Posts Tagged ‘sparrowhawk

06
Mar
18

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.

ENDS

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

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28
Feb
18

Sparrowhawk shot dead nr Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Press release from North Yorkshire Police:

APPEAL FOR INFORMATION AFTER SPARROWHAWK FOUND SHOT NEAR KNARESBOROUGH

Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was found shot near Knaresborough.

The dead female sparrowhawk was found by a member of the public north of the village of Nidd, between Knaresborough and Ripley, with a fresh, bloodied injury, on Sunday 25 February.

The results from a subsequent x-ray showed that the bird had a smashed and broken wing. The x-ray also revealed a piece of shot lodged in the bird’s body. A police investigation is now underway.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped, and North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England. As part of a bid to tackle this, in February North Yorkshire Police teamed up with the RSPB, RSPCA, and North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks to launch ‘Operation Owl’. The joint initiative saw staff distribute flyers and posters to local businesses and talk to members of the public about raptor crime, to raise awareness of the issue.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey. It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks.”

Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, added: “Two years ago a red kite was found shot in this same area, so there is clearly a problem here. We believe there will be someone out there who has information about what is going on in this area. We urge you to come forward and call us, in complete confidence, on our Raptor Crime Hotline.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12180034821.

Alternatively email bill.hickson@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk. If you wish to remain anonymous, call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

An impressively detailed and quick press release & clear evidence of genuine partnership working. Great stuff from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce.

23
Nov
17

New report reveals widespread raptor persecution in Northern Ireland

The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI) has today published its latest report on bird of prey persecution 2015-2016.

The report reveals that there were five confirmed illegal persecution incidents reported in 2015 and a further six in 2016, involving the killing of 12 protected birds of prey in Northern Ireland (6 x buzzards, 5 x peregrines, 1 x sparrowhawk). As with every other annual raptor persecution report these figures are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The report’s lead author, Dr Eimear Rooney (Raptor Officer for the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group) commented: “This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem. It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hot-spot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread. It is heart-breaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran. The PAW NI group will continue to take action to tackle raptor persecution and it is encouraging to see all the partners proactively working together on this report.”

Hotspot map of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution, and poisoned baits & wildlife, reported in Northern Ireland from January 2009-December 2016.

Download the PAW NI report here

Read the PAW NI press release here

On the subject of illegal raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, a 13-year old boy named Dara MacAnulty is doing a 45km sponsored trek in January 2018 to help raise funds for a new raptor satellite-tagging project in Northern Ireland.

Dara is a pretty special young man, passionate about the environment, especially raptors, and he has an exceptional talent for expressing his thoughts – have a read of his blog and you’ll be constantly questioning how a thirteen year old can possibly write so well!

Dara’s fundraising project is off to a good start but he needs more support. If you’ve got a few quid to spare, please consider supporting his efforts HERE. Thanks.

25
Oct
17

Police appeal for info after sparrowhawk found shot dead in East Yorkshire

Humberside Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a dead sparrowhawk ‘with injuries consistent with being shot with a shotgun’.

It is suspected to have been killed on or around 16th October 2017 near to the quarry and Boyes Lane in Keyingham, East Yorkshire.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Humberside Police on 101, quoting ref # 175 17/10/17.

09
May
17

Sparrowhawk shot dead in North Yorkshire: police appeal for info

North Yorkshire’s shameful catalogue of raptor killing crimes just got a bit longer.

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a shot sparrowhawk at Feldom, Richmond.

The bird is believed to have been shot some time during the last week of April in the area of High Waitgate, close to the Marske to Newsham Road, just a few miles north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

An x-ray revealed this bird died from shotgun injuries, probably shot from close range.

Anyone with information please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Mark Wood (Tel: 101) quoting reference number 12170073101.

X-ray from North Yorkshire Police.

28
Apr
17

A poisoned sparrowhawk, a poisoned bait, and a Royal estate in Norfolk

A couple of months ago an article was published in the Mail on Sunday about the ‘mysterious’ death of a satellite-tagged goshawk on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk (see here).

