Posts Tagged ‘spring trap

29
Mar
17

Raeshaw Estate loses judicial review on General Licence restriction

In November 2015, the Scottish Government’s statutory conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, imposed a General Licence restriction order on a number of estates where it was believed raptor persecution had taken place but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any individual (see here).

These restrictions were the first to be imposed since this new enforcement measure became available on 1 January 2014.

Two of the four estates were in Stirlingshire (the grouse shooting Burnfoot Estate and neighbouring Wester Cringate Estate, where several poisoned raptors and an illegally-set trap had been found) and two were in the Scottish Borders (the grouse shooting Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Farm, where illegally-set traps had been placed).

The General Licence restriction on all four estates was to run from 13 November 2015 to 12 November 2018, which meant that certain types of ‘pest’ control were prohibited unless the Estates applied for a specific individual licence that would be subject to tighter controls.

Raeshaw Estate (and neighbouring Corsehope Farm, where ‘pest’ control is undertaken by Raeshaw gamekeepers) made a legal challenge against SNH’s decision and in February 2016 they petitioned for a judicial review.

A judicial review challenges a decision made by a public body (in this case SNH) and examines whether the right procedures have been followed (i.e. with procedural fairness, within the legal powers of the public body, and with rationality).

The judicial review was heard in January 2017 and we have been awaiting the court’s judgement. It was published yesterday and can be read here: Raeshaw judicial review decision

We don’t intend to discuss the details of the court’s judgement – you can read those for yourselves (but do pay attention to the bit about the homemade trap, identical to the illegally-set homemade trap placed out on the hill, found in the possession of one of the gamekeepers – it’s quite interesting), but in summary, the court decided that SNH had acted fairly and with due regard to the stated rationale for imposing a General Licence restriction as laid out in SNH’s framework for implementing restrictions. As we understand it, there is a right to appeal to a higher court so we’ll have to wait and see whether Raeshaw Estate decides to take this option.

For now, this judgement is very, very good news. We, and others, have been highly critical of SNH’s handling of the General Licence restrictions, particularly when they subsequently issued individual licences to Raeshaw and Corsehope which effectively circumvented the supposed sanction of the General Licence restriction (see here, herehere, here). Yesterday’s court judgement does not alter our view on that and we will continue to challenge SNH about the so-called ‘tighter controls’ on these individual licences.

However, what yesterday’s court judgement does (or should) do, is open the floodgates for further General Licence restrictions to be imposed on other estates where there is evidence of raptor persecution. We know that SNH has a backlog of cases, dating back to 2014, and they’ve been sitting on those, justifiably, while the judicial review process has been underway. Now that the Court of Session has validated SNH’s procedures for imposing General Licence restrictions, we hope they will get on with handing out some more.

UPDATE 11.30am: SNH press statement here

UPDATE 30 March 2017: Judgement on Corsehope Farm: Corsehope judicial review decision

20
Mar
17

RSPB offers £1,000 reward for info on two shot buzzards in North Yorkshire

A week ago we blogged about the discovery of two dead buzzards found in North Yorkshire (see here).

One had been found shot near East Lutton and the other one had been found shot near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park.

The Northern Echo has now run with an article about these shootings (here) and the RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for any information which leads to a successful conviction.

Conversely, the Yorkshire Post has published an article about the ‘value’ of gamekeepers in North Yorkshire (see here). One of the gamekeepers, Michael Wearmouth from the Rosedale and Westerdale Estate, is quoted: “Mr Packham and others who don’t understand shooting at all are trying to make everybody hate us“.

Nope, sorry Michael, it’s not Chris Packham et al at whom who you need to be pointing the finger, it’s the criminals from within your own industry who are causing public outrage by continuing to kill birds of prey, over 60 years since it became an offence. Just last year an horrifically injured buzzard was discovered on a Westerdale grouse moor and it wasn’t an isolated crime. North Yorkshire continues to hold the record for the highest number of reported raptor crimes in the UK.

17
Mar
17

Update on illegally-set traps on Glendye grouse moor

Two months ago we blogged about a series of illegally-set traps that had been photographed on the grouse moor of Glendye Estate in Aberdeenshire (see here).

