Posts Tagged ‘poisoning


Peregrine confirmed poisoned in North Wales

From North Wales Police Rural Crime Team:


Police warning as dog dies from banned pesticide at Muir of Ord, Ross-shire

From North Star News, 16 March 2018:


THE death of a dog has prompted a police probe and sparked a warning to members of the public to avoid walking in an area of Muir of Ord.

Police said this afternoon that acting on information received following the death of a local dog, searches were carried out in the vicinity of Faebait Farm near Muir of Ord yesterday.

A statement released today said: “Following consultation with the Scottish Government Rural Payments Directorate, Police Scotland is requesting that dog walkers and members of the public do not enter the fields in the area of Faebait Farm or the immediate vicinity until further notice.”

Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “This is a precautionary request until the investigation is complete.

Traces of a banned pesticide has been detected in the area and we do not wish a member of the public, another dog or any other animal to become unwell where it can be avoided.

I can confirm that the dog that died belonged to the owners of Faebait Farm.

They are co-operating fully with the investigation and support this request to other members of the public and dog owners.

Police have asked that anybody who has information about banned pesticide possession or misuse should contact Police Scotland immediately on 101 or pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


So far, the police have not revealed the name of the banned pesticide(s) involved. It has to be one of eight active ingredients banned by the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005:

Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium Phosphide, Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium Cynaide, Strychnine.

Four years ago, almost to the day, 22 birds of prey (16 red kites and 6 buzzards) were found dead in a small area of Ross-shire close to Conon Bridge. Toxicology tests revealed poisoning by the banned pesticides Aldicarb, Carbofuran and Carbosulfan. The case became known as the Ross-shire Massacre, for which nobody was ever prosecuted.

The Muir of Ord lies 3.5 miles to the south of Conon Bridge.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stody Estate photo by RPUK

The following article has been published in the EDP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Compare & contrast: two cases of the illegal storage of poisons

Well this is fascinating.

In December 2017, a pest control company and one of its directors was sentenced for the illegal storage of poisons, following an HSE investigation in to the alleged secondary poisoning of a tawny owl (by rodenticide).

During the investigation, a number of poisons not authorised for use were found improperly stored at the premises. In addition, part used canisters of Phostoxin (a compound that reacts with moisture in the atmosphere or the soil to produce phosphine, a poisonous gas, used to control rabbits within their burrows) were found stored inside a filing cabinet within the workplace.

Rodent Service (East Anglia) Limited of Cooke Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000. The company was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £170.

Donald Eric Martin, Director of Rodent Service (East Anglia) Limited also pleaded guilty of an offence of neglect by virtue of S37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to a six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £1000 and a victim surcharge of £115.00.

Details of this case can be found on the HSE website here (thanks to one of our blog readers, Mick, for drawing this to our attention).

Now, compare the outcome of this case with that of the recent case involving the discovery of an illegal poisons cache found buried in a hole in woodland on Hurst Moor, a grouse moor on the East Arkengarth Estate in North Yorkshire.

In the East Arkengarth Estate case, the RSPB had discovered a number of poisons, including Cymag (another fumigant with similar properties to Phostoxin), Bendiocarb and Alphachloralose and had identified a gamekeeper who was filmed visiting the cache. However, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute due to ‘procedural concerns’ but North Yorkshire Police, quite reasonably, considered the gamekeeper unfit to be in charge of firearms and removed his firearms certificates.

The gamekeeper appealed this decision (with the help of the BASC Chairman as his defence lawyer!) and the court held that although it was accepted he had stored dangerous poisons at an unauthorised location, removing his firearms certificates was deemed ‘disproportionate’ and they were duly reinstated.

Although there are differences between these two cases, there is one very clear parallel. Both cases involved professional pesticide users who should have completed COSHH risk assessments and training and thus known there are very strict rules and regulations about the storage and use of these inherently dangerous chemicals.

In one case, not connected with the grouse shooting industry, the company (and its Director) was absolutely thrashed by the court for such serious offences.

In the other case, directly linked to the grouse shooting industry, there was no prosecution, the gamekeeper was considered fit to be entrusted with a firearm, and there was no subsidy withdrawal for the estate as the poisons cache was found in a small plantation, not on agricultural land (see here).

In other words, there were no penalties or consequences whatsoever for the East Arkengarthdale Estate and its employee.

Amazing, eh?


South Scotland golden eagle project gets final go-ahead

The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project, which proposes to translocate eaglets from the Highlands to southern Scotland in an effort to boost the tiny remnant population in the Borders & Dumfries & Galloway, has finally been given the funds and licence to begin.

