News Hen Harrier shooting enquiry to go no further


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The news that no further action will be taken in the case of the killing of two Hen Harriers on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk last month has been greeted with disappointment by the RSPB. Commenting on the official statement released by the Crown Prosecution Service, the RSPB's Conservation Director, Dr Mark Avery, said: "We regard the killing of Hen Harriers as one of the most serious of wildlife crime offences. We would always hope that people killing Hen Harriers are brought to justice."

Hen Harrier (Photo: Sean Gray)

Dr Avery continued "We believe the illegal killing of Hen Harriers is the reason for this bird's low UK population, especially in England where only 20 pairs remain. Despite a thorough and swift investigation by the Norfolk Constabulary, the RSPB is disappointed there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the investigation. However, we don't want the death of these two harriers to be completely in vain. At a time when the one-year-old National Wildlife Crime Unit faces a funding crisis and police forces are abolishing dedicated wildlife crime investigation posts, we would like assurances that wildlife crime offences will be fully investigated. Operation Artemis - the police operation to protect the Hen Harrier - needs to be properly resourced, tasked and supported by police and Natural England."

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "The bodies of the Hen Harriers have not been found and there is no forensic or ballistic evidence." CPS lawyer Andrew Baxter was quoted as saying "I am satisfied the police investigation has been thorough and there are no other areas of investigation which can be pursued."

Police had originally identified three suspects: Prince Harry, William van Cutsem and David Clarke, a gamekeeper.

Subscribers can read the original BirdGuides article here.

Hen Harrier (Photo: David Palmar)

You can help the police to stop wildlife crime. Please see the National Wildlife Crime Unit's website.

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Hen Harrier Hen Harrier

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hide section Reader comments (59)

