With the grouse season about to start on the 12th August and the pheasant season starting on 1st October I thought I would put a few articles up all about the ‘good old gamekeeper‘.
Three gamekeepers admitted using baited traps to catch protected birds of prey that might attack grouse and partridges on the shooting estate in North Yorkshire. Scarborough magistrates heard on 8/2/08 that RSPB inspectors had found five traps baited with live pigeons on the Snilesworth estate near Osmotherley. The traps can be used legally only to catch birds such as magpies and crows, and only members of the crow family can be used as bait. Head gamekeeper James Shuttlewood (40) of Hagg House, Snilesworth, Hawnby pleaded guilty to five charges of permitting the use of traps and was fined £250 for each offence. Beat keeper Charles Woof (23) of Sparrow Hall, Scugdale, Swainby, North Yorkshire, admitted one charge of using a trap and was fined £100. Under-keeper David Cook (18) of Ingleby House Farm, Ingleby, Arncliffe, North Yorkshire, admitted two charges of using traps and was given a 12-month conditional discharge. The three were also ordered to pay costs of £43 each.
James McDougal is the first UK landowner to be hit with the fine for an environmental crime on his estate. George Aitken (56) who works as a gamekeeper on Blythe Farm near Lauder in Berwickshire, set traps holding live pigeons and placed dead pheasants laced with poisons on moorland close to the Southern Upland Way. He pleaded guilty to eight wildlife crime offences at Selkirk Sheriff Court in June 2007 and was sentenced to 220 hours community service. It has now been revealed that The Scottish Government docked £7919 from Aitken’s employer for failing to protect local wildlife.
Gamekeeper Richard McMorn (48) of Ancroft Town Farm near Berwick was arrested following a joint investigation involving Northumbria Police, the RSPB and Natural England, amid fears that the toxins were being used to kill wildlife. At Berwick magistrates on 4/10/07 they heard how McMorn was found to be in possession of a quantity of Yeltox, which had been banned under EC regulations in 2001. He also had a quantity of Cymag which had been banned in 2004 also found was quantities of Phostoxin and Anul Nitrate (Cyanide), two controlled substances which should have been kept under lock and key. McMorn pleaded guilty to four charges of possession/storage of illegal and hazardous pesticides and was fined a total of £600 with £70 costs.
A County Durham gamekeeper who kept wild birds has been ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service. RSPCA inspectors and police found two goldfinches kept in cages on land belonging to Daniel Robinson (42) from Bishop Auckland. He admitted two charges of possessing wild birds at Newton Aycliffe magistrates on 16/11/07. The birds were subsequently released back into the wild. Inspectors also found recordings of birdsong, a cage trap, teasel plants commonly used to attract birds, metal poles and netting, during a search of Rosemount Allotments at South Church in Bishop Auckland. Robinson was also ordered pay £320 costs to the RSPCA.
On 11/9/07 three gamekeepers who admitted digging up a badger sett while out hunting with dogs avoided jail after a sheriff accepted they had not intentionally gone to hunt the protected animals. Scott Collins (20) from West Calder, West Lothian, a former gamekeeping student of the year at his college, looked after the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate for a year and a half, and game-keeping graduate Greig Withers (22) from Kilmarnock, claimed they had been hunting for rabbits when one of their dogs ran off. The dog had disappeared down a badgers sett for some time and they began digging it out along with Derek Kelly (23) from Bathgate, West Lothian, who studied gamekeeping with Collins, and Adam Lennon (22) from Kilmarnock. The men were charged with offences under the Protection of Badgers Act, and appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 11/9/07. While digging they had partially blocked a neighbouring badger sett entrance with earth and stones. Collins had permission from the landowner to hunt rabbits and admitted he knew there may be badgers in the area. Collins, Withers, Kelly and Lennon all admitted interfering with a badger sett by digging into it and obstructing the entrance to a sett. Collins and Withers were fined £640 each. Kelly and Lennon were each fined £520. A fifth man, Kevin Andrews, (29) from Hurlford, was allowed to leave the dock after pleading not guilty to similar charges.
A gamekeeper who used live pigeons in cages as bait and laced the carcasses of pheasants with deadly poisons to lure birds of prey avoided a jail sentence. George Aitken (56) from Lauder – who has managed to keep his job – was ordered to carry out 220 hours of community service after admitting a series of wildlife crime offences. But the sheriff, who said he would have disqualified him from being a gamekeeper if he had the power, explained he was able to impose the alternative to custody because Aitken was a first offender and was not in the best of health. Aitken pleaded guilty to a total of eight offences at Selkirk Sheriff Court on 3/6/07 while not guilty pleas were accepted to another seven charges. He admitted three charges of being in possession of carbofuran and sodium cyanide. Aitken also pleaded guilty to two offences of setting in place pheasant carcasses laced with carbosulfan in the open likely to cause injury to wild birds, setting traps using live pigeons as bait, cruelly ill-treating pigeons and causing them unnecessary suffering by using them as a decoy to attract birds of prey and possession of a quantity of cage traps. Aitken – who has been a gamekeeper for 20 years – committed the offences as part of pest control effort to stop the birds of prey attacking the pheasants on his estate. As well as imposing 220 hours of community service, he ordered the forfeiture of the pesticides and traps that were found at Blythe Farm near Lauder.
