UK investigation leads to conviction of three Swedish egg collectors


image005An enquiry, which started in the UK in 2009 involving the collecting and trading of wild birds’ eggs, has led to the conviction of three Swedish egg collectors today [Friday 31 January 2014] after a 23-day trial in the province of Ångermanland, in central Sweden. One of the men was jailed for a year.

In February 2009, a collection of over 2000 birds’ eggs was seized by police in County Durham. This was examined by RSPB investigators. Associated documentation and around 6000 emails showed the suspect was involved in exchanging birds’ eggs with a ring of people in England, Scotland, Sweden, the US and Australia. Andrew Seed, of Low Willington, County Durham, was convicted in December 2009 for keeping, trading and smuggling birds’ eggs. He subsequently received a suspended jail sentence.

The raid in northern England led to further investigations centering on two men in Scotland. Two large egg collections were seized. One of the men, Keith Liddell from Holm Dell Drive, Inverness, was convicted at Inverness Sherriff court in March 2013 of 13 charges relating to the trading and possessing eggs. He received 220 hours of community service.

Enquiries by Police Scotland and RSPB identified the link to egg collectors in Sweden, and information was supplied to the Swedish authorities. As a result, three addresses were raided in Sweden in 2010 and around 6,600 eggs were seized. The three men from Härnösand, Gothenburg and Vingåker faced over 100 charges relating to bird’ eggs taken from the wild between 2003 and 2009, and also in trading in birds’ eggs. The man from Härnösand received a one-year prison sentence. The other two received fines of around £1100 and £3800.

A clutch of wader eggs discovered at Liddell’s home were taken in Sweden. It is believed these were exchanged for red kite eggs.

At Seed’s home was a clutch of black-throated diver eggs – these eggs were specifically matched to a photograph seized by the Swedish Police of the eggs still in a Swedish nest in 2007. At an address of another man in Scotland a number of clutches believed to be from Scandinavia were seized. This included two clutches of crane eggs, and again these could be specifically matched to photographs of the eggs in nests in Sweden prior to being taken in 2002 and 2003.

Guy Shorrock, a senior RSPB investigations officer, said: “This enquiry which started in County Durham in 2009 has unraveled an amazing web of people, as far as the US and Australia, involved in the taking, keeping and trading of birds’ eggs.

“There has been a long history of the authorities and RSPB working to tackle egg collectors in the UK. We suspect that egg collectors in other countries may be below the radar of the authorities – for example, the enquiry in Sweden generated another enquiry in Finland leading to the seizure of another 10,000 eggs.

“The RSPB hopes this will send out a strong message to egg collectors at home and abroad.”

3 comments to UK investigation leads to conviction of three Swedish egg collectors

  • nirofo

    It seems strange to me that egg collectors can illicit the full weight of the law being thrown at them and end up with lengthy jail sentences and large fines, and yet the poisoning, shooting, trapping and any other method of killing legally protected birds of prey, which puts an end to their future breeding potential for all time, gets barely any attention from the police. Even when a Raptor persecuting criminal is brought to trial the worst sentencing he can expect is a meagre fine, in most cases he will be let off without even a caution.

    I suppose sentencing and imprisoning an egg collector causes the shooting estate owners no problems whatsoever and with no comeback on them, whereas sentencing a gamekeeper to jail for crimes against Raptors would send out all sorts of wrong messages to the shooting clientele, messages that are long overdue. It’s time for this immoral abuse of the law to change, the Raptor killers should not be treated any different to anyone else if they have broken the law, they should be pursued, prosecuted, jailed and heavily fined.

    Editor’s Comment. This is no surprize to us, it would be very bad PR if a gamekeeper was sent to prison. Once again this year licences allowing the NWRPG to monitor peregrines in the Forest of Bowland were refused. Yet on the other hand, licenses were issued for peregrine in Cumbria, osprey, red kite Barn Owl in parts of Lancashire, together with a permit for golden eagle in the Highlands. It is all too clear, Bowland estate owners and their gamekeepers are pulling Natural England’s strings in a strategy which will ensure the peregrine is never allowed a foothold again in this region again, this conspiracy is called dirty politics. These people do not want experienced field workers in Bowland highlighting incidents of persecution causing the gamekeeper to continually be on his guard, constantly looking over his shoulder, that’s not cricket.

  • nirofo

    So, once again Natural England and the RSPB are afraid to allow NWRPG members anywhere near Bowland Raptor territories, that’s a pity! It’s a pity because officially there will be no one around to discover and report the usual incompetent shenanigans going on there, but then that’s just what they intended isn’t it ??? But one thing to remember is that you don’t necessarily have to visit the Raptors nest to observe, photograph and report the dangerous shenanigans of egotists and gamekeepers.

    • Editor

      Nirofo, We feel it’s very important to take a logical look at what has taken place in the Forest of Bowland and the reasons why Natural England are with holding licenses for use by the NWRPG in that region of Lancashire. We also feel is very significant that the group are being issued with licenses for other much rarer raptor species in Lancashire and in Cumbria, a clear indicator the group members have done nothing wrong.

      1. Since licenses were with-held in 2010 peregrines have been reduced from eighteen pairs to just a single successful pair in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland -Fact.
      2. The NWRPG reported several instances of poor field practice and licence infringements carried out by a small number of licensees before their licenses were with-held. Natural England disregarded these reports.
      3. Terry Pickford the peregrine coordinator until 2010 asked the BTO to remove the names of two licensees from his licence because of inappropriate behaviour when visiting schedule 1 nests. The BTO carried out this request, however one week later Natural England instructed the BTO to reinstate both licenses.
      4. The NWRPG took a unanimous vote not to work with either of the two field workers because of their unacceptable behaviour and clear breaches of licence conditions.
      5. What benefits are being achieved by with-holding peregrine licenses from the NWRPG for use on moorland in the Forest of Bowland owned by private landowners? After all, the NWRPG have monitored these same moorland areas since 1972?
      6. Last year we now know that not a single peregrine breeding attempt on privately owned moorland in this region was successful.
      7. The NWRPG reported to the police last year two breeding attempts on private estates, one nest containing eggs was robbed, a second site containing eggs was abandoned following gamekeeper activity close to the nest.
      8. It seems clear to us based upon the facts we have seen, the only valid reason the NWRPG are being prevented from monitoring raptors throughout moorland owned by private shooting estates in Bowland, is to prevent birds like peregrine and hen harrier returning to these areas in the future. We also feel this situation benefits the estate owners who are receiving support from Natural England in order to maintain the present status quo.