Now there's a surprise... not!
   Puffin, 06/11/07 19:46Report inappropriate post Report 
Huge surprise, convenient, the police want to take leaf out of the Americans book, make an example of these people and send a message to these spineless criminals. Who ever did this is not big enough to own up, its just a shame there is no justice in this country.
   Sebastian C Baverstock, 06/11/07 21:24Report inappropriate post Report 
Agree with Puffin... a fine example these people set the Nation... and one supposedly is an Officer and a gentleman to boot. One wonders what happens on other Royal Estates. It is a Bl**dy BIG green light to all raptor "lovers" everwhere... Had one of these people been shot am sure the Police would have found the culprit. I think this is something for the anti-hunt lobby to get their teeth into now. People i know who shoot are already worried their sport is next. Well if some people continue to carry on like this it may very well be in the Govt's sights (pardon pun!)
   S Prowse, 06/11/07 21:52Report inappropriate post Report 
Well if the idiots with guns can't identify the correct species to shoot they shouldn't be allowed to have their little pop gun toys should they. It's a bloody farce. Still no reply from the Sandringham Estate to my e-mail...
   Ralph Darvill, 06/11/07 22:58Report inappropriate post Report 
I spend my own hard earned money to support an illegal hunting campaign in Malta only to find that the rest of my hard earned cash is being used to fund some righteous hooray henry and his cohorts. Maybe the government should have let him go to war then his aim would really have been tested. If they are not willing to come forward and point the finger then the CPS (A public servant not Royal servant) should bring a case of obstructing justice against all the suspects. This government faces...more more
   Andrew Huyton, 06/11/07 23:38Report inappropriate post Report 
To judge from the mealy-mouthed response I had from the RSPB the other day when I queried what their response was going to be to this incident, I don't think any of us should hold our breath that they will do anything but continue to put out pious platitudes and much wringing of hands. I am certainly considering cancelling my subscription , after a lifetimes membership. The only point of supporting an organisation that makes a lot of its Royal patronage is if that patronage is seen as being of benefit for wildlife. This case, and the previous incident at Sandringham, just point out the hypocrisy of the whole situation.
   Ken Chapman, 07/11/07 00:47Report inappropriate post Report 
Maybe the RSPB should be renamed to the SPB getting rid of the royal part. Why should the society be attached with the Royals when majestic birds such as Hen Harriers are killed on their land and by their people? It's seems hypocrytical.
   Matthew, 07/11/07 08:58Report inappropriate post Report 
Here here. I used to be a member of the rspb or spb, but when I found out the chief exec was easily clearing 50k year, I changed my mind, the rspb say and don't do. They could not even protect a pair of bee eaters nesting at Hereford recently so we should not expect them to try and get justice for hen harriers because they may have to do some work and spend some membership money. Local birding societies and bto is the way forward and we the birding population must be the eyes and ears for the safety of our countryside. So always carry your cam corders and we may be able to make a difference as the rspb it would seem are not on our side.
   Sebastian C Baverstock, 07/11/07 09:27Report inappropriate post Report 
As a keen birder and game shot myself, I would just like to say that people who shoot raptors are not representative of most people who shoot.There are of course some who partake in illigal shooting of endangered species and they should quite rightly be punished. I have met many game keepers who are very keen birders and naturalists and often do their best to encourage wildlife on their land. We should not forget how important game shooting is for farmland birds, particularly since we stand to loose large areas of set-aside land. Walk through a winter covercrop and you almost certainly see considerable numbers of threatened farmland birds like yellowhammers and skylarks feeding on the significant amount of seed available. I admit that very intensive shooting can indeed have a negative effect on woodland flora and fauna, but shooting undertaken on a sensible scale seems to have few cons and many pros.
   John N S, 07/11/07 10:00Report inappropriate post Report 
John I dont know if you have read thread of comments on the Harrier story when it first broke. No one has posted an anti shooting comment and the issue is one of illegal wildlife crime, hypocrisy and apparent cover up. How can all those people the keepers, Royals and security staff not know who did this. The Queen and the Sandringham Estate should quite publicly put their house in order. We after all pay for these people through our taxes. Am sure we all know a good shoot and keeper or two...more more
   S Prowse, 07/11/07 10:32Report inappropriate post Report 