A pub landlord and bloodsports supporter has been fined after being convicted of threatening a cameraman at one of the UK leading partridge shoots. Richard Clarke (48) who is the landlord of The Green Man, London Road, Six Mile Bottom fired a volley of abuse at Michael Huskisson who was filming the event at Six Mile Bottom. On 5/10/06 Ely magistrates heard that he then pushed Mr Huskisson into a car. Magistrates found Clarke guilty of assault and threatening behaviour fined him £250 and £364 in costs. Clarke is the chairman of the National Gamekeepers‘ Organisation had denied any offence. Mr Huskisson, told magistrates that he filmed the shoot, from a public road. Clarke then walked over to him, called him a “pervert” and then unleashed a volley of foul language. Clarke then hit his camera with a stick and punched him, causing him to fall back on to the side of his car. (Watch the video of the threatening behaviour)
One of the Queen’s gamekeepers has been fined £500 and ordered to pay £470 costs for setting a rat trap that snared a tawny owl by mistake. Dean Wright (26) of Anmer, Norfolk who works on the Sandringham Estate, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, admitted committing the offence at Shernborne. Wright appeared at King’s Lynn magistrates on 23/11/06 where he denied causing unnecessary suffering to the owl caught in the trap and the Crown Prosecution Service chose not to pursue that charge.
A gamekeeper has been convicted of shooting a short-eared owl on a Lanarkshire grouse moor in May 2004. Mark Palmer (23) gamekeeper for a shoot on Abington Farms Estate (often known as the Leadhills Estate) appeared at Lanark Sheriff Court on 31/7/05. Palmer was seen driving across the moor on a quad bike then stop the bike, take out his shotgun and walk towards the spot where an owl had landed on the hillside. When it flew up, he fired three shots at it, and it fell to the ground. He collected the spent shotgun cartridges, but failed to find the owl. After a search of the heather, the two witnesses found the bird, still alive but badly injured. It died a few minutes afterwards. Palmer was later detained at his home, where clothing was recovered matching the description provided by the witnesses. Palmer was convicted of killing a short-eared owl and fined £500. It was his first conviction. He remains employed on the estate.
David Scott (40) who is a gamekeeper admitted at Elgin Sheriff Court on 9/5/06 to killing two protected buzzards on a Scottish estate near Elgin when he found them in a legal crow trap. Scott was fined £200.
A farmer from Wramplingham, Norfolk whose gamekeeper used a rat poison that killed two birds of prey was fined on 11/7/06 – securing the first-ever prosecution for “secondary poisoning”. Central Norfolk magistrates expressed concern that the poison, Difenacoum, was freely available to the public at garden centres without guidance on how to use it safely. The birds had eaten dead and dying rats that had consumed the poison, making them a “secondary” recipient of it. Farmer Rosalyn Vincent (55) of Home Farm was fined £2,000, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to not providing her gamekeeper Leslie Brooks with training in the proper use of pesticides. But she had declined to enter a plea to two charges of allowing him to use rat poison in breach of regulations. Vincent was also ordered to pay £400 costs.
An Aberdeenshire gamekeeper who poisoned wild birds and kept illegal pesticides has been fined £850. Hector McNeil (56) of Whitehillock, Glenbuchat and who worked on Glenbuchat estate for 30 years, had admitted killing a raven, of which there are only two breeding pairs in Grampian. Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard on the 12/7/06 that McNeil had poisoned gulls eggs, a food source for ravens, to protect pheasant and red grouse numbers. McNeil was fined £350 for killing a common gull and a raven, £400 for keeping 118 common gull eggs and £100 for keeping a banned pesticide.
On 11/1/06 a former Dalmeny Estate gamekeeper who indecently assaulted three children over a decade was jailed and placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely. Donald Peter Bennie Smith (57) who worked at the South Queensferry estate in the 1970s, indecently touched the teenagers between 1978 and 1989. He enticed one boy to his gamekeeper’s house on the Dalmeny Estate when he was aged 13 to 15 by asking him to walk his dog, work in the garden and help with pheasant shooting. Smith moved to Beechwood Road, Blackburn in West Lothian where he abused two more children. He pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent behaviour and was jailed for four years and nine months.
A former Deeside gamekeeper who took a shotgun on to a neighbouring estate and aimed it a hen harrier has been fined £500. On 18/2/06 Stonehaven Sheriff Court was told that Colin Marshall (22) had “contemplated” killing the protected bird, but made no attempt to do so. Marshall was filmed by members of the RSPB training his shotgun, but not firing, on the Crannach Estate near Ballater. Marshall admitted two charges – entering the Crannach Estate with a firearm and possessing a shotgun capable of being used to kill, injure or take a wild bird. Not guilty pleas to a further two charges, of attempting to kill, injure or take a hen harrier and of intentionally disturbing its young, were also accepted. At the time of the incident Marshall was a gamekeeper on the Dinnet Estate, which shares a border with the Crannach. Marshall’s shotgun was also forfeited.
