Leadhills Gamekeeper Conviction Strengthens Case for Vicarious Liability for Estate Owners

[singlepic id=253 w=320 h=240 float=left]The story we feature below has been brought to the attention of Raptor Politics by a former gamekeeper who is totally appauled at the actions of  Mr Lewis Whitham.  The complete story of Mr. Whitham’s conviction has been posted below.

Investigations undertaken by a field research officer, played a pivotal role in securing the conviction of a 20 yr old gamekeeper formerly employed by the Leadhills Estate in Lanarkshire, who set out poisoned bait on the Leadhills shooting estate.

Lewis Whitham pled guilty at Lanark Sheriff Court to the offence, a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and was fined £800. Sentencing Whitham, the Sheriff acknowledged that the challenges facing anyone who discovered an apparent wildlife crime were significant.

The OneKind field research officer witnessed Whitham laying out a poisoned carcass of an animal in a field, within a quarter of a mile of a public caravan park.The poison used was carbofuran, which has been banned in the UK since 2001, and even minimal contact can prove fatal to both animal and human life.[singlepic id=254w=320 h=240 float=right]

Carbofuran is a highly toxic organophosphate and animals that either inhale or ingest the substance will suffer agonizing pain and death within a few minutes.

This case gives a shocking insight into the continued use of illegal poison in Scotland’s countryside. Whitham told the court that he was trying to impress his employers, and he was fully aware that poison should not be used. 

“This story demonstrates clearly why employers must be made more responsible for wildlife offences committed on their estates, and why MSPs should support the Scottish Government’s proposal for a vicarious liability offence.

OneKind believes there is no other way of bringing this responsibility home to those who benefit from the illegal behaviour of gamekeepers, whether they are party to it or not.

[singlepic id=256w=320 h=240 float=left]The Leadhills location has been named in numerous confirmed bird poisoning incidents over the last eight years.  Evidence also continues to emerge of illegal trapping on the estate and the widespread indiscriminate use of snares, resulting in the deaths of foxes, rabbits, badgers and deer. 

The OneKind field research officer informed the police in his statement that he had seen the gamekeeper arrive on his quad bike at a spot where he had discovered a rabbit poisoned with carbofuran less than a month before.

He took the rabbit out of the box, I saw him bend over for a moment and then he returned to the bike without the rabbit . Once he was gone from sight I immediately made my way into the field where I discovered the rabbit. It had been staked down to the ground by its back leg using a piece of thick metal wire, in exactly the same way as the previous poisoned rabbit I had found in the same field. 

“The stomach to the rabbit had been cut open. I carefully opened the rabbit and instantly noticed that the internal area was thick with blue/black granules. I recognised the granules as those I had found on the other rabbit which had been confirmed as the extremely toxic poison, carbofuranOver several months, the OneKind investigations and field research officer has found three live badgers caught in snares on the Leadhills estate, two of which had to be put down due to their injuries. In addition to numerous apparently illegal snares he has also found four dead foxes in legal snares, and dead buzzards buried in shallow graves.[singlepic id=255w=320 h=240 float=right]

This summer we sent a file of incidents at Leadhills to the Minister for the Environment, in an attempt to have some firmer action taken to bring an end to this killing of wildlife.

4 comments to Leadhills Gamekeeper Conviction Strengthens Case for Vicarious Liability for Estate Owners

  • Circus maximus

    This one has brought a lot of sighs of relief, it was hard won! Pat on the back for Bob Elliot. People of Yorkshire beware, he has moved south.

  • PeregrinePete

    Cant agree more Circus maximus, and a big thanks to the sspca and Advocates for Animals [Onekind] especially to M*** and T***y who have done a sterling in the face of much adversity. Once again well done to all who contributed………..

  • Mick Hall

    But what about the none publicized finding of birds of prey found in a freezer near Glen Livet whereby the owner of the freezer said it was neither him or his keepers who had put the birds in the freezer!!!!! A likely story ???????

  • callum

    aye stay in leadhills and have found one of the pits were they leave all the dead animals to lour animals in there were loads of buckets full of rotting animal guts , aye never new what it was til now and aye could have being in danger of traps set round it