Sebastian, a few responses to your post: £50K does not seem an extravagant salary for the Chief Executive of a large organisation, and to offer less would be unlikely to attract suitable candidates (would YOU take a reduced salary to work for a charity?). Secondly I don't see how the RSPB are expected to prevent a nest being predated by foxes (the Bee-eater nest you refer to) and anyway in cold financial terms, spending large sums on the protection of a single pair of breeding birds well...more more
   Dave Dunford, 07/11/07 11:00Report inappropriate post Report 
Fair point S Prowse, I agree with your comments in general although you cannot disagree that the story is ideal ammunnition for the anti shooting brigade. It is surprising how many people are completley ignorant of the benefits of game shooting. Getting back to the point about the H harriers, I agree with you that this should never have happened on a Royal Estate, they are supposed to be role models after all (having said that there is no proof that they were even shot without any bodies)....more more
   John N S, 07/11/07 11:09Report inappropriate post Report 
No surprise that the wealthy and powerful get away with this kind of criminal behaviour yet again. It is time that shooting estates were licensed (like so many other professional activities); then licenses could be withdrawn from those engaging in, or allowing, criminal activity on their estates.
   Duncan Fraser, 07/11/07 14:47Report inappropriate post Report 
Suggest you phone the estate office at Sandringham & speak to the Estate Manager - Mr O'Loan, i have , & the party line is '' how do you know it actually ever happened'' !! At least i had the satisfaction of letting him know exactly what i thought of the whole shabby episode. The whole thing stinks
   chris hancock, 07/11/07 15:16Report inappropriate post Report 
I received an e-mail reply to my protest to the Sandringham Estate last week, I presume it is the "pat" press report response...I am not surprised at this outcome, merely dismayed. No bodies, no witnesses... "RESPONSE TO HEN HARRIER SHOOTING ALLEGATION Sandringham Estate welcomes the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to take any further action over the alleged shooting of two hen harriers on the Estate on October the 24th, 2007. Following an enquiry carried out by Norfolk Police, it has been confirmed that there is no evidence to prove that these birds were in fact shot down. In addition, it has been established by the CPS that there was no illegal activity in relation to the use of lead shot on the Estate during this period. The Sandringham Estate is content that the police investigation has been thorough and that today’s conclusion draws this issue to a close. Ends."
   Ralph Darvill, 07/11/07 15:55Report inappropriate post Report 
In situations like this when none of the shooting party own up to the crime, the shoot itself should be held responsible and the fine shared amongst its members. this might help to indentify the culprit.
   Brian Rogers, 07/11/07 16:14Report inappropriate post Report 
Huge opportunity missed to advance raptor conservation by the Royals & RSPB (who's response is little short of disgraceful). Best way to move forward is to write to your MP, Sandringham Estate & Prince Charles to show level of disgust
   Richard Barnes, 07/11/07 17:43Report inappropriate post Report 
The Sandringham website is claiming "that there is no actual evidence that these birds were shot down" No doubt because somebody hid or destroyed it! It is of course a rather loose interpretation of what the CPS said. It is ironic also that the RSPB hosted an international raptor conference on the 22nd Oct two days before these were birds were killed.
   S Prowse, 07/11/07 19:59Report inappropriate post Report 
I strongly suggest the RSPB should produce a postcard (or Christmas card) with a hen harrier on it as they do for many of their other campaigns so members (over 1 million) can send to Buck House to register their disapproval... that would clog the royal mail room. They could also be sent to Gordon Brown and MPs as suggested.
   S Prowse, 07/11/07 20:04Report inappropriate post Report 
Well I had alook on the Wildlife policing unit's website and the most recent news item is from something like September. They have Operation Artemis which is dedicated to Hen Harrier-related crime, I wonder whether they even know about it...
   Ralph Darvill, 07/11/07 22:58Report inappropriate post Report 
Until the RSPB do produce a postcard, you could, like me, wear one of their Hen Harrier enamel badges and ask people you know 'Do you think you could tell the difference between this and a pigeon? Well Prince Harry can't.' It might be the only laugh we get out of this appalling incident.
   Chris Fairchild, 08/11/07 07:46Report inappropriate post Report 
What sort of message does an incident like this send to countries like Greece, Malta, Cyprus and their likes, where we want to dissuade some peasant farmer and his chums from wandering off into the hills and popping off a few thrushes? I was about to suggest that our monarchy should lead by example, but, on reflection, they examples they set on just about everything are not the sort of standards we need in our society.
   Davethedipper, 08/11/07 08:39Report inappropriate post Report 
You may all like to read this blog entry, and I suspect weep...

