Father & Daughter plead guilty to trying to sell wild Peregrines

Liana Baker, 21 yrs of Central Avenue, Bury and her father Alan Baker aged 61  years of Peel Street, Accrington,  appeared at Bury Magistrates Court today (29/10/2015), where they were sentenced for two offences relating to the possession and offering for sale of two wild peregrine falcons.  The pair had pleaded guilty to all charges at a previous hearing.

PEREGRINE

Both confiscated peregrine chicks were later returned to a second nestcontaining similar sized chicks where they were both successfully accepted by their new foster parents.

The offences came to light in June 2015 when Liana Baker posted photographs of two peregrine falcon chicks on a Falconry Forum on Facebook.  The accompanying text indicated that the peregrines were being offered for sale at £150 each.

The trade in Peregrine Falcons is strictly controlled and they can only be legally sold if they have been captive bred, are fitted with a closed leg ring and they are covered by a Government issued permit, which is commonly known as and Article 10 Certificate.  If the birds don’t meet the criteria, the commercial use is prohibited under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (COTES ‘97).  Beaches of the regulations carry a maximum sentence of up to 5 years.

Additionally the possession of a wild Peregrine falcon, which receives the highest level of protection, is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA ’81).  A person has to show that their possession is lawful and that a bird has not been taken in contravention of the Act.

Baker’s Facebook posting sparked outrage from other legitimate falconers when they realised that the birds were not ringed and were not covered by permits.  It became apparent the birds were wild-taken.

Two falconers reported the matter to the National Wildlife Crime Unit, who traced Baker through her Facebook account.

Once it became obvious that falconers had expressed their concerns on the forum, Baker’s father contacted the RSPB to tell them that he had recovered two young peregrine falcons, which he had been.  He made no mention of the fact that his daughter had been offering them for sale.

The birds were recovered the following day by the RSPCA and the Calderdale Raptor Study Group (members of Northern England Raptor Forum) identified a suitable nest and relocated the chicks into a nest in the West Yorkshire area where they were adopted by the resident parents. The nest was monitored by Calderdale RSG until both surrogate chicks, and the foster parents own chicks, fledged and were free flying. A considerable amount of time (and not without risk) was spent assisting these two chicks returing to the wild.

Steve Downing, Calderdale RSG said “I had been monitoring one particular Peregrine nest for several weeks and had already ringed the two resident young when I was sent the photographs of the two chicks seized in Bury. They were a perfect match for the chicks in the nest that I was monitoring and they were readily accepted by the parents. It was a magical moment when I saw all four chicks flying free for the first time. NERF would like to thank the Police, NWCU, RSPCA and RSPB for working to secure a success outcome to this case.”

In July 2015 Liana and Alan Baker were interviewed by the NWCU and GMP and admitted that they had tried to sell the birds on Facebook.  They claimed that they had no knowledge of the origins of the birds and claimed that they had been brought to the house by a man that neither of them had seen previously.  They claimed they had tried to care for them, but realised it was too time consuming and had then offered them for sale.

Officers were unable to ascertain where the birds had originated from, but they are aware that a number of Peregrine nests have failed including a nest in the Bury area.

Magistrate Ralph Naylor told the defendants that the offences were so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

Having pleaded guilty to ‘Prohibited offering sale of two Annex ‘A’ Species (COTES 1997) and ‘Possession of two wild Peregrine falcons (WCA 1981), Liana Baker was sentenced to 8 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months, ordered to attend a rehabilitation of offenders course and pay £345 costs. Alan Baker was also sentenced to 8 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months. He was given a curfew from 7pm to 7am for 8 weeks and ordered to pay £345 costs.

Following the hearing Andy McWilliam from the National Wildlife Crime Unit praised the falconer who brought the matter to the attention of the authorities and said, “The majority of falconers and breeders work within the law and it is reassuring to know that they are prepared to challenge criminality within the falconry world. Anybody intent on trading illegally in endangered species should be aware that they may face jail”.

Raptor Politics wished to extend our thanks to one of our followers for bringing this story, published as a press release, by the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

3 comments to Father & Daughter plead guilty to trying to sell wild Peregrines

  • Daniel Marsden

    Excellent outcome. Just a shame it is a suspended sentence.
    Chairman North West Raptor Group

  • Brian Leecy

    This is a Fantastic Outcome,even though a suspended sentence is pitiful,it’s a step in the right direction,One wonders though if Wildlife Crime will ever be taken seriously in this Country !!

    Editor’s Comment. In response to the ongoing enquiry prompted by this incident the police contacted a member of the North West Raptor Group this week asking if the group were aware of any peregrine nests which had lost nestlings this season. One particular nest was mentioned by the police investigating this crime. However the particular nest mentioned had failed due to natural circumstances. The police are to be commended for following up this incident in a concerted manner to discover the nest from where the stolen peregrine chicks were taken. What comes to mind however, in just the last 4 years at least 18 previously occupied Forest of Bowland peregrine territories are known to have been abandoned following a spate of illegal and sustained persecution. No investigation was instigated by the police or RSPB in respect to these unprecedented losses whatsoever; its as though the territories never existed as far as the RSPB are concerned. In fact the loss of these nest sites was not even cataloged as suspicious incidents in the annual RSPB crime figures as far as we are aware.

  • Northern Diver

    Thanks to Calderdale Raptor Group for getting the chicks back to the wild but have just seen this :-

    Exeter bird lovers shocked after church peregrine falcon is shot | Exeter Express and Echo http://po.st/EZVpoF

    The dead bird was found in Halifax – shot. Could it be the perpetrator was (allegedly) a pigeon fancier or a grouse moor gamekeeper? Someone should have told it not to venture into Yorkshire – wildlife crime hotspot (allegedly).