Poisoned peregrine found nr Leadhills boundary: police response appalling

Peregrine poisoned Leadhills Feb 2014In the middle of February, a member of the public found a dead adult peregrine falcon in suspicious circumstances close to the boundary of Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.

The person who found it immediately ‘phoned Police Scotland and asked them to attend. The person was told that it wasn’t a police matter. The person queried that response and asked the Police to double check. The Police said ‘No, definitely not a police matter, call the RSPB’.

The member of the public was clued-up enough to know that it wasn’t an SSPCA matter because the bird was already dead (and therefore the SSPCA had no powers to investigate). So the person called the RSPB for help.

According to information provided to us by the member of the public, the RSPB called the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and spoke to PC Charlie Everitt, who allegedly told them it wasn’t a police matter as there was no evidence of a crime having been committed. The RSPB asked if they could retrieve the corpse and permission was granted (this permission is needed for any RSPB-collected evidence to be admissible in a future criminal case, as the RSPB do not have any investigatory powers).

The RSPB collected the dead peregrine and submitted it for a post-mortem and it then went on to SASA for toxicology analysis.

We’ve been waiting to hear the results of those tests before we blogged about the incident.

Yesterday the results were made public – the peregrine had been poisoned (the name of the poison has not been released). However, the news didn’t come in the form of an all-singing-all-dancing Police Scotland press release. It came out, almost buried, in a BBC News article about the mass poisoning of red kites and buzzards in the Black Isle (see here).

We have several serious concerns about this incident.

First of all, the Police Scotland response. The operator who took the first telephone call didn’t realise that this was a police matter. That’s almost forgiveable – perhaps they were new, inexperienced, whatever. It’s not good enough though – had the member of the public not been clued up enough to know that they could contact the RSPB, this incident would have gone un-investigated and unrecorded.

Charlie Everitt NWCU with Alex Hogg SGA from PAW Scotland website Photo by Kenneth StephenOf greater concern is the alleged response of PC Charlie Everitt of the NWCU (pictured on the right of this photo, shaking hands with SGA Chairman Alex Hogg as they sign an MOU for greater partnership working on wildlife crime). For those who don’t know, PC Everitt is employed as the Scottish Investigative Support Officer at NWCU and one of his main roles is to focus on raptor persecution. Here is a description of his full role as documented in the Scottish Government’s report Wildlife Crime in Scotland, 2012:

The Scottish Investigative Support Officer (SISO) plays a significant role in partnership working and is jointly funded by SNH and Police Scotland. The SISO post (held by PC Charles Everitt) focuses on issues of significant threat in Scotland (raptor persecution and the illegal taking of freshwater pearl mussels). In addition, he leads and furthers investigations by providing expert advice, acting as a single point of contact and by providing corroboration to Wildlife Crime Officers” (see here, page 30).

PC Everitt is well aware of the long list of recorded raptor persecution incidents in the Leadhills area, and especially the frequency with which poisoned baits have been found. Here is our list of 44 known reported incidents in this area between 2003-2013. The latest poisoned peregrine becomes #45:

2003 April: hen harrier shot

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed

2004 May: buzzard shot

2004 May: short-eared owl shot

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran)

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran)

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2010 October: short-eared owl shot

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap

2011 December: buzzard shot

2012 October: golden eagle shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate)

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found in woodland next to grouse moor

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village

Based on the bulging intelligence file available, PC Everitt, the lead intelligence officer for raptor persecution crimes in Scotland, should have immediately suspected this was a potential poisoning incident and should have either attended the scene himself or at the very least, directed a local Wildlife Crime Officer to attend. Why didn’t he? That deserves an inquiry.

Another concern is the pathetic publicity of this incident. Was it a case of ‘this is a good day to bury bad news so let’s sneak it out while everyone’s focusing on the mass poisoning incident in Ross-shire’?, because that’s what it looks like.

However, the biggest concern of all is that here, yet again, is another illegal raptor poisoning incident in the Leadhills area. The scale of these crimes in this one area is phenomenal. The number of criminal convictions in relation to the number of incidents is disgraceful – only two convictions have ever been secured here – and both involved gamekeepers employed on the Leadhills Estate.

With the number of confirmed poisoned raptors in Scotland this year already at 17, no more evidence is required to show that government initiatives and partnership working is wholly ineffective. Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MUST respond robustly and we must hold him to account.