Earlier this year the project was awarded £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (see here) and has now received match funding of £158,024 from local LEADER programmes. SNH has also now granted the licence required to move the eagles, fit them with satellite tags and release them in the Moffat Hills.

[Photo of a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, by Ruth Tingay]

This additional funding has triggered the recruitment of four new project staff – an eagle officer, two community engagement officers, and one stakeholder engagement officer. Details of these positions and how to apply can be found on the Project website here (scroll to the bottom of the homepage). Closing date is 12 January 2018.

As an aside, can we just congratulate the Project team on their website – full of information & official reports, keeping the public informed about the proposed Project. Take note, Natural England!

A press release (unfortunately with far too many naff metaphors) from the Project has been picked up by various media outlets (e.g. BBC News here, Scotsman here) although the Guardian has taken a different angle and focuses on the threat these birds might face if they fly south of the border in to northern England (here).

We’ve blogged about this Project before (see here, here) and have mixed feelings. Unsurprisingly our biggest concern is the on-going threat of illegal persecution, both north and south of the border. To date, nobody has EVER been successfully prosecuted for the illegal killing of golden eagles, despite plenty of opportunities (e.g. see here and here).

Dr Cat Barlow, the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project Manager, has been questioned about the threat of illegal persecution at several conferences where she has delivered an otherwise strong presentation about the Project. On each occasion she has acknowledged the threat and has recognised that not all estates in southern Scotland are supportive of this translocation. She recently told a conference in Edinburgh that she “will be talking to the estates not yet on board“.

It’s going to take more than a chat to stop these deranged raptor killers in their tracks.

[Photo of an adult golden eagle found shot & critically injured on a grouse moor in south Scotland in 2012. He didn’t make it]


Grouse shooting industry response to police appeals re: missing hen harriers

Earlier this week North Yorkshire Police put out a public appeal for information regarding satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘John’, missing in suspicious circumstances and whose last known location was Threshfield Moor, a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

We also saw a public appeal for information from Northumbria Police and the RSPB regarding satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Manu’, also missing in suspicious circumstances and whose last known location was Blenkinsopp Common in the North Pennines.

We’ve just looked at the News sections of several organisations websites, all of whom are partners in the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG: whose remit includes ‘providing publicity about raptor persecution to build trust and transparency’). Here’s what we found:

Moorland Association – NOTHING

National Gamekeepers Organisation – NOTHING

Countryside Alliance – NOTHING

British Association for Shooting & Conservation – NOTHING

No statements, no urging their members to come forward with any information they might have, no appeals to the public, not even a cut & paste job of the police appeals for information. Absolutely nothing.

It’s the same deafening silence we heard in August when North Yorkshire Police appealed for information about the attempted shooting of nesting marsh harriers and the theft of their eggs on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB, and the same deafening silence that followed the news of a poisons cache buried on another North Yorkshire grouse moor (see here).

Their silence tells us all we need to know.


Scottish Government announces Grouse moor management review group

Back in May 2017, Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced an intention to set up an independently-led group to review grouse moor management practices, and to advise on the introduction of an estate shoot licensing scheme. This was mainly in response to the publication of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which found that almost one third of sat-tagged golden eagles had disappeared in highly suspicious circsumstances on intensively managed driven-grouse moors. But make no mistake, this was also in response to increased public pressure from the SRSG’s petition calling for game shoot licensing and also in response to increasing public anger about the continuing illegal persecution of birds of prey on driven grouse moors.

[Photo: Conservationist Roy Dennis with dead golden eagle ‘Alma’ – one of Roy’s first satellite-tagged eagles that was found illegally poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor]

Finally, almost six months after that first announcement, the Scottish Government has just released the news about who will serve on this review group.

Here’s the Scottish Government press statement:

New group to focus on sustainability of driven-grouse moors.

Membership of an independent group to ensure grouse moor management practices are sustainable and legally compliant has been confirmed.

The new group will be led by Professor Alan Werrity, who previously chaired a Scottish Natural Heritage review into sustainable moorland management. It includes scientists, moorland managers, regulatory experts and advisers from SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

The group has been set up in response to SNH research that found almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances and that the majority of cases were where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

The group will look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

We have been clear that the continued killing of protected species of birds of prey damages the reputation of law-abiding gamekeepers, landowners and the country as a whole.

This new group will look at what we can do to balance our commitment to tackling wildlife crime with grouse moor management practices, so it continues to contribute to our rural economy, while being sustainable and compliant with the law.

The group membership reflects the complex nature and wide range of issues that need to be considered and I look forward to hearing their advice in due course.”