   Ralph Darvill, 08/11/07 12:14Report inappropriate post Report 
If the powers that be had sent a certain soldier to Iraq then the UK harrier population would have been two more.But you didn't expect these people to own up did you? after all the poor gamekeeper would have lost his job and his tied cottage
   John Inglis, 08/11/07 19:22Report inappropriate post Report 
I am as outraged as any of you if these hen harriers were shot. But listen to yourselves: you come over as completely unreasonable and as saying what you want to say regardless of the facts. I don't want to be associated with some of these comments. Lets concentrate on the key issue: hen harriers and other birds of prey should be protected. If we carry on in this rabid strain we'll just alienate people who aren't keen birders.
   e j thursday, 08/11/07 20:24Report inappropriate post Report 
Some interesting messages: free speech versus the presumption of innocence until proved guilty...
   John Lawrence, 08/11/07 20:36Report inappropriate post Report 
At last the voice of common sense. Of course we are all furious that this incident has not reached a proper conclusion but the rule of law demands evidence and the Police could find none. A prosecution would not stand up and everyone would have further egg on their faces. I concede that Sandringham handled the business very badly and no doubt Prince Charles as patron of the Wildlife Trusts and prince Philip in a similar position with the BTO should take heed and ensure nothing like this...more more
   Derek Moore, 08/11/07 22:17Report inappropriate post Report 
It would be almost incomprehensible that no one on the royal estate would know the identity of the person, or persons who shot these birds, how many people are allowed to wander there anyway, maybe there will be a backlash from the membership.
   Chris Stone, 08/11/07 22:46Report inappropriate post Report 
Derek, you maybe old enough to remember when funding for the RSPB was hard graft and done at a local level but to think that they have done all they can is short sighted. The RSPB has abandoned the LOCAL birder that helped set them up. Where I live they set up the Rishworth Moor Peregrine watch point and were happily embedded until visitor numbers dropped, they left over night leaving a highly public Peregrine nest sight at the mercy of eggers and falconers, despite Calderdale Bird...more more
   Andrew Huyton, 08/11/07 23:00Report inappropriate post Report 
i'm not surprised at the number of comments on this article. no bodies and no ballistics? what a joke of an 'investigation', just sickening but not altogether surprising where royals and their estates are involved
   ciderduck, 08/11/07 23:11Report inappropriate post Report 
Isn't it inevitable, in 2007 when the country is awash with crime and an ever increasing moral void from government, that no justice is seen to be done regarding the shooting of two beautiful birds of prey? Sickening.
   Andy Hall, 09/11/07 07:23Report inappropriate post Report 
Getting the sense that I might be one of the "rabid" ones here. I am a passionate person when it comes to the natural world, without passionate people causes do not get served because others are not so motivated. Don't get me wrong, I can see that the investigation was conducted swiftly and in as much depth as possible. The stumbling block being that the bodies of the birds will have been easily disposed of on an estate where there are few if any prying eyes. The Royals have an...more more
   Ralph Darvill, 09/11/07 09:25Report inappropriate post Report 
I imagine a scene on an estate and the frustration of all involved at not being able to explain the alleged shooting and disappearance of two large birds of prey. Still , corgis don't make the best retrievers I suppose.
   iaashworth, 09/11/07 09:29Report inappropriate post Report 
Natural Englands hen Harrier Recovery Project have been conspicuously silent over this issue!
   millie, 09/11/07 11:04Report inappropriate post Report 
Like Father, Like Son
   Simon Whittard, 09/11/07 11:29Report inappropriate post Report 
This is mainly a response to Andrew. I do share some of your frustration at the often lack of local input but the RSPB is a democratic organisation and there is the opportunity for every member to voice their views at the Annual General Meeting and also get elected to the Council. In this way you can attempt to change policy. It is up to all of us as members to get involved if we are not happy. It is the same in politics if you are not happy get involved. Unfortunately most who complain do not leaving us with people who we frankly deserve. I cannot comment on the cases mentioned and it does sound disgraceful but if you are so upset then bring it to the attention of the Chairman and do not rest until you get answers.
   Derek Moore, 09/11/07 12:07Report inappropriate post Report 
Interesting to note that there appears to be an unknown or unnamed individual with a loaded shot-gun very close to the second in line to the throne who has a bad aim...(presumably)...and no mention of any security breach...hmmmmm
   Richard Wilson, 09/11/07 12:55Report inappropriate post Report 
Yet another whitewash by the British authorities cowtowing to those German immigrants. The "Royals" are past their sellby date and its time for them to return all the land and wealth they have creamed off the people, especially Charles and the millions he takes out of Cornwall each year while many of the inhabitants are surviving in a 3rd World economy. Vive la revolution !!
