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.