Ross-shire Massacre: RSPB considers alternative use of reward fund

Red kite by Claire MarshallA couple of weeks ago we blogged about the Ross-shire Massacre, two months on from the initial discovery of poisoned red kites and buzzards in the Conon Bridge area.

We suggested that it was now highly unlikely that anyone would be prosecuted for this disgraceful crime and we encouraged blog readers to contact RSPB Scotland Director Stuart Housden, to ask whether the reward fund, to which many of us contributed, could now be put to better use by their Investigations team rather than having it festering in some dusty account for years with virtually no prospect of ever being claimed (see here).

Thanks to those of you who did contact Stuart. It’s pleasing to see that he has taken note – the following statement has appeared on the RSPB’s reward fund website:

Update – 23rd May 2014:

We are extremely grateful for the huge public support and demonstration of outrage following the illegal killing of a large number of red kites and buzzards in Ross-shire just over two months ago. Your support via this Just Giving appeal has been incredible, and we have taken on all of your comments left on this page. The collective reward for information leading to a conviction over this atrocity has now grown to £27,000 (including pledges from Scottish Land and Estates and others) – demonstrating how strong the public feeling is for tackling wildlife crime in Scotland. In our appeal, we stated that if this money was not claimed as part of the Ross-shire reward fund, it would be channelled to RSPB Scotland Investigations team to help with their work supporting the police to tackle raptor crime in Scotland. Further to a number of enquiries from supporters over progress with this case, we will now be speaking to Police Scotland to seek their advice over use of your donations to this reward fund. If agreed by the police, we will use this money shortly to fund satellite tags for hen harriers and golden eagles, to be fitted by experienced and qualified RSPB Scotland staff, as well as other high technology equipment for RSPB Scotland Investigations. Thank you for all your support in helping combat crimes against birds of prey in Scotland, from all of us at RSPB.

That’s excellent news! The reward fund stands at £27,423 and of that, £10, 423 was donated by ordinary members of the public wanting to help. It’s this £10, 423 that could be released, if Police Scotland agree.

It’ll be interesting to see the police response to the RSPB’s question. If they agree (and we hope they do), they will be admitting that their investigation has failed, which will probably be quite embarrassing given the enormous public and political interest in this case. It would be the right thing to do though, and they’d deserve some credit for being honest about it. They won’t get any credit at all if they insist on claiming this is still an on-going investigation with a good chance of a prosecution, because we, and they, know it definitely isn’t that.

Previous blogs on the Ross-shire Massacre here.

Red kite photo by Claire Marshall

15 thoughts on “Ross-shire Massacre: RSPB considers alternative use of reward fund”

  1. A message for the Police. If they do prosecute and the reward is found to be needed I will repeat and double my donation if the money has been used elsewhere.

  2. A statement from the police saying WHY they think their enquiries have failed to produce sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone would be welcome before we continue down this road. Perhaps the RSPB could use some of the remaining reward money to fight the next case of Raptor persecution that manages to get as far as court, who knows, if they manage to obtain one worthwhile conviction it may just start the ball rolling!

  3. Yes count me in regarding Andrew Blake and RPS’s pledge. I too will double my previous donation. As you say this is probably a safe bet, but in this instance I’d rather it wasn’t.

  4. Don’t SNH provide much of the funding for satellite transmitters at present? Surely if SNH already fund such projects, then that would effectively be a waste of this money, and surely the Investigations department should already have all high tech equipment to enable them to carry out their duties? Furthermore, as a result of the inability to use filmed evidence in Scottish courts, it would be pointless buying any camera equipment, so what other forms of high tech equipment would be of use to the department?

    I would have preferred the money to be spent on one or two additional officers for the Investigations team, enabling them to cover a wider area, but I do believe that this money will be squandered, probably by employing a couple of personable young graduates in the Information Officer role, to bombard the public with ill-informed, inane, dumbed-down drivel.

    1. SNH do provide some funding towards some transmitters but many are nothing to do with SNH and have been funded by other means.

      Re: filmed evidence being inadmissible in Scottish courts – there may be some developments on that front, following on from Wheelhouse’s ‘new measures’ that he announced last July. According to a recent FoI there are several on-going cases right now…let’s see how far they get through the judicial process…

    2. I agree Marco with your comment about the Investigations Team. Get in somebody experienced and who is happy to work in covert operations. Some balls need to be developed by the RSPB in some ways….

  5. So…poisoners 1 police 0….would this have been different if SSPCA had full investigative powers..and used RSPB Investigatioins as experts?..we will never know….No information on the cause of death of the birds yet?…as has been said before, the longer its left in limbo the more time there is for the “forces of evil” to make up stories about “contaminated meat” and the like.

    1. The shooting estate owners will make sure the SSPCA never get full investigative powers, they’re more than happy with the way the police handle (or should that be mishandle) the investigations, it leaves them in the clear to carry on as before every time.

  6. There is a current Scot Gov consultation on giving SSPCA Inspectors more investigative powers. I’m not sure it is a good idea to have a charity do a job the police should be doing but if it is going that way why not give RSPB investigators similar legal power?

  7. If the temptation of £27k does not bring about information then what will ?

    Can someone explain to me who can conceivably benefit from the killing of those birds ? Just what is the point of doing such a thing ? It must have taken some very perverse thinking to conclude that it would be a worthwhile action.

    As for the police ………….. big thumbs down for their performance. Makes me wonder whether wildlife crime should be exclusively the province of the SSPCA. Take the police completely out of the loop.

  8. It would be interesting to see if Police Scotland ever make the effort to ‘catch’ the criminals before they commit such acts against our raptor population.
    They always make great play about going ‘after’ drug dealers etc and locking them up to protect the public from their wily ways.
    Will we ever see the day when they go ‘after’ the bird killers in covert operations? I think not!

    1. Very good point Angus..much more work needed on such matters as targeting the poison suppliers, for instance.Also what about proceeds of crime..where an estate is shown to kill raptors to increase profits for instance?…We continually see the gap between “real crime” and wildlife crime…a gap produced by lack of recognition of the huge public disgust for this type of crime and a refusal by our justice system to give it priority resourcing.

  9. Thanks Dave for recognising the validity of my statement on the actions (or not) of Police Scotland.

    If the SSPCA were given much more wide ranging powers they would have more of an appetite for ‘catching’ the killers before they strike.

    There is no doubt that our local guardians of the law would find it difficult to be part of the local shooting fraternity and at the same time ‘shop’ them to be prosecuted by the PF’s office.

    1. There is a petition in support of giving the SSPCA further investigative powers: Please sign, support, promote and share this as much as you can. Myself and RSPB Scotland representitives will be presenting it at Scottish Parliament at the end of August to Paul Wheelhouse MSP with as much of a press fanfare as we can muster.

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