBC news here

STV news here

Press & Journal here

RSPB Scotland here

21
May
15

Update on convicted gin trap gamekeeper James O’Reilly

james_oreilly gamekeeper gin trapA few updates on some of the questions we asked yesterday following the conviction of Scottish gamekeeper James O’Reilly (see here)….

1. We asked the Cardross Estate whether O’Reilly was still employed as a gamekeeper on their estate. They have issued the following statement:

CARDROSS ESTATE REFUTES WILDLIFE CRIME ALLEGATIONS

(Issued on behalf of Cardross Estate)

Cardross Estate today issued the following statement after the conviction and sentencing of a gamekeeper at Stirling Sheriff Court on offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

Sir Archie Orr-Ewing, owner of Cardross Estate, said: “The reputation of the estate has been unjustly tarnished by the publicity around these court proceedings. The estate does not have any involvement whatsoever in the sporting management of the land in question. The area of land where these offences occurred is let on a long-term lease to a third party who has full rights and responsibilities for the management of sporting activity. The gamekeeper is employed by the third party and has never been employed by the estate.

“Having co-operated fully with the authorities during their investigation and having been asked to be a prosecution witness, I am bitterly disappointed that the Crown Office did not see fit to clarify the estate’s position in its public statement following the case.

“Cardross Estate is an estate that takes its land managcment responsibilities very seriously and is a business focused on the local community and the delivery of sustainable rural enterprise. In particular, we are committed to contributing to the tourism offering of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.”

END

According to some media outlets, O’Reilly no longer works on the Cardross Estate and some claim he no longer works in the gamekeeping industry.

2. We asked the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association whether O’Reilly was a member of the SGA, and if so, has he now been booted out. They have issued the following statement, which seems to carefully avoid answering the question:

SGA RESPONSE

Responding to the sentencing of a former gamekeeper, who used an illegal gin trap to catch a buzzard, a spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This is the first we have heard about this case but, as an organisation, we are appalled. These actions have no place in modern gamekeeping and show ignorance of the legal requirements which are involved in being in the profession. They are an affront to all those who advocate high standards and take their responsibilities seriously and with care.”

END

Actually, O’Reilly’s criminal activities didn’t show ignorance of the legal requirements; according to the press statement issued by the Crown Office yesterday, O’Reilly had undertaken the snaring course (run by either GWCT or SGA) legally required for anyone wanting to set snares in Scotland. He’d passed the course so he wasn’t ignorant, he just chose to blatantly disregard the law.

We’re still interested in whether O’Reilly was an SGA member at the time he committed these offences. If you’re also interested, you too can email them again: info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk

3. We asked Scottish Land & Estates whether the Cardross Estate was a member of their organisation and if so, had it now been booted out.

They haven’t yet made a public statement, although they did respond to a private email from one of our blog readers by saying that the Cardross Estate resigned from their organisation in 2012.

4. We asked Environment Minister Dr Aileen Mcleod when the Scottish Government will publish the recently completed Wildlife Crime Penalties Review, in light of the pathetic sentence given to O’Reilly for his barbaric crimes. One of her civil servants has issued an acknowledgement email, saying someone will respond soon.

On a related note, there’s an article here with further details about why the Sheriff didn’t give O’Reilly a more fitting punishment. It includes a suggestion from O’Reilly’s defence agent that the gamekeeper was ‘under pressure from above’. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Crown Office decides to go for a vicarious liability prosecution.

20
May
15

Scottish gamekeeper convicted for using a gin trap on Cardross Estate: gets community service order

james_oreilly gamekeeper gin trapJames Alfred O’Reilly, 50, a Scottish gamekeeper working on the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire, has been convicted of four wildlife crime offences, including the use of a gin trap to catch a buzzard. His punishment? It’s the usual pathetic response: he’s been ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.

Here is the press release from the Crown Office:

At Stirling Sheriff Court today, gamekeeper James O’Reilly was given a Community Payback Order and ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work after having pled guilty to four charges under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

O’Reilly was convicted at Stirling Sheriff Court on 24 April of a number of charged including the use of an illegal trap for the purposes of taking of wild birds on the Cardross Estate in March 2013. Common buzzards, red kites, goshawks and white tailed eagles can all be found nesting in or as regular visitors to the area.

A man walking his dog on the estate, at a location known as Gartur came to an open area next to a pheasant pen where a distressed buzzard was caught in a trap by its leg next to a decomposed deer carcase.

The man released the jaws of the trap from the buzzard’s leg. When it became apparent that the buzzard was unable to fly he took the bird home and called the SSPCA. The SSPCA reported the incident to the police who continued the investigation. They found an illegal trap, which by its nature and placement by the accused was calculated to cause injury to wild birds.

