Is this convicted gamekeeper a member of the SGA?

Last Tuesday (3 April 2012), Scottish gamekeeper Robert Christie of the Lindertis Estate was convicted at Forfar Sheriff Court of wildlife crimes (see here).

Nine days later, we are still waiting for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) to issue a public statement condemning the criminal activities that led to the conviction and also clarifying Christie’s SGA membership status. Was he an SGA member at the time he committed the offences (2010)? If so, is he still a member now he has a criminal conviction?

It’s unusual for the SGA to be so coy about the membership status of a convicted gamekeeper. To their credit, in each of the cases that have been heard so far this year (and even in one case that didn’t even make it to court – the crow trap video case), the SGA has been quick to publicise whether the accused/convicted gamekeeper was an SGA member.

So why so coy this time? Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just got caught up in the Easter holidays and haven’t got around to making a statement yet. Although they have managed to find the time to add various other news items to their website, including an announcement about a forthcoming snaring training course at a choice of venue that certainly raised our eyebrows (see here).

If anyone has tried to contact the SGA about Christie’s membership status we would be very interested to hear about it. For anyone who wants to ask them now, here are the SGA’s contact details:


Tel (Perth Office): 01738 587515

Isle of Wight police appeal for witnesses after buzzard found shot dead

Take note, Northern Constabulary – it’s really not that difficult to put out a timely press release when investigating a raptor persecution crime, as your police colleagues on the Isle of Wight demonstrate here:

Specialist police wildlife crime officers on the Isle of Wight are appealing for witnesses following the discovery of a dead buzzard believed to have been shot. The buzzard’s body was found on 30 March 2012 at Lower Road, Adgestone near Sandown.

Anyone with information should contact Wildlife Crime Officer PC Nick Massey at Ryde Police Station by phoning 101.

Isle of Wight News (Ventnor Blog) here

BBC news story here

Egg thief Matthew Gonshaw – more delay in latest case

The latest case against convicted egg thief Matthew Gonshaw was heard at Inverness Sheriff Court on 5 April 2012 (case continued from 8 March 2012).

This case has once again been continued and will next be heard at the end of April.

For background, see previous blog here

Police, Camera, (No) Action

We’ve recently learned about the suspected shooting and decapitation of a white-tailed eagle on the Isle of Skye. Incredibly, this incident, concerning one of Scotland’s most iconic conservation species, has been a well-kept secret for almost a year!

The freshly-dead sea eagle was discovered on a Skye beach by a member of the public in late April 2011. This person is a member of the medical profession and in his opinion, the eagle had been shot by a rifle and its head had been removed with a sharp implement, probably a knife. It was also his opinion that the bird had been thrown from a cliff-top onto the beach; the rocks on the cliff-top above where the body was found are well-known sea eagle perching spots. Photographs of the shot, head-less eagle were taken and the incident was reported to the regional RSPB office and to the police (Northern Constabulary).

For a variety of reasons (and none of them sinister), the carcass was not retrieved from the beach for another two weeks. This unfortunate delay meant that the carcass was in an advanced state of decomposition. It was sent for post-mortem but this apparently proved inconclusive. We don’t know who conducted the post-mortem (the bird does not appear in the SASA reports so we assume it wasn’t tested for poisoning).

According to our sources, the police investigation was limited, at best. The dead eagle was discovered on the Easter weekend; many visitors would have been in the vicinity as this location is a popular tourist destination. A press release might have drawn potential witnesses from amongst the visitors, and also would have alerted local people to the incident. We understand that many locals were not informed, let alone asked for any potential intelligence leads.

The only public comment about this incident is a one-liner on the Skye Birds website (see here) dated 27 March 2012. Why all the secrecy? Was it deliberate, or another poorly-resourced investigation, or just incompetence? Not for the first time, questions should be asked of Northern Constabulary. It’s also surprising that the RSPB were not more vocal about this case. Sure, the RSPB doesn’t have a statutory duty to investigate wildlife crime (unlike the police), but it does have the ability and resources to publicise suspected wildlife crimes and you might have expected more from them when the suspected crime involved one of their own flagship reintroduction species.

Giant eagle in dining etiquette atrocities

Police in the Highlands are warning sheep farmers to be on high alert after a spate of incidents involving a giant eagle and a jar of mint sauce.

They believe the enormous bird is responsible for dining etiquette atrocities in the lambing fields of Perthshire. One farmer, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals by gangs of ill-mannered eagles, said he had seen this ginormous eagle staggering around his field, dressed in a hoodie and swigging from a bottle of Lambrini while stuffing lamb cutlets into its beak. “That lamb was wasted on that brute. Doesn’t it know that lamb should be smothered in chopped rosemary and garlic and cooked at 200 degrees centigrade for 125 minutes? To eat it raw like that, after spooning mint sauce over its intestines, just goes to show what an uncultured savage it is. The Scottish government has got a lot to answer for, bringing back these uncouth barbarians.”

Albert Hogburn of the Modern Poisoners Society said: “We’ve said all along that these eagles are a danger to society, and now we’ve been proved right. Nobody listened to us but I bet they will now. You can’t teach an eagle new tricks, or table manners, which is why we like to teach them another kind of lesson. Let them eat our poisoned bait, that’ll learn ‘em”.

Donald Spewing-Moore of the Royal Bird Protection Society said: “For fuck’s sake, can’t a man eat his easter eggs in peace? Call me back on Tuesday when I’m in the office“. He later phoned back and apologised for his bad language, blaming it on the stress of being beaten on the Wii by his mother-in-law.

The Courier reports another attack that may have been carried out by the same eagle, here.

