A conviction in a poisoning incident by the Wildlife Detective

I wrote a chapter in my book A Lone Furrow entitled A spate of Poisonings.  That is certainly what we have in Scotland just now. There is no question that these cases are extremely difficult to bring to a satisfactory conclusion but the last case I discussed in this chapter did have such a conclusion. At least of sorts. Alan Stewart.

I wrote –

In September 2008 I was contacted by a couple of people who will always remain anonymous, concerned about the bragging of a gamekeeper who had recently moved from Invercauld Estate, Glenshee, to be a keeper on a low-ground shoot near Longforgan, Perthshire (which I am not going to name as in due course the evidence showed that the shooting tenants did all they could to ensure that their employee worked within the law.)  It appeared from my informants that the nickname already given to this man was ‘The Terminator;’ a man who wouldn’t put up with any bird or mammal that posed a threat to the rearing of his pheasants. Since locals to his area had given him this dubious title, I’ll stick with it. From my local knowledge, I knew the ground on which The Terminator worked to be rich in a wide variety of wildlife, including badgers. The specific information was that he was using the pesticide alphachloralose to ‘control’ birds of prey.

I have known for many years one of the shooting syndicate who employed him and my impression is that he would neither encourage nor condone the use of pesticides or any other illegal activity. More and more landowners are now in this mould, though it’s unfortunate that a few remain who despise biodiversity and want little else on their land except a monoculture of grouse or pheasants.

The freshly shot buzzard is excavated

 The freshly shot buzzard is excavated

 

The poisoned buzzard in the pheasant release pen. It died shortly after.

 The poisoned buzzard in the pheasant release pen. It died shortly after.

 

The remains of the pheasant poult bait recovered in the pheasant release pen

The remains of the pheasant poult bait recovered in the pheasant release pen

 buzzy bottle

The tub with a mix of carbofuran and alphachloralose recovered from the gamekeeper’s pocket

 

The shot buzzard recovered from the back of the Land Rover

The shot buzzard recovered from the back of the Land Rover

 

As it happened no further evidence was required. The gamekeeper – or by now the ex-gamekeeper – appeared in Perth Sheriff Court on 15 February 2010 and pleaded guilty through his defence solicitor to intentionally shooting a buzzard and to possessing a quantity of two pesticides with which he could commit an offence. His pleas of not guilty to a charge of intentionally or recklessly poisoning a buzzard and to possessing two rifles with which he could commit an offence were accepted by the Crown.  I was not in court, but according to a newspaper report, the sheriff told the defence solicitor that, ‘Anyone employed as a gamekeeper would be aware of very considerable restrictions there now are on the damage and destruction of wild birds. Anyone in that position would be expected to know it was illegal.’ He was not prepared to sentence that day and wanted the ex-gamekeeper to appear before him for sentence. Could this mean jail?

There are regular calls from a variety of organisations for a person convicted of killing birds of prey, by poisons or otherwise, to be jailed. There is absolutely no doubt that some deserve this fate, though getting the evidence to have them standing in a dock is fraught with a whole range of difficulties, as readers who have come this far in the book will understand. Statistics kept by RSPB over many years show that the occupation of the majority of people convicted of bird of prey persecution is that of a gamekeeper. Most gamekeepers don’t have previous convictions, and most people with a clean record, as it were, don’t get jailed the first time they are found guilty of a crime or offence, unless for a crime at the top end of the scale such as murder, robbery, rape or maybe the poisoning of an extremely rare bird such as a golden eagle.  There is no doubt that if a gamekeeper were to be jailed for killing birds of prey that would send out a very strong message and would act as a deterrent to others. But for a gamekeeper to be imprisoned it needs to be either for a series of wildlife crimes of the worst type or, as I have said, the person having a previous record.

The man dubbed by his neighbours as The Terminator appeared for sentence in due course.  I was not in court to hear any pleas in mitigation put forward by his defence, though I knew the defence would major on this being the first time the ex-keeper had found himself on the wrong side of the law. On the first charge, that of shooting the buzzard, he was fined £400.  He was admonished on the charge of possessing the two pesticides. An earlier motion by the prosecution for the forfeiture of his .243 rifle and telescopic sight, claimed to be worth £1,000, was withdrawn.

A newspaper reported the presiding sheriff in the case to have told The Terminator just before sentencing, “You may not have appreciated how serious the courts take the illegal destruction of wildlife. I think you will be aware of that now.”

Not everyone will agree.

Raptor Politics wishes to thank Alan Stewart – Wildlife Detective,

for providing his approval to republish this very interesting article

1 comment to A conviction in a poisoning incident by the Wildlife Detective

  • Hi there,

    I’ve just tweeted the photo of the poisoned Buzzard in the release pen and credited it to Alan Stewart.

    Hope that’s OK with you but please let me know if it’s not.

    Thanks and best regards,

    Nick