   Mel Gee, 09/11/07 14:35Report inappropriate post Report 
Useful to have had the thread widen to consider the performance of the RSPB in general. Seems to me the outfit is these days run by accountants and PR people. Otherwise why no management of foxes, coots, black-headed gulls, &c that wipe out breeding colonies of avocets, &c?
   John Lawrence, 09/11/07 18:35Report inappropriate post Report 
Well, well. well; Hen Harriers today, Tigers ? tomorrow. Keep it in the family !
   N. Smith, 09/11/07 21:06Report inappropriate post Report 
Derek, firstly thank you and I have taken on board what you have said. Secondly John, you have opened up a whole different debate firstly Avocets are doing very well since the RSPB started to protect them and aid there recovery, we even had one on top of the pennines this year. Secondly to persecute a species just because it feeds on another is a very hypocritical line to take when discussing the shooting of Hen Harrier. Do we control all predators? No Predators and prey will always find there own happy medium, the only species incapable of doing this is MAN. Surely recently introduced species such as those American invaders the Mink and Grey squirrel should be our targets above all else if we go down that route? However I have to question the moral stance on that one and indeed this sparked a very interesting debate on our blogsite recently see www.calderbirds.blogspot.com
   Andrew Huyton, 10/11/07 10:01Report inappropriate post Report 
Dave, the rspb is a charity, one of which was started by volunteers who were not paid and on I suspect low wages. They worked for the love of birds. I agree with the attractiveness of a 50k + wage but I believe you attract people for the money and not the job which they are there for which is to protect birds and raise awareness etc. To agree with John these outfits run by accountants and pr people, and not by small society members who spend most of their spare time working for their local...more more
   Sebastian C Baverstock, 10/11/07 10:12Report inappropriate post Report 
A clearer picture of the shooting of the harriers is emerging, that won't please emailers who have their own separate socio-political agenda but which should get consideration by fair-minded readers. There were more birdwatchers than usual there that day, and no-one else saw hen harriers. There was game shooting there that day. The incident in question took place in failing evening light at a distance from the observers of 500 metres. I think the para heading this stream should read '... the case of the alleged shooting of two Hen Harriers...' Re grey squirrels and mink, yes, exterminate. But when foxes, coots or black-headed gulls more or less wipe out a whole season's avocet chicks at an RSPB reserve there's surely a case for local specific control.
   John Lawrence, 10/11/07 12:46Report inappropriate post Report 
I agree with an earlier comment, ie why bother with the Royal bit in RSPB - bunch of chinless wonders!
   Tom Brewis, 11/11/07 14:36Report inappropriate post Report 
John Laurence, you hit the nail on the head with your last comment!
   john S, 12/11/07 10:36Report inappropriate post Report 
How about organising a mass trespass at Sandringham (or other Royal estates) to register our disgust at the shooting and to demonstrate people power? The keepers would be seriously outnumbered and any heavy-handed action to remove us would only be further adverse publicity for the Royals.
   Colin Kirtland, 12/11/07 13:19Report inappropriate post Report 
The birding community breaking the law!? Not a very clever idea I would think. Why not try the route I took and bother the Sandringham Estate by letter and e-mail? We can keep this incident (or alleged incident if that makes John Lawrence happy) at a high profile if we don't let the matter drop. But trespassing would be stupid and lead to greater security and restriction around private land, thereby making it even harder to keep tabs on "rogue" keepers and any raptors on their land.
   Ralph Darvill, 12/11/07 14:16Report inappropriate post Report 
I think if mass trespass took place at Sandringham or any other Royal establishment you would be dealing with more than gamekeepers. I liked the idea of a Christmas Card with a Hen Harrier picture and a cryptic message sent to the Royal Family. A million of those might just get the message home especially if they were press released to the media at the same time.
   Derek Moore, 13/11/07 09:18Report inappropriate post Report 
There seems to be an insiduous move afoot on here to discredit the very reliable witnesses who actually saw the hen harriers being shot. As someone who lives in Norfolk and in personal contact with some of those involved in this case I have no doubt that two hen harriers WERE SHOT and although the CPS has concluded that there is lack of evidence for a prosecution this DOES NOT in anyway mean that no criminal activity took place. The Sandringham Estate has a bit of history on illegal predator control viz killing of a tawny owl recently who know what else goes on... I suggest you read Mark Thomas' blog on the RSPB website (link above). lets just get those Xmas cards printed....
   S Prowse, 14/11/07 16:48Report inappropriate post Report 