We blogged about it (here) and mentioned a number of other raptor-related police investigations that had been undertaken on or near the estate. On the back of that blog, somebody contacted us and asked why we hadn’t included on our list ‘the confirmed illegal poisoning of a sparrowhawk a few years ago’? We hadn’t included it because we didn’t know anything about it, so we thought we’d do some digging.

First of all we did a general internet search. If there had been a confirmed raptor poisoning on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate then surely that would have made a few headlines, right? We didn’t find any record of it.

So then we started looking at the government’s database on pesticide misuse and abuse (the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, often shortened to ‘the WIIS database’). In that database we found the following entry:

Although this entry showed that a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait had been discovered in Norfolk in October 2009, as usual, no specific location was given. We were, however, intrigued by the ‘Notes’ column, that said even though a confirmed poisoning had occurred, the police were ‘not taking this forward’ and instead the CRD (Chemical Regulation Directorate, which is part of the Health & Safety Executive) had ‘sent a warning letter to the estate’.

So we thought we’d submit an FoI to the CRD to ask for a copy of that warning letter, because it might reveal the name of the estate where the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait had been found. We were also curious about the content of that warning letter – if there had been a confirmed poisoning, why was a warning letter considered to be a preferred option to a prosecution?

We’ve now received the FoI response and have been working our way through the various files.

The first file we looked at was a series of correspondence letters between the CRD and the estate. The estate’s name had been redacted throughout. Hmm. The letters are really worth reading though – there are some pretty hostile attitudes on display and there’s clearly no love lost between CRD and the estate manager! Download here: CRD correspondence with Estate_2010

There’s also a letter from a Natural England officer to the estate, asking for various documents relating to pesticide risk assessments, gamekeeper contracts, and gamekeeper training certificates: Natural England letter to Estate 19Oct2009

We gathered from the CRD/estate correspondence that no further evidence of Bendiocarb had been found during a Police/Natural England search of the estate which is presumably why Norfolk Police didn’t charge anybody for the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait, because there was no way of linking it to a named individual. Anybody could have placed the poisoned bait. But a series of alleged offences relating to pesticide storage had apparently been uncovered and it was these issues to which the CRD warning letter referred, although it’s clear from the estate’s letters to CRD that the estate disputed the alleged offences.

While that’s all very interesting, we were still in the dark about the name of the estate where all this had happened. That is, until we read another file that had been released as part of the FoI: CRD_lawyer discussion of FEPA exemption

This file contains correspondence between the CRD and a number of lawyers. They were discussing whether the estate had exemption under Section 20(5) of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA). This exemption applies to land that is owned ‘in Crown interest’. There was a great deal of discussion about whether this estate (name redacted) was owned by the Crown or was privately owned by the Queen.

The lawyers decided that this estate (name redacted) was in fact privately owned by the Queen, and therefore exemption under Section 20(5) of FEPA did not apply. The lawyers had reached this conclusion after several internet searches on the status of this estate (name redacted) had been completed. What the FoI officer failed to do was redact the search phrases that had been used to reach their decision. Those search phrases included:

Now, if you Google the exact search phrase listed under (a) above (“the private home of four generations of British Monarchs“) you are directed to this website:

And if you go to the Crown Estates website and search for the exact search phrase listed in (b) above (“according to the Crown Estates website – one of Her Majesty the Queen’s private possessions handed down from previous generations“), you find this:

It’s all very interesting, isn’t it? This isn’t conclusive evidence that it was Sandringham Estate, of course, and there is no suggestion whatsoever that anyone associated with the Sandringham Estate was involved with placing a poisoned bait, although it is clear a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait were found on a Royal estate in Norfolk (how many Royal estates are there in Norfolk?).

But what this does highlight, again, is the complete lack of transparency when the authorities investigate the discovery of highly toxic poisonous baits laid out on private estates with game-shooting interests, or the discovery of illegally killed raptors on privately owned estates with game-shooting interests.

Why has this case been kept secret since 2009?

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?




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