We urge you to email Mr Wheelhouse and demand the following action:

1. Launch an inquiry into why Police Scotland told a member of the public this was not a police matter, and publish the findings.

2. Launch an inquiry into PC Everitt’s alleged response to this incident, and publish the findings.

3. Launch an inquiry into Police Scotland’s media response to this wildlife crime, and publish the findings.

4. Launch an inquiry into why illegal raptor persecution continues to flourish in the Leadhills area, and publish the findings.

5. Insist that SNH uses the new enabling clause in the General Licences to withdraw their use in the Leadhills area with immediate effect.

6. Insist that Mr Wheelhouse stipulates the exact time scale he intends to use to ‘see whether his new enforcement measures [introduced in July 2013] take effect’.

Environment Minister’s email address: Ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

27 thoughts on “Poisoned peregrine found nr Leadhills boundary: police response appalling”

  1. This is a national disgrace! The only meaningful solution to this issue is cornification of land from those responsible. Before that is possible though, the intimidation and covering up of these crimes needs to exposed. It is going to be a long and hard fight to end this barbaric practice.

  2. I find it hard to believe this is true, but following this blog has warned me to be sceptical of those charged with implementation of our laws as well as those committing wildlife crime.
    The public and their animals in the vicinity of these possible crimes deserve protection, but no meaningful warnings seem to be issued in a timeous manner, by which I mean when a suspected poisoning incident may have occurred. I have written to the minister, but am close to despair about this matter.

  3. It’s no more than I would expect from the police where wildlife crime is involved, especially when it involves poisoned Raptors found near a shooting estate. One has to ask, why didn’t PC Charlie Everitt of the NWCU at least look into this, maybe he just couldn’t be bothered soiling his hands on something so mundane as Raptor poisoning, makes you think what would rock his boat and get him motivated? If this is the way he carries on in his position as the lead intelligence officer for raptor persecution crimes in Scotland, then maybe he should resign and let someone with the will to do the job properly take over, I wonder though, could it be that his remit is to do as little as possible in cases involved with Raptor persecution, if that’s the case then he has fulfilled his role admirably. Perhaps the Chief Constable can throw some light on his opinion of this officers poor performance record so far.

  4. That picture of Everitt makes me sick, there is no way a wildlife crime officer should be having any dealings with gamekeepers apart from prosecuting them for these heinous crimes, xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx.

    1. I can guess what you said Kevin and I wholeheartedly agree with you. That picture made me feel sick as well!

  5. Please tell me that wildlife crimes over the entire southern Scotland region is not overseen by a mere Uniformed Constable? Not even a DC? I’d have thought that it rated an inspector at least.

  6. This also justifies a formal complaint to Police Scotland about PC Everitt’s [alleged] inaction and misunderstanding of the law.

  7. Everitt is clearly compromised and I would say his position is untenable. Sadly, I would fully expect him to be replaced by someone equally unsuitable- it seems to be the way the Police Scotland are approaching wildlife crime. In addition to asking Mr Wheelhouse, the Minister for Hunting, to seek answers we can also lodge a formal complaint against Everitt and the call centre handler with Police Scotland’s performance standards branch. Police Scotland are also answerable to the PIRC- the Scottish version of the independent police complaints commission. We have prima facie evidence that at least 2 well paid employees of Police Scotland were derelict in their duty. Why should they get away with it?

  8. The sooner that SSPCA deal with wildlife crime the better (preferably exclusively). Get the police completely out of the loop.

  9. Dispicable are my words worth. I hate the fact the the police are supposed to be reponsible, and trained to deal with isaues ike this, and they are not interested Grrr

  10. If this was a human serial killer this police officer would have been taken off the case years ago, it is just not good enough!!

  11. There can be no excuse for this. Here is a clear example, if ever one was needed, why these wildlife criminals who target raptors feel that they can operate with impunity. They get away with it simply because they can and because they know that there is little enthusiasm by those in authority, the people we trust to ultimately investigate these crimes, to really make much of an effort in trying to catch them. Sadly we speak from experience and desperately would rather it was not the case.

    I hope that we soon get to hear a statement from Charlie Everitt over this matter and learn of his side of the story.

