Man who shot sparrowhawk fined more than £2,000


A pensioner has been found guilty of killing a protected bird of prey in South Yorkshire, with the court demanding more than £2,100 in fines.

Peter Smith, 77, of Barnsley was convicted of shooting a Eurasian Sparrowhawk at Hope Street Allotments in Mapplewell in February 2023. Mr Smith kept pigeons at the allotment.

He pleaded not guilty during the trial at Barnsley Magistrates' Court in December.

 Mr Smith kept pigeons on his allotment and was seen using an air rifle shortly before the raptor was found dead (Paul Bagguley).

The RSPCA brought the case to court. A spokeperson said: "He was observed by a witness discharging the air rifle having been alerted by the sound of a sparrowhawk apparently attacking a pigeon.

"Mr Smith claimed he had missed with his shot but the sparrowhawk was found dead soon after – it had been shot with a pellet and its neck was broken. There is legislation in place to protect the species as it is an apex predator and plays an important role in the environment."

The investigation cost the RSPCA around £6,000 but the charity only sought £1,500 from the pensioner due to his age. On top of that amount, Mr Smith was billed a £480 fine and a £192 surcharge, making him liable for £2,172.

Sparrowhawk numbers are stable nationally, but the court was told that Barnsley's population had declined by 25% over the course of a decade due to illegal persecution.

Anyone found guilty of killing a sparrowhawk could face an unlimited fine and up to six months' imprisonment.

Amy-Jo Cutts, who defended Smith, said: "He rented his allotment for six years and used the site to keep, breed and train his pigeons, which he has had a history of doing so for more than 30 years.

"As a result of the allegation, he has lost his tenancy and had to get rid of his birds. He's put a lot of time and effort into his hobby and visited them twice daily but he has now been ostracised from that circle.

"He still maintains his innocence."

Lynn Fairbridge, chair of the bench, told Smith: "You will pay a total of £2,172 but I believe the biggest punishment for you personally is that you’ve lost your social activities."

Mr Smith will fulfil the bill over the course of nine years, paying £5 per week.