Glen Orchy farce continues

The Glen Orchy case against Tom McKellar continued at Oban Sheriff Court last Friday (27 July) with yet more legal argument.

You won’t be surprised to learn that sentencing has once again been deferred. Next court date is in early September.

Court case updates

Two court case updates for you:

David Campbell, head gamekeeper at Edradynate Estate, Perthshire: an intermediate diet took place yesterday at Perth Sheriff Court at which the trial date was set for 31 August. See here and here for previous posts on this case.

David Taylor and Kevin Begg, gamekeepers at Lochindorb Estate, Morayshire: their trial, which began in March, continues at Inverness Sheriff Court next Tuesday (31 July). See here and here for previous posts on this case. This is one to watch for several reasons, which will become apparent in due course.

Glen Orchy gamekeeper tries to change his plea

Here’s some insight into what is causing the delay in the sentencing of Tom McKellar in the Glen Orchy poison case. From yesterday’s Press & Journal:

An Argyll farmer is attempting to take back his plea of guilty to having a deadly poison which has been banned after being linked to the killing of birds of prey.

Tom McKellar, 50, of Fir Park Cottage, Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy, originally pleaded guilty at Oban Sheriff Court to possessing the pesticide Carbofuran, a pesticide outlawed for more than 10 years, at his home in June 2009.

At a hearing in May his defence solicitor David McKie, in his plea in mitigation, said that his client did not realise the poison was Carbofuran.

Sheriff Douglas Small then queried if McKellar should be pleading guilty, and he continued the case for legal debate until yesterday [Wednesday 25 July 2012].

But when the case called yesterday McKellar had new legal representation in the form of solicitor Cameron Tait who sought permission from Sheriff Small to withdraw the guilty plea and replace it with a not guilty one.

This motion was “strenuously opposed” by fiscal Kate Fleming and a day-long legal debate took place.

Mr Tait said: “He advised police that he thought the poison was Wetex. He said he didn’t know what Carbofuran was. He had been supplied with it by the estate”.

Miss Fleming argued that this was not a defence. She said there was an absence of language such as “knowingly” possessing Carbofuran in the charge.

Sheriff Small adjourned the case until tomorrow [today, Friday 27 July 2012] to hear more legal arguments from the Crown and the defence.

It emerged at previous court hearings that police were investigating the death of a golden eagle in Glen Orchy in June 2009 when they obtained a search warrant for McKellar’s house. They found granules of Carbofuran in a game bag in his porch. Police also found the carcases of a sheep and a fox laced with Carbofuran.

Miss Fleming previously told the court that since 1988, there have been 240 fatal poisonings of wildlife by Carbofuran, mostly birds of prey.

The case resumes today. If the Sheriff accepts McKellar’s not guilty plea then presumably this case could go to trial at a later date.

For background information on this case, click on the ‘Glen Orchy’ tag at the top of this post.

Thank you to the contributor who sent us the Press & Journal clipping.

Young peregrine shot in County Antrim

The Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group has sent us the following press release and photo:

‘During July a peregrine nest site, in Glenwherry, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland was the site of a gruesome discovery.

Two young peregrines were being watched over recent months in the nest and one of the chicks which had only recently flown from the nest was found dead below the cliff. X-rays have revealed the bird was shot.

The quarry owner who keeps a close eye on the peregrines alerted the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and condemned this event saying “I cannot believe one of these chicks which we all were watching has been shot. I appeal to those responsible to think about what they have done or come forward with what they might know and report any further information to the police”.

Jim Wells, chairman of the NIRSG and MLA was angered at yet another peregrine falcon senselessly killed. He said “Every summer it is the same – illegally poisoned or shot falcons. This has to stop. It is an absolute disgrace that anyone thinks they have justification for shooting a rare and specially protected bird.”

The PSNI are appealing for anyone, particularly in the Broughshane, Glenwhirry or Larne area, who may have information as to who is responsible for shooting this protected bird. This latest incident of raptor persecution clearly indicates that some people are still prepared to break the law risking a custodial sentence, their livelihoods and their right to possess firearms.