A gamekeeper convicted of deliberately snaring and killing a badger has been fined £1,200 but will not lose his job. Steven Harmson (47) of Hillhead of Findrack, Torphins, was found guilty of two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and was fined for the offences at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 19/12/05 but he will still keep his job at the Findrack Estate at Craigievar, near Alford, even if he loses his firearms licence. The RSPB stumbled across dozens of dead animals including badger, roe deer, foxes and a rabbit caught in free running snares on the estate. Harmson was convicted of deliberately setting a snare near the entrance to a badger’s sett on the estate and failing to check traps daily. The badger was found dead in the trap. Another was found dead elsewhere and a third had been caught but broke loose from a snare. Harmson has worked on the estate for 15 years, was ordered to pay £600 for each charge. A spokesman for Grampian Police said it was not clear if any action would be taken to rescind Harmson’s gun licence.
In 2004 John McLeod who is the gamekeeper on the Haystoun Estate near Peebles was fined £300 after police officers found a weapon and ammunition in his unattended Landrover.
On 6/7/05 Stephen Tucker (50) of Lyndhurst Avenue, Blidworth admitted interfering with a badger sett by putting his pet terrier down one of its holes. Tucker was spotted by police digging at a sett with former gamekeeper Walter Wilkinson (79) of Retford Road, North Wheatley, who initially denied digging for badgers, interfering with the sett and ill treating two terriers. During the trial at Worksop magistrates Tucker admitted damaging the sett and ill treating the dogs as it emerged he had been convicted of similar charges 12 years ago. Tucker told the police and RSPCA inspectors that he loved hunting and ‘lived for it’. All charges against Wilkinson were dismissed by the judge on the grounds of his age and ill health!!!!! On 8/8/05 Tucker was ordered to pay £6,000 costs to the RSPCA and to complete 180 hours community punishment. He was also banned from keeping terriers for life.
Wildlife campaigners have expressed outrage after prosecutors dropped 44 charges against a gamekeeper accused of storing poisons capable of killing thousands of people in an unlocked shed. Following plea-bargaining Jock Whellans (68) admitted just four offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 11/6/05 and was fined a total of £190. The alleged offences ranged from the laying of poison baits in the open countryside and the use of an illegal snare. Whellans pleaded guilty to just four offences, with not guilty pleas being accepted on the remaining charges.
On 16/8/04 at Shrewsbury Crown Court John Frederick Twist, gamekeeper for the Marrington Shoot near Chirbury in Shropshire, pleaded guilty to two offences contrary to the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. A police search revealed a number of pesticides, including Cymag and Talunex. They were found stored on a shelf in an unmarked wooden shed after Twist had denied storing any pesticides at this location. Twist was fined £500 and one of his employers, John Wilde, from Kenley in Shropshire, pleaded guilty to two charges. These related to failing to provide appropriate instruction, training and guidance for pesticide storage, as well as permitting the unsafe storage of Talunex. Wilde received a12-month conditional discharge and costs of £330.
On 6/12/04 a Derbyshire gamekeeper found guilty of persecuting rare birds in the Peak District has lost his appeal against a three month suspended prison sentence. John Cripps (60) of of Keeper’s Cottage, Ronksley, Derbyshire, was convicted in February of destroying the eggs of the rare Goshawk. After a three-day hearing, Derby Crown Court upheld the original sentence – which is suspended for two years.
A gamekeeper and her assistant were jailed for three months on 14/1/05 for firing their shotguns when they encountered an illegal rave. A judge said that he recognised that many law-abiding people would take the view that the organisers and revellers got what they deserved when the pair shot at speakers and car tyres. He could not overlook the fact that Jessica Allinson (46) from Pursers Lane, Peaslake, Surrey and her under-keeper, Alexander Szyndel (28) of of Scotland Lane, Haslemere, Surrey discharged their double-barrelled guns where people were present.
Two gamekeepers were fined £2,000 each for clubbing a bird of prey to death. Michael Clare (23) of Cookshall Lane, High Wycombe was secretly filmed battering a common buzzard with a stick. While under-gamekeeper Clare killed the bird, which was caught in a trap, his superior Leslie Morris (36) also of Cookshall Lane, watched on and failed to intervene. Morris and Clare bred pheasants and partridges on the Dashwood Estate in West Wycombe for the Bradenham Hill shoot. High Wycombe magistrates heard on 29/4/05 Clare claim he killed the bird to put it out of its misery after it had broken its leg. The pair were found guilty of killing a wild bird and having in their possession or control a live wild bird. Morris and Clare were ordered to pay £500 costs in addition to the fines.
For yet even more convicted gamekeepers dating back to 1996 click here
To read about raptor persecution in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK by gamekeepers and shooting estates visit this excellent site.
Also to see what really happens on a duck shoot click here