Gamekeeper loses appeal against conviction for attempting to kill birds of prey
A Derbyshire gamekeeper working on an estate in the Peak District National Park was yesterday (24th January) lost an appeal against a previous conviction and sentence on seven charges relating to the illegal use of a trap baited with a live pigeon in order to take birds of prey, the intentional taking of a Sparrowhawk and a number of animal welfare offences. Glenn Brown was originally convicted of seven offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Animal Welfare Act 2006 in June 2011 at Chesterfield Magistrates Court. He was originally sentenced to 100 hours' community service and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.
At a lengthy hearing at Derby Crown Court — which began on 3rd January — Brown's defence mounted a blistering attack against the integrity of the RSPB, claiming evidence had been planted to incriminate Brown. Judge Watson today dismissed the appeal, commenting that all the RSPB staff were credible witnesses. Brown was ordered to pay a further £7,000 costs.
Covert images of Glenn Brown attending cage trap (RSPB).
Martin Harper is the RSPB's conservation director. He said: "We are delighted, but not surprised, that the integrity and honesty of our investigations officers has been found to be beyond reproach after coming under forensic examination in this case."
Brown was originally arrested by Derbyshire Police in May 2010 following a covert surveillance operation by an RSPB investigations team. RSPB officers filmed Brown using a cage trap baited with a live domestic pigeon. Although cage traps are legal when trying to trap some species, such as Carrion Crows, it is illegal both to use a pigeon as bait and to capture birds of prey. Mark Thomas is an investigations officer with the RSPB. Commenting from Derby Crown Court, he said: "With so much evidence, convicting Brown during the first trial, we are stunned that his defence felt comfortable mounting an appeal suggesting the RSPB had framed him. Bird of prey persecution remains a top wildlife crime priority in the UK, and it is one that we are determined to help the police reduce. The problem remains particularly severe in upland areas dominated by grouse shooting, where crimes have a direct impact on the conservation of some of our rarest birds of prey. With his appeal failing, Brown will now have to face the consequences for his crimes. Since 1990 there have been over 100 gamekeepers convicted of crimes relating to the despicable persecution of birds of prey."
Martin Harper added: "Crimes such as these illustrate links between driven-grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey. This is why industry leaders and employers need to do more to stamp out these crimes. We believe that land managers and owners should be held legally accountable for any wildlife crimes that are committed by their staff, as is the case in Scotland."
The Law Commission should give serious consideration to including vicarious liability in their legislative reform for England and Wales. A petition calling for vicarious liability can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23089.
Many people have become increasingly concerned about the poor breeding success of birds of prey in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District National Park. In 2006, the RSPB produced a report, Peak Malpractice, which graphically outlined its concerns in relation to Goshawks and Peregrines on the moors in the northeast of the Peak. Since then, the breeding success of both species has collapsed in the adjacent Derwent Valley, prompting the undercover investigation leading to this court case.
The RSPB would like to thank the Derbyshire Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the expert witnesses in the case.