I would hardly call it an 'insiduous' move, people have every right to question the validity of the accusations, after all there are plenty of people who would love to discredit the royal family, whatever their motives. Many people have been quick to judge the estate on this matter. Why not question the other side, it is a democracy! How can any of us place blame when we were not there and have seen no evidence.
   john S, 15/11/07 14:42Report inappropriate post Report 
From my digging (via e-mail and letter) it would seem that the witness evidence is pretty compelling. I have had a reply to an e-mail to Natural England who expressed considerable frustration at the outcome of the investigation. S Prowse obviously knows the witnesses and Mark Thomas' testimony as an investigator is fairly conclusive for me. Unless of course several people have got together to create mischief for the Royals and Sandringham estate. I have to say that the rather aloof and dismissive reply I received from the Estate press office had a subtext of gloating about it and made me feel very much that they were saying "you can't touch us"
   Ralph Darvill, 15/11/07 18:31Report inappropriate post Report 
What sort of message does this send to to hunting organisations like the Maltese Fknk. Go to http://www.huntinginmalta.org.mt/ and the article about swans if you want to see what capital the Fknk make out of shooting in UK. I am disgusted that the police are not taking this further.
   Steve Dettmar, 16/11/07 09:16Report inappropriate post Report 
thanks for the last two comments. there is no doubt that these birds were killed illegally. It is very frustrating for all concerned and a wall of silence that has decended on the enquiry despite (or inspite) of reliable witnesses. The FACT that no evidence was found was that it was undoubtedly disposed of. A prosecution was secured by the RSPB a while ago on video evidence of a "keeper" searching for and finding the carcass of a harrier he had shot (not Norfolk). The very sad thing about this is to think some people seem to be above the laws of the land that apply to the rest of us. As a final thought if any of us had seen this happen and reported it how do you think we would feel if our testimony was called into question? One of the witnesses was a young lad who is keen on wildlife and hopes to make a career in conservation... he was absolutely distraught at seeing these birds killed.... and by the way has no socio-political agenda.
   S Prowse, 16/11/07 17:51Report inappropriate post Report 
With regard to dealing with those that don't want the truth to come out, sadly I've been there before in regard to a major in flight "incident" that also involved Bryan Ferry and Jemima Khan among others. It's amazing how quickly the "powers that be" can obfuscate and avoid the truth, or even just destroy evidence... I'm proud to have even achieved a tiny amount of what I have done by being a niggly member of the public and to have supported your more local stance. Those that have sought to undermine our passionate stance need to look closely at their motives. I got solid concrete results from a couple of well directed e-mails. All we need now is the good Hen harrier photos for those Christmas cards. My Wife is a printer if that helps at all. ;-)))
   Ralph Darvill, 16/11/07 22:53Report inappropriate post Report 
...and I forgot to add, I don't have a socio-political agenda either.
   Ralph Darvill, 16/11/07 22:55Report inappropriate post Report 
Correspondence on this matter thus far has generated more heat than light with class warrior and republican overtones creeping in on occasion. Reference is made to 'insiduous moves afoot'. Not sure what this means since there is no such word as 'insiduous'. Others profess to being passionate about the matter. The trouble with passion - lately, a much overused word that is rapidly losing any meaning - is that it tends to override commonsense and a sense pf proportion. Assuming that the...more more
   Mike Stevens, 17/11/07 17:22Report inappropriate post Report 
Give us a break for the typo... a U instead of an I harsh! ... the sentiment was, and still is,there though... :) It is great to be able to voice an opinion on a place such as this and hear the opinions of others in a constructive way... for the most part :) yes there are other big issues to discuss current or looming on the horizon which will no doubt occupy those who visit these pages. And am sure watching little auks (live or otherwise) as black&white dots on the TV screen like the views expressed here will not please everyone! At least we have had our say. Don't forget your Xmas cards!
   S Prowse, 18/11/07 17:41Report inappropriate post Report 
This story is just an anti -royal scam generated by the anti - shooting lobby- and the gullible RSPB have swallowed it hook ,line and sinker. As robin page said in the telegraph- when have you ever seen a pair of hen harriers in the autumn? where are the dead bodies? Get real you sad new labour pc townies
   hull paul ashton, 23/12/07 00:55Report inappropriate post Report 
Dear Hull Paul, You can't know alot about birds can you? Of course you can see a Hen Harrier in Autumn. Do you think they disappear on the way from their moorland breeding grounds to their roosting sites? I suggest you check your facts before firing off stupid rants. Suggest that your comment is almost inappropriate...
   Ralph Darvill, 10/01/08 19:04Report inappropriate post Report 

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