RSPB Second documented case of raptor persecution discontinued by court


This page contains 8 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Thu 18/05/17 07:20).

RSPB Scotland has expressed its frustration and disappointment after another prosecution of an individual charged with wildlife crime offences was discontinued by the Crown Office in Scotland.

The latest case began on 9 July 2015 when RSPB Scotland staff, walking on the Brewlands Estate in Glen Isla, Angus, discovered an illegally set spring trap placed on top of a Common Pheasant carcass that had, in turn, been placed a post just a few metres inside a pheasant pen. The trap was in effect a baited 'pole trap', which has been illegal since 1904, and is designed to snap shut and break the legs of a bird of prey, holding the victim until it can be dispatched by the trap operator.

The RSPB team, having no mobile phone signal to allow contact with the police, made the trap safe to ensure no birds would be caught. They then deployed a video camera focussed on the area, with a view to securing the evidence until the police could attend and recover the trap.

A few days later, RSPB Scotland staff accompanied a police wildlife crime officer to the scene, where it was found that the trap had been reset. The police seized the trap as evidence, and the camera was recovered.

Review of the footage filmed by the camera showed an individual resetting the trap twice in the days after which it had been found. On the first occasion it was set, it was seen to later fall off the pheasant bait and trigger itself.

The footage was passed to the police, who subsequently identified the individual setting the trap, and who later charged him with four alleged offences, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and sent a report to the Procurator Fiscal, who marked the case for prosecution.

The case was first called, at Forfar Sheriff Court, on 31 March 2016, with subsequent hearings on 22 April and 12 May 2016, during which the accused plead not guilty to the charges libelled. Following two further hearings, the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service recently notified RSPB Scotland that following consideration of the case by Crown Counsel, the prosecution could not rely on the RSPB video evidence and would be discontinued. No reason for this decision was provided. The case had been scheduled for a trial beginning on 15th May 2017.

RSPB Scotland's Head of Species and Land Management, Duncan Orr-Ewing said: "For one case, where there was excellent video evidence to support the prosecution, to be discontinued inexplicably by the Crown Office so close to the trial was baffling. For a second case to be discontinued, again with no explanation from the Crown Office, and again without the opportunity for the evidence to be tested in court, is deeply concerning, and significantly undermines our confidence in the ability of Scotland's justice system to bear down on the criminals who continue to target our protected birds of prey."

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (8)

Well it shows where the money is when it comes to conservation!
   Ian Seward, 13/05/17 11:09Report inappropriate post Report 
Where next with these cases? Options might include private prosecution of the individuals or public naming and shaming of the culprits. (Let them dare to sue for defamation of character or whatever.) Can the evidence be used for vicarious liability punishment of estate owners? What about a firearms ban (for anything: 'vermin' control or 'sport' shooting) for, say, 10 years on such estates? A similar approach could perhaps be taken for those estates 'unlucky' enough to have sat-tagged raptors 'disappear' (along with the tags) on their land.
   Chris McGuigan, 13/05/17 16:27Report inappropriate post Report 
I always thought that contempt of "court" was a one way street....clearly not, particularly when there would appear to be overwhelming evidence in defence of the prosecution? Mmmmm!
   Kenneth Murray, 13/05/17 17:45Report inappropriate post Report 
On the COPS website they are inviting comment & feedback and also have a complaints procedure. As every right-minded and law abiding citizen in the country has been horribly let down by this service, can I suggest that we all 'let em have it!'
   David Lawton, 14/05/17 08:51Report inappropriate post Report 
It seems we should all now be concerned about the millions we spend on cctv.
   Paul Cracknell, 14/05/17 17:05Report inappropriate post Report 
The Scottish Government should implement the proposal to licence sporting( ?) estates, with the withdrawal of the licence as a first response, pending investigation. Trouble is vested interests, old boy networks, and money. Don't hold your breath
   David Metcalfe, 15/05/17 10:41Report inappropriate post Report 
It should be raised in the Scottish Parliament.
   Ian Watts., 15/05/17 12:13Report inappropriate post Report 
It would be interesting to see if the land owner (who this idiot is employed by) and the local prosecuting committee or those who decides on court prosecutions are in the same 'Secret Society'. The 'Old Boy' network still works for the rich and untouchable. The judge should be investigated as well for irrefutable evidence not 100% showing guilt.
   Graeme Holmes, 18/05/17 07:20Report inappropriate post Report 

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