We, and many of you (thank you) passed on the information to the local Police Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer, PC Doug Darling in the hope that an investigation might take place. We contacted him again a few days ago and asked if he was able to provide an update on this case.

He told us that an enquiry had been carried out in the area the day after the incident had been reported to the police, but no illegally-set traps had been found.

The person who had taken the photographs and published them on a blog was then contacted by the police, to learn as much as possible about the incident (how the traps were set, whether any baits had been seen etc).

The police then visited the Estate Factor and the gamekeeper, who were in possession of the traps as they had been informed of the incident by the original witness. PC Darling told us: “They took it upon themselves to remove the traps in case something were to become caught and denied knowing whose traps they were and how they came to be found on the estate set in an illegal manor [sic]”.

That’s interesting. What would you do if you were working in the land management sector and a member of the public told you they’d found illegally-set traps on your land? Wouldn’t you leave the evidence in place and immediately notify the police?

Anyway, PC Darling went on: “Given we have no physical evidence it would not be possible to report the incident to the Procurator Fiscal however Scottish Natural Heritage are aware of the incident and we will be discussing any other measures we could pursue given the circumstances“.

Presumably ‘any other measures’ would include SNH putting a General Licence restriction order on this Estate, because according to SNH guidelines, evidence which may be considered by SNH in any decision to impose a General Licence restriction includes:

Illegal placement, design or use of traps or methods that are not in compliance with the requirements of the General Licence‘.

We’ll see if that happens because of course much still depends on the findings of the judicial review, which examined the process SNH used to impose a General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate back in 2015. The court’s decision has not yet been announced, at least not in public.

This case highlights something we discussed yesterday when blogging about the pine marten that had been caught in a spring trap on another grouse shooting estate in Scotland (see here). If every trap had to carry a unique police-issued number identifying the registered trap-user, then this investigation might have ended with a better result. As happens over and over again, whoever set these traps has escaped being held to account for their criminal activities.

PC Darling deserves full credit here. Not only did he launch an investigation the day after being alerted to these traps, he then followed up with the witness and paid a visit to those responsible for managing the land, and he was also very quick and willing to explain what had happened when asked about this case. What a breath of fresh air. His actions will inspire confidence for anyone else thinking about reporting a suspected wildlife crime in this region, rather than the brick wall we’ve become accustomed to expect from Police Scotland. Let’s hope his senior officers take note and applaud his efforts as much as we do.

08
Mar
17

Convicted shooting agent no longer listed on tourism website

Some of you may remember back in December 2016 and January 2017 we were blogging about an organisation called the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG).

The SCSTG had been awarded funding from Scotland’s national tourism agency, VisitScotland, to help develop an initiative called ‘Game for Growth’, aimed at boosting the value of shooting, stalking and fishing to the Scottish rural economy.

This raised eyebrows, and even a parliamentary question, when we pointed out that a convicted wildlife criminal’s business (Dunmhor Sporting) was being promoted on the SCSTG website and yet this Game for Growth initiative had been launched at a parliamentary reception at Holyrood (see here, here, here).

Photo from parliamentary reception, December 2016. 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.

We also noted that two sporting estates (Invercauld Estate & Glendye grouse moor) were being promoted on this website (here), despite the recent discovery of illegally-set traps on both landholdings, although nobody has been charged in relation to the Invercauld incident (here) and we understand the Glen Dye incident is still under police investigation. (Well done to the local police wildlife crime officer, by the way, who reacted quickly when he was alerted to the traps at Glen Dye and has been fast to respond to subsequent correspondence on this matter).

Some of our readers, and us, contacted Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs, and Malcolm Roughead, Chief Exec of VisitScotland, to ask whether they were aware that tax payers’ money (via VisitScotland) was being used to promote the business of a convicted wildlife criminal and whether they thought this was an appropriate use of public funds.

So far, the responses from both have been unsatisfactory (e.g. see here) and further correspondence via a number of local MSPs is currently being undertaken.

However, after a quick look at the SCSTG website this morning, it would appear that Dunmhor Sporting is no longer listed. Whether the Minister and/or VisitScotland has had this listing removed, or whether Dunmhor Sporting has removed itself, remains to be seen.

However, Invercauld Estate and Glen Dye are both still listed.

