Gamekeeper convicted for setting pole trap to catch squirrels, not birds of prey!

Pole TrapA North Yorkshire gamekeeper has pleaded guilty to setting an illegal pole-trap, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, following evidence obtained by the League Against Cruel Sports and RSPB. Yet again our courts have handed down what can only be described as a paltry sentence sending out entirely the wrong message to other like-minder gamekeepers. A fine of £250 and an additional £150 costs is no deterrent at all.

Ryan Christopher Waite admitted to two charges related to setting a pole-trap, consisting of a spring-trap on a tree stump on the Swinton Estate, near Healey, North Yorkshire, between May and June 2013, at Harrogate Magistrates Court on December 10 2013.

During a Newton hearing* at Harrogate Magistrates Court today, to establish the facts of the case, magistrates deemed intent was not to catch birds of prey but rather reckless intent when catching squirrels on the shooting estate.

Mr Waite was fined £250 and ordered to pay £105 in costs. The trap is to be forfeited and destroyed.

Rachel Newman, Director of Operations at the League said: “We are disappointed by the ruling today but glad that Mr Waite was caught and pleaded guilty in December 2013.  Regardless of whether the trap was intended to catch a wild bird or a wild mammal, we believe these devices cause unnecessary suffering to all animals caught in them.  From the way the trap was positioned, we believe it was intended – and highly likely – to catch a bird of prey. Bird of prey persecution is one of the UK’s wildlife crime enforcement priorities.

“Unfortunately this type of crime is not uncommon. Wildlife is habitually persecuted by shooting estates throughout the UK to protect their stocks of game birds. We are pleased that evidence obtained by the League has played an instrumental role in today’s prosecution.”

Acting on the information supplied by League investigators about the discovery of the trap, the RSPB carried out covert surveillance of the site. Following this, an investigation was undertaken by the North Yorkshire Police leading to the Crown Prosecution Service taking the case to court.

• A Newton hearing was set to determine the intention behind setting the trap. The prosecution alleged the trap was intended for birds of prey.
A Newton hearing is generally used when a defendant pleads guilty to an offence but there are factual issues that need to be resolved between the prosecution and defence.

• On the 10 December 2013, Ryan Christopher Waite pleaded guilty at Harrogate Magistrates to two charges relating to the setting of a pole-trap on the Swinton Estate between May and June 2013, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

• A stink pit containing a sheep’s head with brains intact and the remains of several animals and birds including; lambs, foxes and pheasants, normally used to lure wildlife into surrounding snares, was also found nearby to the set trap, leading to a further investigation.

• Pole-traps have been illegal since 1904. The devices were and still are typically used by gamekeepers near to game-rearing pens to trap birds of prey perceived to be predators. When a bird lands on the trap, usually nailed to a post, the spring will snap shut the jaws of the trap around the bird’s legs. Unable to fly away the severely injured bird will be left to suffer a long and agonising death.

2 comments to Gamekeeper convicted for setting pole trap to catch squirrels, not birds of prey!

  • harrier man

    Monitored this estate with others close by, many harriers and nests lost across the area a true sink with a very big plug hole for raptors, very bad memories. Very ruthless keepers to say the least.

  • skydancer

    A pathetic paltry fine like this will not stop crimes like this happening again and again,the landowner will pay the fine for him as he was probably working to orders, if the Swinton estate has any interest in the wildlife it has apart from game birds it will sack this gamekeeper.