Shropshire gamekeeper cleared by magistrates of trapping wild birds

Neil Gordon Wainwright, of Norbury, near Bishop’s Castle, had been accused of using a metal Larsen trap – designed to catch magpies, crows and jays – in a bid to catch wild birds at Birch Hill Wood in Gatten, near the Stiperstones. Read our full account here.

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The 55-year-old had denied charges of using a trap to kill or take a wild bird, possessing an article capable of being used to commit an offence, and failing to take steps to ensure that the needs of an animal were met.

The offences were said to have taken place between July 21 and July 31 last year.

But at Telford Magistrates Court today, district judge Kevin Grego found Mr Wainwright not guilty of all three counts after ruling covert video evidence captured by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was not admissible as evidence.

Wainwright, of Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, was cleared of three counts related to trapping wild birds but admitted three unrelated charges.

The RSPB said it would discuss with the CPS the case’s wider implications.

Wainwright, who was fined £500 plus costs, claimed he had used two white quails in a trap at Birch Hill Wood, near Ratlinghope, south Shropshire, to catch mink or stoat rather than birds of prey.

RSPB investigator Howard Jones saw a pheasant run and a cage with birds in and trespassed on to land to investigate further, the court heard.

‘Disproportionate’

Mr Jones found a trap with two white quails inside being used as live bait and returned another day to set up covert recording equipment, the district judge was told.

When Mr Jones trespassed the first time to take a closer look he was “well meaning”, but his return to set up covert recording equipment was “disproportionate”, the judge said.

He said even when trespassers acted with the best motives, that did not allow their conduct to be “unfettered”.

Wainwright was fined £300 for not storing ammunition properly and £200 for not storing chemicals properly and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a £30 surcharge.

He was cleared of using and setting a trap related to the wild birds and failing to ensure the quails’ welfare.

Speaking outside court, Mr Jones said it was first time he had known such covert video evidence from the RSPB not to be allowed in court.

In essence this ruling means the RSPB will have to request and obtain approval from any estate before they can install covert video equipment to prove criminal wrongdoing. This in our view defeats the objectives of the exercise. Once again courts are choosing to ignore valid evidence. Can you imagine presenting video evidence to a court showing a person being assaulted or even killed being ruled inadmissible, even if obtained on private land without the landowners approval, of course not.

7 comments to Shropshire gamekeeper cleared by magistrates of trapping wild birds

  • Have to say this doesn’t surprise me and I fear its only the start of worse to come under this government

  • nirofo

    It looks like this new ruling by district judge Kevin Grego will set a precedent, it will potentially stop the police using covert surveillance if they have to ask permission to access the scene to set up covert video equipment. Looks like the criminals could have a field day with their brief saying it infringes their rights because they didn’t know they were under surveillance and were set up. On the other hand is it a case of one rule for them and one rule for us ???

  • john.s

    its about time common sense was shown and the court did not pamper to the “animal police” and its underhanded concerns ,as a young boy I remember corvids being kept at a level where it gave song birds a chance of rearing a brood of young
    the gamekeeper should be applauded for setting traps to keep the winged marauders numbers down instead of being hounded for doing something useful

  • Ally

    I think the police have a few more powers than rspb when it comes to covert operations. They will need all sorts of permissions before they can do what Mr Jones took on himself to do.

  • Ally mac

    I think the police have a few more powers than rspb when it comes to covert operations. They will need all sorts of permissions before they can do what Mr Jones took on himself to do.

  • Ally mac

    And surely there should be a natural balance. How can there be when peregrines are promoted and encouraged so much. In places they would never be centuries ago. As said above there is a complete imbalance.

    Editor’s Comment. Not sure where you are getting your information but you are wrong. The facts clearly show that in the northern uplands of England, the peregrine has almost been totally eliminated from moorland where red grouse are shot. For example this season in the Forest of Bowland the peregrine has been reduced to just two successful breeding pairs. In the northern Pennines we are advised not one single successful site was recorded this year. There is an imbalance, too many red grouse resulting in the destruction of normal moorland ecosystems just to produce as many red grouse to shot as possible.

  • Trapit

    Much as it might displease some followers of this site,neither the RSPB or anyone else,can wander the countryside randomly distributing surveillance cameras on private property.Howard Jones should have known this ,photographed the offending trap ,and informed the police.The initial offence was using decoy birds that are not on the permitted list.It was a quite straight forward offence, and the local wildlife officer could have been straight on to it . Eagerness and enthusiasm,usually to be commended,got in the way of due procedure.The RSPB do this from time to time,but never seem to learn.