We’ll be returning to this when we find out whether SNH intends to invoke General Licence restrictions on either of these two estates, assuming GL restrictions are still possible after the findings of the recent judicial review are made public – any day now.

19
Jan
17

Public funds being used to promote Glendye grouse moor

Yesterday we blogged about the illegally-set traps that had been photographed on a grouse moor at Glendye Estate in Aberdeenshire (here). We await the result of a police investigation to determine who was responsible for setting those traps (but we’re not holding our breath).

Meanwhile, as taxpayers, you’ll all be thrilled to learn that your money is being used to promote grouse shooting on Glendye Estate. This estate is listed on the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s website, which is part-funded with a grant from VisitScotland.

We already knew that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group is promoting a sporting agent with a criminal conviction for raptor persecution (see here), so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to find them also promoting a grouse moor where illegally-set traps have been discovered. In fact the SCSTG was already doing this because Invercauld Estate is also being promoted as a ‘sporting provider’ on the SCSTG website – you’ll recall that illegally-set traps were discovered on an Invercauld Estate grouse moor last summer and this resulted in what we believe to be a ‘cover-up’ by the authorities (see here).

Why is public funding being used to promote a ‘sport’ that is mired in illegal activity? It’s bad enough that public funds are being used to promote such an environmentally damaging ‘sport’ but to promote estates where criminal activities have been uncovered is scandalous. Why is the Scottish Government still turning a blind eye to what’s going on on some of these estates, despite incident after incident after incident after incident after incident after incident being uncovered? Scottish Ministers are being made to look like fools.

18
Jan
17

Illegally set traps on Glendye Estate grouse moor, Aberdeenshire

Have a look at this blog. You’ll see a series of photographs, taken yesterday (17 January 2017) on a grouse moor at Glendye, just beyond the famous Clachnaben hill, which is part of the Fasque & Glendye Estate according to Andy Wightman’s always useful website Who Owns Scotland. This area looks like it’s the area covered by the Glendye Grouse Syndicate who apparently took on a 20-year lease of this moor in 1997.

We’re not allowed to reproduce the photographs here so you’ll have to click the link if you want to see them. And you really should see them.

Three of these photographs depict illegally-set traps. They are all ‘bridge traps’ – comprising a Fenn spring trap fixed to a log across a burn or gully and designed to catch so-called ‘vermin’ such as stoats or weasels. This type of trap is legal if the trap is covered either in a natural or artificial tunnel, but the three traps photographed yesterday are definitely illegal.

One is covered with wire mesh but the entry and exit holes are wide open. This is illegal. These entry/exit holes are supposed to be partially closed to minimise the risk of catching non-target species. This trap in the photograph could easily catch a non-target species, including protected Scottish wildcats, otters and pine martens.

The other two spring traps are totally uncovered except for a single wire loop above each trap. A wire loop is not going to protect any species from standing on these traps and thus both traps are illegal. These two traps are effectively pole traps – if a bird or mammal stands on the trap, the trap will fall from the log, with the animal attached (probably by the leg), and the animal will dangle, suspended below the log, until it dies a slow, miserable death.

We don’t know whether the photographer has reported these crimes to the local police. We would hope he has – he understands that the traps are illegally-set (the safety catch is not on – we’ve looked) so we’d expect him to have provided grid references and photographs to the local Police Wildlife Crime Officer. In case he hasn’t reported them, we’ll do it for him, although by now the individual who set these traps has probably been alerted and is probably out on the moor removing all the evidence as we speak.

The local Police Wildlife Crime Officer is Doug Darling. Here’s his email address: douglas.darling@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Ask him for a crime reference number so we can follow up what action he has taken to identify the individual(s) responsible. This is important because after his investigation, we expect him to alert SNH to these illegal traps. Why? Well, because these illegal traps should result in the withdrawal of the General Licence on this grouse moor. According to SNH guidelines, evidence which may be considered by SNH in any decision to impose a General Licence restriction includes:

Illegal placement, design or use of traps or methods that are not in compliance with the requirements of the General Licence‘.

However, the evidence must be provided by the Police. So, just in case the Police ‘forget’ to tell SNH, we’ll notify SNH as well so they can’t then argue they haven’t been informed. Emails should be sent to Nick Halfhide, Director of Operations: nick.halfhide@snh.gov.uk 

To be fair to SNH, they are probably awaiting the findings of the Raeshaw Estate judicial review before they impose any more General Licence restrictions. That’s fine, they can just add this case to the others they’re currently sitting on and hopefully they’ll be in a position to take action in due course.