They also found that the accused had set a number of snares in the area. None of which had identification tags on them as required by law.

It was clear to police that there was an issue in relation to the pest control methods employed by the accused and as a result, a search warrant for his house was obtained and executed on 4 April 2013.

In the course of the search, a snare containing decomposed fox parts was found next to a pheasant pen near to accused’s home address. It was apparent that a fox had become snared and the Accused maintains that he shot the fox after it had become trapped, and left the carcase lying. Staff at the Scottish Agricultural College confirmed that the fox caught in the snare had been there for more than 24 hours and possibly from the back end of 2012.

The buzzard was examined by a veterinary surgeon who found it had a severe injury to the right leg just above the foot. He commented that the injuries would have been extremely painful for the bird and would have taken several days to occur. Treatment was provided to the bird but its condition deteriorated and the bird was euthanized on welfare ground as it would never be suitable for release back into the wild.

Notes to Editor

  1. James Alfred O’Reilly (DOB 30/06/1964) of Stirling pleaded guilty on 24 April 2015 at Stirling Sheriff Court to four offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as below. He was sentenced to 240hrs Community Payback Order, on all charges cumulo:

gin trap* Between 22 March 2013 and 25 March 2013 at Gartur, Cardross Estate , Port of Menteith, you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did intentionally or recklessly injure and take a wild bird, namely a buzzard in that you did set a gin trap also known as a leg hold trap on open ground or other similar type of trap which was baited with a deer carcass which trapped said buzzard by the leg, injuring it whereby it had to be humanely euthanased due to its injury; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 1(1)(a);

* between 1 February 2013 and 4 April 2013 at Tamavoid, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith, you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY, whilst carrying out an inspection of a snare, did find an animal, whether alive or dead, caught by said snare and did fail to release or remove said animal namely a fox; CONTRARY to Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 11(3)(A);

* between 1 April 2013 and 4 April 2013 at Gartur, Tamavoid and The Big Wood , Cardross Estate , Port of Menteith you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did set in position a snare without having been issued an identification number by the Chief Constable under Section 11A(4) of the aftermentioned Act and did set 2 snares at a stink pit , 4 snares at a pheasant release pen and 1 snare at a stink pit, all of which did not have identification tags attached; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Sections 11A(1) and (5);

* Between 22 March 2013 and 25 March 2013 at Garfur, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did set in position a trap, namely a gin trap also known as a leg hold trap being of such a nature and so placed as to be likely to cause bodily injury to any wild birds coming into contact therewith in that said trap was set on open ground next to bait, namely a deer carcass; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 5(1)(a).

The requirement to tag snares was introduced by the 2011 Wildlife and Natural Environment Act as part of a suite of measures aimed at improving the accountability of snaring. This requirement came into force on 1st April 2013. Under the new regime, those responsible for setting snares were required to attend a training course, prior to being given an identification number. The accused O’Reilly had been issued with such a number on 23rd March 2013 by the licensing office in Pitt Street, Glasgow.

END

So, here are some questions:

1. Is O’Reilly still employed as a gamekeeper on the Cardross Estate (where they offer driven pheasant and partridge shooting)? Emails to: enquiries@cardrossestate.com

2. Is O’Reilly a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, and if so, has he now been booted out? Emails to: info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk

3. Is the Cardross Estate a member of Scottish Land & Estates, and if so, has it now been booted out? Emails to: info@scottishlandandestates.co.uk

4. When will the review of wildlife crime penalties be published by the Scottish Government (we understand it’s been submitted) and, more importantly, when will the review’s recommendations for change be implemented? Emails to: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

You can perhaps combine this last email with one asking the Minister when we can expect to see a General Licence restriction order enforced on land where a poisoned red kite, a poisoned peregrine, and an illegally trapped red kite have been found – see here.

UPDATE 21st May 2015: some responses to these questions here.

27
Sep
12

Photo: a Scottish gamekeeper’s illegal gin trap

Thanks to the contributor who sent in this photo and the following information:

Given the appalling news story about a golden eagle found with injuries from a leg-hold trap…here’s my photo of a freshly used gin trap and stake seized by the police and RSPB from a keeper in 2003. One of a bagful.

To my certain knowledge these traps, outlawed finally in Scotland in 1974 (20 years after England…seems it was ok to torture foxes legally up to that point), have been used (and are probably still being used) under a bait to trap golden eagles, wild cats and foxes..

The most likely trap to have been involved in the recent golden eagle case. Eagles are strong enough to rip one of these up and fly or hobble away…if stake isn’t well tied down. They can snap bailer twine (the usual attachment for Fenn/Springer pole traps) like it was thread”.




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