Anyone that has any information about this incident, peregrine persecution in Northern Ireland or any other wildlife crime should report it directly to the police or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to bring these criminals to justice’.

The Belfast Telegraph (here) is reporting a £1,000 reward is on offer to anyone who can help catch those responsible.

The Northern Ireland Birdwatchers’ Association is suggesting that all four peregrines from this nest site (two adults and two chicks) have been killed (see here).

Thanks to NIRSG and to our Twitter followers in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic for the information.

Gamekeeper’s wildlife crime conviction(s) overturned

Shooting Times has an interesting article out today (see here), claiming that Leicestershire gamekeeper Ivan Crane has had three wildlife crime convictions overturned after the appeal judge claimed the behaviour of the investigating police officer was “very underhand“.

Shooting Times reports that His Honour Judge Tony Mitchell went further with his scathing attack, saying: “I can’t think of a case which more fairly fits an abuse of power, an abuse of position, and therefore an abuse of process“.

It seems the police officer’s [supposed] mistake was not to inform Crane that he could no longer use the General Licence for trapping birds due to his two recent wildlife crime convictions. Instead, the officer took the initiative and covertly filmed a Larsen trap on Crane’s farm.

Crane’s previous wildlife crime convictions were for using an illegal pole trap and unsafe storage of pesticides (see here). He was then later convicted for unlawfully using a Larsen trap (see here), which seems to have been the catalyst to launch his appeal.

Local newspapers (eg. Lutterworth Mail) also seem to be running the story but the actual article appears to be currently unavailable on the web (google it and see if you can find it). One of the headlines (that is accessible) suggests that the Judge has ordered the Crown Prosecution Service to pay Crane’s legal bill of £35,000.

It’s not clear to us whether all three of Crane’s wildlife crime convictions have been overturned (as suggested by Shooting Times) or just the conviction for unlawfully using a Larsen trap.

It’s all a bit odd really. Isn’t it the General Licence user’s responsibility to understand the terms and conditions of General Licence use? It’s a specified requirement on the Scottish General Licences; perhaps not on the English ones? Since when has ignorance of the law been an acceptable defence? To put the situation in context….if someone had a driving conviction and was a disqualified driver, and then they drove their car whilst disqualified and received a second conviction, could they get that conviction overturned and their legal costs paid if they argued that the police officer hadn’t advised them that it was illegal for them to drive and the police had used ‘covert’ surveillance to catch them?

Another fine example of the difficulties faced by those trying to investigate and prosecute alleged wildlife crime offences in the UK. Their chances of success get slimmer by the day.

Glen Orchy poison case: sentence due today

It’s been a long time coming. A very long time. Over three years. But today is the day Tom McKellar is sentenced for possession of Carbofuran, found at his house in June 2009 during a police investigation into the poisoning of a golden eagle (see here, here, here and here).

McKellar wasn’t charged in relation to the dead eagle, just for possession of a banned pesticide, to which he pleaded guilty. There’s a lot more to this case than has previously been reported, and once sentencing has finished we’ll have a few things to say.

So what do you think his punishment will be? Six hours on the naughty step?

Some not so depressing news for a change

Sick of reading all the depressing news on this site? So are we, so as a one-off-feel-good-Friday special, here’s a link to some positive raptor news in Scotland, thanks to the efforts of Forestry Commission Scotland and their partners.

Follow this link (here) to find out about this year’s Aberfoyle ospreys & buzzards, Tweed Valley ospreys, Huntly peregrines and Mull sea eagles.

Tune in next week for a return to depressing news. Monday will be a big day…

All the fun of the fair!

We were somewhat surprised to read last night that Raptor Politics is promoting a mini shooting fair at the E.J. Churchill shooting ground: “E.J. Churchill hoasting [sic] their own Game Fair this weekend” (see here for post).

According to the E.J. Churchill website (here), the award-winning E.J. Churchill Shooting Ground is based on the famous West Wycombe Estate, home to Sir Edward Dashwood (see here).

Ring any bells? See here.

This isn’t a dig at Raptor Politics, by the way. We all know how hard it can be to keep track of who’s who in the shooting world and RP should be applauded for their continued efforts to expose illegal raptor persecution.