Brothers guilty of reckless disturbance of Northumberland wildlife sanctuary


Two brothers from Amble caused illegal disturbance to a rare seabird colony in Northumberland, a court ruled on Thursday 17th January 2013. Derwick and Leslie Ramsay were found guilty at Southeast Northumberland Magistrates Court of the reckless disturbance of Roseate Terns on the bird sanctuary at Coquet Island in July 2012. The pair were prosecuted under the 1981 Country And Wildlife Act, which forbids the intentional and or reckless killing, injuring and disturbance of wild birds. The offence carries a maximum sentence of a £5,000 fine and/or six months in prison.

Derwick Ramsay, together with four other men who were not prosecuted, landed boats on the island on 20th July allegedly to collect whelks. They were warned about the presence of breeding Roseate Terns by RSPB staff, but this was ignored. On 22nd July, Derwick returned with his brother Leslie, who was recorded on CCTV disturbing the birds. On returning to Amble marina Derwick and Leslie, together with four other men, were arrested and their boats were seized by Northumbria Police.

Roseate Tern
Roseate Tern, Coquet Island, Northumberland (Photo: Steve Knell)

Coquet Island holds the only colony of breeding Roseate Terns in the UK and, as a result, landing on the island is strictly prohibited. Roseate terns are a Red-listed species of high conservation concern and, as a ground-nesting bird, they are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance. At the time of this incident, the island held 71 breeding pairs.

Alan Firth, RSPB Investigations officer, said: "Roseate Terns are incredibly rare and Coquet Island is effectively the only place they breed in the whole of the UK. Any disturbance to the colony could, therefore, have a disastrous effect on the population. The RSPB spends a huge amount of time, money and effort every year to give the terns the best chance to breed. This reckless disturbance — that took place despite warnings — threatened to undermine all of the conservation efforts to protect this species. We would like to thank Northumbria Police and Crown Prosecution Service Prosecutor Jonathan Moore for their hard work, which helped this case result in a successful prosecution."

Derwick and Leslie Ramsay will be sentenced on Friday January 25th.

Written by: RSPB