Professor Werrity said:

This is truly challenging work given the traditions underlying moorland management and the concerns coming to light over some mal-practices.

My earlier work chairing the SNH Moorland review also sought to reconcile nature conservation interests with promoting the rural economy. I will be taking an evidence-based approach, and for this we have the right mixture of experience, expertise and knowledge on the group to get to grips with the subject. I look forward to getting started on this review. ”


Read the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review

The confirmed membership of the group includes Professor Alan Werrity FRSE, Professor Ian Newton OBE, FRS, FRSE, Professor Alison Hester FSB, (Professor Colin Reid FRSA – see update below) and moorland managers Alexander Jameson BLE MRICS FAAV and Mark Oddy MRICS CEnV MIAagrM.

[Update 28 Nov 2017: Law professor joins grouse moor management review group, here ]

Dr Calum Macdonald (SEPA), Professor Des Thompson (SNH), Dr Adam Smith (GWCT Scotland) and Susan Davies (SWT) will be specialist advisers to the group.


Here is the response from RSPB Scotland to today’s announcement:

RSPB Scotland welcomes announcement of grouse moor enquiry

RSPB Scotland has welcomed today’s announcement by the Scottish Government on the grouse moor enquiry panel. Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland said: “We very much welcome the announcement of this enquiry and of the independent panel. We look forward to giving evidence to the panel in due course.

The remit of the panel includes consideration as to how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law. There are significant public concerns about how grouse moors are currently being managed in Scotland, including clear evidence gathered over decades of the illegal killing of birds of prey.

In recent years these concerns have broadened to encompass wider grouse moor management practices, as commercialisation has taken place, with an emphasis on producing very large and unsustainable grouse numbers for sport shooting. These practices include muirburn on peatland habitats which are important as carbon stores for combating climate change, the culling of mountain hares and the medication of ‘wild’ red grouse, both designed to prevent grouse diseases and artificially boost grouse bags.

We support the introduction of an effective licensing system for driven grouse shooting, with sanctions including the removal of such licences where illegal practices are confirmed. A licensing system could be supported by a statutory Code of Practice setting out clear management standards to protect public interests and prevent bad management practices. These kind of licensing systems are common place in other European countries and equally support legitimate and well run shooting enterprises.”


[Photo: the typical landscape of an intensively-managed driven grouse moor in Scotland. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here is the response from the Scottish Raptor Study Group to today’s announcement:

Scottish Raptor Study Group warmly welcomes today’s announcement by the Scottish Government on the grouse moor enquiry panel.

Patrick Stirling Aird, Secretary of the Scottish Raptor Study Group said, “We are delighted that the membership of the panel has been announced and look forward to providing evidence when called upon to do so“.

The public have increasing concerns around the way in which grouse moors are being operated with a substantial body of science proving beyond all doubt the widespread and illegal persecution of birds of prey on many such moors.

We support the introduction of licensing for driven grouse shooting with enforceable sanctions where illegal practices are confirmed. Such a licensing scheme could incorporate a statutory code of practice which helps to protect the public interest and to prevent bad management practices. This concept is widespread in Europe and elsewhere and works well with legitimate shooting interests.


Here are our first thoughts.

Hallelujah! The panel has finally been announced and presumably its work will now get underway, although notice there is no mention of timescales in the Scottish Government’s statement. That’s not too much of a concern right now – as Roseanna mentions, this work will be complex and it’s in everyone’s interests that it is done thoroughly, so we probably shouldn’t expect any output until at least 2019.

This panel has some serious intellectual heavy weights (Chair, Professor Werrity, and panel members Professors Newton and Hester). All three are at the top of their respective fields and have been for years; their academic achievements and scientific authority are undisputed. We are delighted to see these three involved, especially given Professor Werrity’s intention for having an “evidence-based approach” to the review. Excellent.

The other two panel members (Mr Jameson and Mr Oddy) are a bit of a surprise, to be honest. We didn’t expect to see anybody with such obvious vested interests be part of what had been described as an independently-led review group. Nevertheless, there is probably good reason for having them on board, not least to get buy-in to the review from the game-shooting sector. We know very little about Mr Jameson and only a little bit about Mr Oddy – he’s the chap who, when working for Buccleuch Estates on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, suggested that lethal control of buzzards should be a considered option…..but his suggestion was based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, in fact it was the exact opposite of what the science was showing. Hmm.

All in all, just like RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Raptor Study Group, we very much welcome today’s announcement. It is the next step on the road to what many see as the inevitable introduction of an estate licensing scheme in Scotland. We look forward to giving evidence, if invited to do so.

UPDATE 28 November 2017: Law professor joins grouse moor management review group (here)

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