And, if you’re in the mood for writing emails, you might also want to alert the Environment Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, to these illegally-set traps. The information will be very helpful as she ponders the issue of introducing state-regulated licensing. These photographs confirm that law-breaking continues, despite the grouse shooting industry’s fervent claims to the contrary. Emails to: scottish.ministers@gov.scot and mark it FAO Roseanna Cunningham.

We wonder what the grouse shooting industry’s Gift of Grouse project has to say about these illegal traps? We wonder if Glendye is part of the Grampian Moorland Group, which in turn is part of the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign? That’d be interesting…..

UPDATE 17 March 2017: Update on illegally-set traps on Glendye grouse moor (here)

10
Jan
17

Withheld raptor crime data: some info for DCS Scott of Police Scotland

This morning the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee heard evidence on the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report.

The archived video can be viewed here.

The official transcript can be read here: ecclr-transcript-wildlife-crime-10-jan-2017

The session was dynamite and there are many things to discuss – we’ll be blogging a lot more about this in the coming days but we wanted to start with the issue of withheld raptor crime data.

As some of you may remember, we criticised the Government’s annual wildlife crime report when it was published in November, precisely because we knew that several confirmed raptor crimes had not been included in the data presented to the Government by Police Scotland (see here). At the time, we didn’t elaborate on which specific crimes had been withheld from the report but we argued that the withholding of data completely undermined the public’s confidence in the report’s findings.

We were delighted to see this issue raised at this morning’s evidence session by Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens), and with devastating aplomb.

In the video link above, the discussion starts at 1:06:31.

Mark asked the Police Scotland representatives (ACC Steve Johnson and DCS Sean Scott) why some raptor crimes that had been recorded by RSPB Scotland had been excluded from the Government’s report. DCS Scott looked blank, and then mumbled something about perhaps the crimes weren’t actually crimes at all so they wouldn’t have been recorded. Mark pressed on and gave DCS Scott specific details about the crimes in question and even showed him a photograph of one of the illegally set traps involved, to check that it was indeed an illegally-set trap and thus a confirmed crime. DCS Scott maintained he didn’t know about these specific crimes, even when Mark gave him more detailed information about the location. This went on for some time and it was excellent to see Mark’s persistence and his unwillingness to be fobbed off. Eventually, DCS Scott committed to finding out about these specific crimes and gave assurance that he would later write to the ECCLR Committee to explain why these data had been withheld from the Government’s report.

To help DCS Scott, here’s some background about these specific crimes:

If you look at Table 19 in the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report, there is a list of raptor persecution crimes and the data are attributed to Police Scotland. Listed under Lothian & Borders, Police Scotland recorded the following incidents between April 2014-March 2015:

Peregrine shooting (Sept 2014)

Attempted trapping (species not identified) (Sept 2014)

Buzzard shooting (October 2014)

Tawny owl shooting (Dec 2014)

Now, compare the Police Scotland data with the data published in Table 4 in the RSPB’s annual report – ‘The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland, 1994-2014, A Review‘. In that report, listed under Scottish Borders, the RSPB has recorded the following additional confirmed crimes for the same time period, that were excluded from the Police Scotland data in the Government’s annual report:

Crow trap baited with 2 live pigeons, surrounded by 4 set spring traps, nr Heriot (May 2014) – there is even a photograph of this illegally-set trap on page 16)

and

4 x shot buzzards, nr Heriot (May 2014).

pigeon-in-trap-heriot-2014

rspb-table-4

It was later revealed during the second part of the ECCLR Committee evidence session this morning, in evidence given by Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) that the above offences were uncovered during a Police Scotland-led multi-agency raid on this estate ‘nr Heriot’, so it is somewhat surprising that DCS Scott claimed to have no knowledge about them.

In due course we look forward to reading DCS Scott’s written explanation about why these data were withheld from the Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report.

In the meantime, kudos and thanks to Mark Ruskell MSP, who was one of several MSPs who performed exceptionally well at this morning’s evidence session. More on that in later blogs…..




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