12/12/2014
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Gamekeeper convicted for killing Goshawk

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Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch has been found guilty of killing a Goshawk and setting traps illegally to capture two others on an Aberdeenshire estate. Mr Mutch, 48, of Kildrummy, was accused of recklessly killing or injuring the bird of prey and illegally taking away another Goshawk, as well as a Buzzard, in 2012.

Mr Mutch was found guilty of four charges at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, and Sheriff Noel McPartlin said he would consider a custodial sentence. It is one of the first times in Scotland that hidden camera footage, obtained by the RSPB, had been used in a case of this kind. Mr Mutch will be sentenced next month.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: "We welcome the conviction of George Mutch on the four charges, including illegal killing of a Goshawk. This long running case, informed by evidence from RSPB Scotland staff, has finally delivered some justice. To witness the destruction of a specially protected bird of prey in this callous manner was truly shocking. Crimes against protected birds of prey are an affront to the people of Scotland and damage the reputation of the sport shooting industry. We commend those estates that operate within the law, but expect a better performance from this sector in future. We also thank the Crown Office, Police and Scottish SPCA for their help in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. RSPB Scotland has voiced concerns to the Scottish Government about the abuse of crow cage traps in Scotland for many years. Crow cage trap use is authorised annually by Scottish Natural Heritage under the Open General Licence (OGL) and only certain types of birds may be taken for specific purposes."

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"The use of such traps is therefore a privilege, and not a right, and cases of abuse of this type put the whole OGL system at risk. We welcome the recent announcement by Scottish Government to tighten up procedures, which will allow SNH to remove the use of the OGL from land where there is good evidence of crimes against protected birds of prey occurring."

Written by: RSPB