Why convicted gamekeeper Robert Christie only got a telling off

Two days ago we blogged about Scottish gamekeeper Robert Christie (Lindertis Estate) who was convicted at Forfar Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to wildlife crimes (see here).

Since then there has been a fair bit of press coverage but the media hasn’t really picked up on the fact that Christie’s ‘punishment’ was just an admonishment (effectively a telling off), even though the available penalties included a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a six month prison sentence.

However, an article published in yesterday’s Courier did include commentary about the penalty:

“…Sheriff Kevin Veal at Forfar decided not to impose a penalty on gamekeeper Robert Christie after hearing the ‘immediate and draconian consequences’ connected with breaching a trapping licence could render the 57-year-old unemployable for the rest of his working life”.

Christie’s solicitor, David McKie (who also happens to be the SGA’s solicitor – see here), reportedly commented:

There are implications under the general licence – if the court imposes anything more than an admonition the licence is automatically withdrawn for five years“.

Was what Christie did the crime of the century? No of course it wasn’t, but what it was, without a doubt, was a criminal offence under the wildlife legislation. It seems astonishing that the Sheriff would decide not to impose any penalty, especially given the current high priority that the Scottish Government has placed on tackling wildlife crime.

What we are seeing yet again is an inconsistency in sentencing (compare Christie’s penalty with that of Aswanley Estate gamekeeper Craig Barrie who was recently fined £520 for illegal use of a trap, see here) and the sense that wildlife crime is still not being taken seriously by some Scottish courts. Do you think this defence would be acceptable for other offences, such as a drink driving taxi driver? ‘Oh, sorry m’Lord, yes I was drunk when I drove my car and I really should have known the consequences of doing this as driving is my profession but the immediate and draconian measure of losing my licence will also mean I lose my job’.

Talking of taking wildlife crime seriously, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has not yet issued any public statement of condemnation for Christie’s actions, nor have they said whether he is/was an SGA member. To find out about Christie’s SGA membership status, send an email to:

Article in the Courier here

Scottish gamekeeper ‘admonished’ for wildlife crimes

Scottish gamekeeper Robert Alexander Christie (58) was convicted today at Forfar Sheriff Court for wildlife crimes relating to the illegal use of a crow cage trap. He was ‘punished’ by receiving an admonishment.

Christie pled guilty to taking a wild bird, possessing a wild bird, and using an illegal trap by failing to adhere to the terms of the general licence (this general licence governs the use of crow cage traps in Scotland).

The offences took place on the Lindertis Estate near Kirriemuir, Angus on 8 August 2010. Lindertis Estate is listed as a sporting estate providing pheasant and partridge shooting (see here). A tawny owl was rescued from inside a crow cage trap in a wood on the estate by a member of the public. The owl was reportedly in poor condition (severely malnourished and unable to hold its own bodyweight on its legs) when it was found and it was sent to a vet for treatment. The owl was released back into the wild on 13 August. 

The crow cage trap reportedly did not contain food or shelter, and a tray of water contained green algae, and the trap did not have an identification tag, all contrary to the terms of the general licence.

Christie has 24 years of gamekeeping experience and has been employed as a full-time gamekeeper on this estate for approximately 18 years.

Also due to appear in court was Christie’s employer, who according to Burke’s Peerage is a hereditary peer: The Rt Hon The Lord Colyton, although in the court listing his name was given as Alisdair John Munro Hopkinson. Charges against Hopkinson related to allegedly causing/permitting the gamekeeper to use an illegal trap (Wildlife & Countryside Act). However, charges against Hopkinson were not proceeded, perhaps because Christie pled guilty.

This case was prosecuted by one of the new specialist wildlife fiscals, Shona McJannett. She is quoted as saying:

Today’s conviction highlights the importance of ensuring that crow cage traps are operated legally in terms of the general licence. The protection of our wildlife is a priority and a robust view will be taken by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in relation to any reports alleging breach of these general licence conditions.”

Now, it’s refreshing news to hear that COPFS will take a ‘robust view’ of this type of wildlife crime and hopefully they will continue to prosecute these cases, but the penalty handed out by the court doesn’t quite match the Fiscal’s view of the seriousness of the offence. Christie’s ‘punishment’ (the admonishment) is effectively no punishment at all. It’s basically a ‘telling off’ (see here for a definition) and because he wasn’t given a more serious penalty (e.g. a fine) it means he is NOT banned from continuing to operate crow cage traps under the general licence. What sort of deterrent is a telling off? What message does this send to other wildlife criminals? Does anyone think Christie will lose his job now he’s got a conviction for wildlife crime?

It is not known whether Christie is a member of the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association. Anyone interested in finding out can ask the SGA by emailing: We would be very interested to learn whether he is a member, and if so, does his wildlife crime conviction mean that he is now barred from the club professional body?

Despite the pathetic ‘penalty’ (can you even call it that?), big kudos to the SSPCA for leading on this investigation, and well done also to COPFS for prosecuting; it’s not often we have cause to congratulate COPFS but on this occasion its deserved.

If you are out and about in the Scottish hills and glens and  come across a trapped raptor caught inside a crow cage trap (or any other trap for that matter), then you should call the SSPCA hotline immediately: 03000-999-999

SSPCA press release here

News article on Deadline News website here

COPFS press release here

See here for another blog on why Christie only got a telling off

STOP PRESS: One of our readers (thank you!) has contacted us to say he thinks this is the same estate that we blogged about last June (see here). Obviously we’re unable to confirm or refute this as the name of the estate in the June blog was kept a big secret, although the location is very similar!