The story so far:
L.E.P. Thursday 15th December 2011
L.E.P. Friday 30th December 2011
MR GITTIN'S SUBSEQUENT REPLY:-
L.E.P. Wednesday 11th January 2012
MY REPLY TO THE ABOVE:
LEP Monday 23rd January 2012
Raptor persecution.....a continuing shame!
Over the thirty or so years in which I've had an interest and concern about raptor persecution generally much has been said , many statistics have been trotted out and an increasing number of incidents taken to prosecution or reported on. The situation nowadays is no better than at the end of the 1970's, indeed, it would be very easy to conclude that it has got worse, which is most certainly my own view. At some point in the near future I intend putting out a background summary, based on one area, showing how much things have deteriorated. Read more.......................
Despite the best efforts of many, particularly the RSPB which, in staff time and resources alone, has put an appreciable proportion of its funds into combating these shameful acts, the malpractice still persists, carried out by an arrogant and self-serving minority associated with game management who set themselves above the law. Whilst I currently live in Scotland, my abiding concern is with the situation in England and, in particular, with the ever diminishing population of Hen Harriers within the Forest of Bowland with which I had a nigh on twenty year involvement prior to my early retirement from RSPB.. The harrier population has contracted, numbers less than 10 pairs, and is largely concentrated on the upland estate of the water utility company, United Utilities, who have a close "operating partnership" with the RSPB. Now don't run away with the idea that I personally and exclusively agree with the approach taken currently in the Bowland area, because I don't, as I feel it is insufficiently inclusive of the wider "collection" of estates which comprise the magnificent Forest of Bowland landmass. However, such disagreements are best resolved "in house" or "within the family", a sentiment which I have always embraced and shall continue to believe in.
What I feel can be increasingly condemned is the arrant behaviour of the upland estates who feel they can divorce themselves away from the collective wishes of the electorate, the requirements of the law and a recognition that they have a responsibility to nurture some of the most iconic members of our natural heritage. These latter species, such as Merlin, Peregrine and Hen Harrier , even have especial status under the provisions of Schedule 1, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ( as amended ). Now, I give you an analogy!! If such upland estates were Trustees of our National Art Heritage and willingly and deliberately allowed the deterioration of our most treasured and beloved items within our cultural heritage to be damaged, lost and generally abused, what do you feel the outcome would be? Uproar, public condemnation and a call for them to be brought to book. More importantly, what do you think the implications for the self-serving incompetents would be in the sense of being allowed to continue in such positions of responsibility? And yet in the cause of commercial gain the persecution of raptors persists and a convenient blind eye is taken by many who could, if they wished, through peer pressure and condemnation , put paid to the dubious side of what is painted as a continuation of a romantic Victorian "pursuit". It is carried out to make money , very often with subsidies from the public purse being made available to manage areas given special status based on their suitability to play host to the very iconic species which are then removed. Nice one!!
Now all this might suggest the conservation charities, the police and others, even a proportion of the most responsible upland estates , are doing nothing. This couldn't be farther from the truth! Similarly, as is evidenced by a steady flow of court cases linked to such incidents ( see Raptor Persecution Scotland's web site), details of campaigns carried out to bring about changes in the law and so on, much is being done. One thing that is sometimes evident is the absence of independent condemnation and action by the public, and sometimes, let it be said, by birders themselves!! Grumpy old man and ill constructed comments by all too regular contributors on websites are not action. They may make you feel better but have little effect. So, with rightful indignation now in full flow, let me highlight a time when hopefully hackles can be raised and protest can flow unabated!! As I understand things DEFRA has asked the Law Commission to review inadequacies within wildlife legislation , with a report being issued mid year 2012. Doubtless many wildlife bodies will carefully scrutinise the details and recommendations, and either provide wholehearted support, or the opposite against any inadequacies. Clearly the circumstances attached to raptor persecution should figure prominently at that point and a more precise situation suggested for the future. If such is absent then all hell needs to be let loose on a Government, which has claimed will be the Greenest ever, and whose Leader ( David Cameron ) pledged, even as recently as last week, that he would offer as much protection as needed towards the countryside. Unfortunately, it has to be said, the E-petition relating to raptor persecution, and embodying a call for a " vicarious liability " clause to be debated in Parliament, may have been a little pre-emptive in the light of the above, but it has until November this year to run. It certainly will do no harm to sign it now, but its time may yet really arrive in the middle of 2012!!! Vicarious liability has already been approved, but not yet enacted, in Scotland and provides for upland estate owners to be considered for prosecution alongside their keeper(s) if incidents occur on their Estate. In the event of blatant inadequacies appearing in the report anticipated from the Law Commission then a period of intense action will be required.........be ready for it and don't fail the wildlife resource you love best!!!
For those who are still arrogant enough to think that gamekeepers are no longer involved with the things they used to be, have a look at what one allowed a work-experience 16 year old to be doing (next door to the Royal Sandringham Estate):-
Not in the Forest of Bowland - but another gamekeeper who is innocent of all wrong doing (except this one was caught red-handed!!!!) So why the appeal? Guess what!!
Derbyshire Gamekeeper appeal hearing - the prosecution evidence concluded yesterday (18th January)
After nearly 3 weeks of intense testimony heard in the appeal hearing brought by Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown against his conviction for wildlife crimes, the case for the prosecution at Derby Crown Court was completed (Wednesday 18th January). Brown together with his witnesses began giving their testimony today (Thursday). It seems possible the case will continue throughout the next two to three weeks. What ever the outcome of this protracted appeal the legal costs for one side or the other are likely to be huge adding to the £10.000 in costs already incurred by Brown.
Glenn Brown was convicted of several wildlife crimes in June last year, three weeks ago he launched an appeal against his conviction. The basis for the appeal is not known at this time. Raptor Politics has surmised this may have more to do the shooting tenant’s wish to retain the shooting rights granted by the National Trust. If Brown’s appeal is unsuccessful, it seems likely the shooting tenancy will not be reinstated by the National Trust. Inside information has also revealed, even if Brown’s appeal is successful, his former employer is most unlikely to ask him to return to his old job as he was seen to let the side down – by getting caught red-handed:
Raptor Politics readers will recall Brown was convicted last June at Chesterfield Magistrates Court of seven offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act after a 10-day hearing. Brown was also ordered to pay costs of £10,000 and carry out 100 hours community service for attempting to trap and kill birds of prey.
DERBYSHIRE GAMEKEEPER LOSES APPEAL- An Expensive Lesson.
A Derbyshire gamekeeper, working on an estate within the Peak District National Park, has lost an appeal today (Tuesday 24 January 2012) 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 he had been ordered to pay £10,000 costs.
At a lengthy hearing at Derby Crown Court – which began on 3rd January – Brown’s defence brought 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. This figure now brings the total costs for Brown of £17,000.
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:
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 north-east Peak moors. 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.
On behalf of each member of the North West Raptor Protection Group I thank the RSPB, in particular their investigation team for a job well done. We should also not forget the work undertaken by the Derbyshire Constabulary and the CPS. I was particularly please to see that the RSPB enclosed details of the e-petition in their Press Release…lets just hope now that RSPB members and the Media get behind this important petition.
It will be interesting to see who pays Brown’s court costs and if the National Trust offer the shooting rights back to Brown’s employer.