Second documented case of raptor persecution discontinued by court
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."