Forest of Bowland Gamekeeper from the Bleasdale estate denies killing two peregrines

Yesterday 28th September was a landmark day in Bowland’s dark history of ongoing raptor killing, when Mr James Hartley a 34 year old gamekeeper from the Bleasdale estate  appeared in the dock at Preston Magistrates Court facing nine charges relating to the alleged killing of two peregrine falcons in April 2016 on the estate where he was employed.
 

Each one the nine charges read out by the clerk are been listed below:

  1. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally killed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a peregrine falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  2. Disturb the nesting site of a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally or recklessly disturbed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a peregrine falcon, while it was in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young, contrary to sections 1(5)(a) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  3. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally killed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a peregrine falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  4. Set trap / gin / snare etc to cause injury to wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, set in position a trap which was of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming in to contact with it, contrary to sections 5(1)(a) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
  5. Take a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally took a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a peregrine falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  6. Possess live / dead Schedule 1 wild bird or its parts. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, had in your possession or control a dead wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a peregrine falcon, contrary to sections 1(2)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
  7. Possess an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15-17. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, for the purpose of committing an offence, namely killing a Schedule 1 wild bird, namely a peregrine falcon, under section 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, had in your possession a firearm which was capable of being used for committing the offence, contrary to section 18(2) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  8. Possess an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15-17. On 12 April 2016 and 27 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, for the purpose of committing an offence, namely killing a Schedule 1 wild bird, namely a peregrine falcon, under section 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, had in your possession hammer, trap and knife which were capable of being used for committing the offence, contrary to section 18(2) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  9. Cause unnecessary suffering to a protected animal – Animal Welfare Act 2006. On 12 April 2016 and 15 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, caused unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, namely a peregrine falcon, by an act, namely trapping and leaving for a number of hours, and you knew or ought reasonably to have known that the act would have that effect or be likely to do so.

When Mr Hartley was asked how did he plead, guilty or not guilty, he stated not guilty.

The offences came to light after the RSPB had installed a camera within the boundary of the Bleasdale Estate overlooking an occupied Peregrine Falcons nest on the estate. Footage captured showed an individual in camouflage clothing, setting spring trap near the nest containing eggs. The female Peregrine was shown leaving her nest followed by 4 gunshots, after which the female Peregrine did not return to the nest.

The male peregrine remained at the site all day, believed to have been trapped in the device set earlier near the nest. Later in the evening a person is seen returning to the nest site and removing something.

The lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service explained that the defendant is the gamekeeper for this particular ‘beat’ on the Bleasdale Estate and during a police search of his property a bag was seized containing a number of tools. A forensic analysis showed that a wooden-handled hammer and an orange-handled knife both contained peregrine DNA. The defendant gave a ‘no comment’ interview.

A Warrant was subsequently executed for arrest of gamekeeper

Tools and items Removed –

  1. Wooden handled hammer
  2. Orange handled knife
  3. Spring Trap

Items removed carried DNA of Peregrine Falcon

Large number of witnesses including 5 providing expert evidence

Legal issues

complex prosecution – reliance on expert evidence

exhibits not yet received

DVD HJ1A

Screen Grabs HJ5

Video HJ3

Photos HJ2

The next court hearing is scheduled to take place on 11 January 2018 at Preston Magistrates Court and is expected to deal with legal arguments about the admissibility of video evidence. These legal arguments are likely to be crucial, for example did the estate provide approval to install the camera at an occupied Peregrine nest, and if so were any pre conditions agreed between the RSPB and estate owner? Depending on the outcome of that hearing, a preliminary trial date was set to begin on 12 February 2018 and was expected to last for five days.

 

 

7 comments to Forest of Bowland Gamekeeper from the Bleasdale estate denies killing two peregrines

  • David Candlin

    What a complete SCROTE a vandal! I would punch on the nose as hard as I could! We must stop people destroying our wildlife, for their own selfish ends! Time to stop all hunting!

  • Philip Newberry

    I would hope that the DNA evidence is sufficient to convict in this case, there can be no reason that I can think of as to why peregrine DNA is on the mans tools.

  • Paul bray

    I find it appalling that gamekeepers think they can do as they please. It’s about time the laws are used and upheld. I visit forest of bowland regularly and love seeing peregrines.

    Editor’s Comment. Paul in our experience covering 47 years in Bowland, the game shooting estates and their employees are working to feudal management practices where birds of prey are involved. If, and we say if once again, if this gamekeeper is found guilty it will be a strong deterrent and reminder to others their illegal actions are now being closely monitored, and they better look out. If he is found not guilty, then birds of prey throughout Bowland are at a greater risk of total annihilation.

  • Crissie Laugesen

    No doubt his VERY well-heeled employer is paying for his legal representation, and will pay any fine imposed, all the while sneering at how powerless the courts are to deal with privileged aristocrats. Someone who had his late father spend millions on his 21st birthday party has no problem paying off a few paltry fines, when his grouse moors haul in the money from rich fools who love to shoot imported gamebirds. His view is that native birds and animals, like local residents, just get in the way and need removing so he and his pals can have a jolly good time.

    Nothing less than a prison sentence is needed here (if found guilty), and it would be even better if charges were brought against the man’s employer himself, and the pair of them jailed.

  • Stephen King

    Typical I’m afraid of the whole ‘them and us’ class situation where THE LAWS OF THE LAND only apply to the majority of the British public not the privileged few, and these well healed and connected land owners can and do get away with murder!!

  • Dave Maak

    About time the courts took this seriously. There is no deterrent for these criminals. They should throw the book at this one. Interestingly this morning it has been announced that the government will be increasing the penalty for animal abuse from 3 to 5 years in

    Editor’s Comment. David, we have removed the first three words of your comment to keep within the law.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group

    Five-year jail terms for animal cruelty crimes are planned by Michael Gove as offenders continue to get off lightly he claims. Well we know all about that don’t we?

    The Environment Secretary wants max term of six months increased dramatically to five years in prison, the new legislation should be on the statute books by next year.

    Since 2005, 12 in every 13 people convicted for animal cruelty avoided jail
    One in four animal cruelty cases is punished with only a fine.

    Will this new legislation cover protected birds of prey systematically killed under horrific circumstances on grouse moors by gamekeepers.? A recent case uncovered in the Forest of Bowland highlighted a cat snared in an illegal trap set by a gamekeeper. The trap had been left for at least 3 days was found by sympathetic animal welfare activists.

    The injured cat, who was suffering from shock and dehydration, had to have several toes amputated. A vet who is also a cat expert stated that the cat must have been in the trap for at least three days. The cat has now been adopted by one of the activists, but it would have ended very differently for him if the cats pitiful cries had been ignored.

    A few years prior to this incident members of the North West Raptor Group found the corpse of a badger trapped in an illegal snare in the Forest of Bowland. The animal had been left in agony to die a horrendous death and when found had already started to decompose. Will this kind of animal cruelty and abuse be covered by Michael Gove’s new proposals I wonder?

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