    We are pleased that RPS has highlighted this incident, an incident which should concern everybody who campaigns and works tirelessly for the protection and conservation of birds of prey across the whole of the UK. It was only thanks to the RSPB that the bird was finally retrieved, because we doubt it would have been there the following day. Yet a further example of why we need the very well-equipped and experienced SSPCA officers given more powers as soon as possible. In our new report on our Project Raptor website we talk about several incidents of raptor deaths discovered in Scotland over the last several months and why it is so important to retrieve the dead birds as soon as possible and so help to secure vital evidence.

    It was only just over one year ago a large quantity of meat was discovered in two game bags on the edge of Leadhills Estate grouse moor. The bait was laced with the illegal poison, Carbofuran. There was criticism at the time in how this incident was handled by the police, after they arrived in marked police vehicles, retrieved the bags and left the scene. Contrary to a police statement shortly after, there was no search carried out of the area to look for victims of poisoning or any poison that may have been set out on the grouse moor, less than a mile from a public caravan park.

    Lastly, we would question why it took over six weeks for the results of cause of death on this peregrine to come back when it took less than two days for the raptors recently found in Ross-shire to be confirmed as having been poisoned? Time and time again we see birds of prey sent off to be tested for poisons only to wait for weeks for the results. This can only send out the wrong message that the persecution of raptors is way down the list of priorities for the authorities with little urgency to the incident. However, we know now that IT IS possible for SASA to make a quick turn around on results for raptors being sent to them for confirmation of poisoning and so let us hope that this will continue to be the case for all dead raptors found in the future.

    1. No doubt the processing of the Ross-shire birds was prioritised because of the nature of the occurrence – a mass killing. We usually have to wait around two months for results here in England – this actually being an improvement over what it used to be, though still a bit late to set off looking for culprits. We’ll never get anywhere until this whole issue of wildlife poisoning is taken seriously by the authorities. Proper procedures need to be urgently put in place for the immediate testing of victims where there are grounds for suspicion that foul play is involved. As things stand, the perpetrators are running rings round us.

  12. We’re loosing the battle for raptors across most of Scotland. Things will only get worse if independence arrives, with any raptors that dodge the criminals infesting Grouse estates falling victims to wind turbines:(

    1. I love raptors which is why I follow this site. Caring for nature is independant of the inependance debate. The independance debate is also a separate issue to opinion about the action of MSPs/ MPs. If the moderators of this website continue to publish comments slagging off either the yes or the no campaigns I promise that I will stop using this website as a source of information.

  13. I am so enraged by this next episode in the Leadhills saga, I can hardly bear to read the details. Whilst trying to keep a lid on my rage !, I wondered if anyone had any information on who the current ‘proud’ owners of the Estate are ? I know it was up for sale and then there was a community buy out initiative which did not really take off ? Just would like to know who we’re dealing with because I’m about to go over there with my great big double-barrelled pointy finger and point the blame at someone, which is more than the Police seem to be able to do, despite the might of the Law to back them up.

    1. Hi Lesley,

      Leadhills Estate is still owned by the Hopetoun family. The shooting lease has been up for sale since last summer.

      You can find Lord Hopetoun either at his mansion in Edinburgh (Hopetoun House) or try the offices of the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land & Estates (you know the ones, they serve on PAW and say they are doing everything they can to stop raptor persecution). Lord Hopetoun is one of their Directors.

        1. it should be easy to find Hopetoun House- its where the Scottish Birdfair is held every year. Thats beyond satire…..

              1. Thanks for info RE: current ownership of estate. I am volunteering at forthcoming Birdfair and would gladly use this oportunity to educate the public and even perhaps the host. Please advise……..maybe some choice leaflets are in order ?

  14. I am truly astonished at the response of the handling of this call by Police Scotland and the further response by PC Everitt.
    Thankfully we have RSPB staff who respond diligently to this type of reported incident and who can take the matter forward.
    It is now more obvious than ever that we require SSPCA Officers to do the frontline job in dealing with raptor persecution and be given the powers to allow them to do this.
    As others have said in other posts, PC Everitt has a lot of explaining to do why he seemingly thought it was nothing to do with him or his National Wildlife Crime Unit.
    The past evidence of raptor persecution in the Leadhills area is there for all to see and any new evidence should be a priority for any self respecting law enforcement officer.

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