Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch: guilty on all 4 counts

George MutchThis is an historic day in the battle against the raptor killers.

Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch, 48, of Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire, has been found guilty on all four charges, including the illegal killing of a trapped goshawk, which he clubbed to death, and the taking of two other birds, a goshawk and a buzzard.

No-one will be surprised to learn that yet another gamekeeper has been convicted of illegally killing raptors; Mutch is the 28th gamekeeper to be convicted of wildlife crime in the last three years alone (see here). The big surprise in this case has been the Sheriff’s ruling that the covert video footage, filmed by RSPB Scotland, was admissible evidence. This alone was a significant ‘win’ for those of us who have been exasperated, for years, that this type of evidence has been consistently rejected by the Crown Office, thus allowing The Untouchables to be, well, untouchable. Especially when covert video surveillance has been consistently used in England to secure convictions in similar cases.

So what prompted the change of heart? Undoubtedly, the efforts of former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who said in July 2013 that he would be urging the Crown Office to consider the use of video footage in cases against those committing wildlife crime.

According to our journalist contacts, COPFS prosecutor Tom Dysart’s performance in court was dynamite, pressing for the admissibility of the video footage and then later shredding the evidence of defence witness Hugo Straker from the GWCT. He also then shredded the evidence of Mutch, resulting in the Sheriff saying that Mutch’s evidence was ‘not credible’ and that his explanation for killing the goshawk (because it was injured) was “a convenient lie”. We never thought we’d say this but Tom Dysart apparently played a blinder. Long may it continue.

The video nasty in this case, showing Mutch trapping and then clubbing the goshawk to death, can be viewed here. WARNING – CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES.

Sheriff McPartlin will pass sentence in January and has already said he is considering a custodial sentence. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the SGA has put out a fascinating press statement. It turns out that Mutch was an SGA member and apparently “his membership of the SGA has been in suspension for some time, until the outcome of the case was known. Now that it is, he will no longer be a member of the SGA“.

That’s interesting. Mutch committed his crimes in 2012, but according to the SGA’s 2013 silent auction booklet, the SGA accepted a fundraising donation from Kildrummy Estate, with George Mutch listed as the contact:

SGA Silent Auction Booklet 2013 (see Lot #17)

So not only was the SGA still accepting donations from this estate the year after the crimes were committed, but it’s also apparent that Mutch was still employed by Kildrummy Estate after he’d committed those crimes. Fascinating.

The SGA’s statement continues:

On the separate, theoretical, issue of the use of covert video evidence, it is clear to us that it should not be acceptable for individuals from one particular profession to be under surveillance in their place of work, without their knowledge, and to have their right to liberty and privacy from such encroachment, removed.

If this is to be the direction of travel, it is not right for Scottish Government to deny people whose livelihoods come under pressure due to the activity of certain species or animals, recourse to a legal solution to solve that conflict.

Currently, there are no legal or scientific means by which people can protect their investments or jobs in situations exacerbated by conflicts with species. Scottish Government has never granted anyone from the game industry a licence to protect investments, which they have the power to do, although it does grant licences routinely to other industries. This, in our view, is a barrier to justice and does nothing to prevent wildlife crime.

In a society supposedly enlightened when it comes to tackling this issue, we believe this is untenable and we will be seeking talks with Scottish Government so that this anomaly is finally closed, removing once and for all the rationale for people to commit wildlife crime.”

So, the SGA doesn’t agree with the use of covert video footage to convict those within the gamekeeping industry of wildlife crime. Why ever not? Surely, they’d be thrilled to root out those individuals who are causing so much damage to the industry’s reputation? By their reaction, you’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s not the case at all. And as Mutch was an SGA member when he committed his crimes, what does that tell us about the SGA’s ability to provide adequate training for its members? They even admit that Mutch is the 5th SGA member in three years to have been convicted!

And then they go into the usual whine about how wildlife crime would stop if only the Government would issue licences to allow the killing of protected species, (although they don’t actually mention the word ‘killing’ – instead they say “licence to protect investments”). The bottom line is, if the leisure industry of killing millions of gamebirds is reliant on the killing of protected species then that industry has had its day.

This case has taken over two years to conclude. We had thought that because the crimes were committed in 2012, before the vicarious legislation was enacted (1st Jan 2013), that there wouldn’t be a vicarious liability prosecution because we didn’t think it could be applied retrospectively. However, one of our legal friends has since advised us that there still may be a vicarious liability prosecution as long as it’s lodged within the three-year time frame from the date the offence was committed (August 2012). So potentially then, if the Crown deems it appropriate and they get it in before August 2015, we could have another vicarious liability prosecution on the cards.

For now though, let’s just enjoy the successful conviction of another raptor-killing gamekeeper, and acknowledge the work of the people who got it to this stage. Huge congratulations to the RSPB Scotland Investigations Team, the SSPCA, Police Scotland, COPFS, Sheriff McPartlin and former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse. Real partnership working at its best.

Media coverage:

RSPB press release and video here

BBC news here

STV news here (this one is amusing!)

Reporting Scotland here [6.25 – 8.40] (this film only available for 24 hrs)

Herald here

84 thoughts on “Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch: guilty on all 4 counts”

  1. Thank goodness for this. I started to watch the video but couldn’t finish watching it. It doesn’t say anything about sentencing?

  2. Brilliant news. As I said on the previous post, there was good news coverage on both the BBC and ITV, which hopefully will open the eyes of the general public as to what these barbaric custodians of our countryside are doing.

  3. Think it was the second item on BBC Scotland news, so fairly high profile. Great to see a video evidence conviction at long last, however there’s still the question of what sentence will he get and will he appeal (especially regarding the use of video evidence). Mind you, even if he only gets a couple of hundred pounds fine, someone’s wallet is going to be smarting from his legal fees (I assume Mark Moir QC doesn’t come cheap…) har har :oD

    The criminals really will have to keep looking over their shoulders now….

    Wonder if an attempt at a vicarious liability prosecution will follow?

    Well done to RSPB for persisting at this despite previous setbacks.

  4. Congratulations to all of those involved in this successful prosecution.

    Surely it is now time for the SGA and GWCT to be removed from PAW Scotland? How can they be allowed to remain as partners of an organisation that is attempting to eradicate wildlife crime, when they are providing full support to the wildlife criminals within the shooting industry? Here we have another case where both organisations, knowing that video evidence existed of a gamekeeper committing a criminal act, have continued to support the criminal, to the detriment of wildlife crime eradication, and to the law of the land.

    It really is time that the law-abiding organisations within PAWS demanded the removal of the SGA and GWCT.

    Does anyone know if Kildrummy Estate is part of SL&E?

    1. That does say it all about those organisations. If their actions matched their rhetoric they would have distanced themselves from Mulch as soon as they saw the video.

      And where has the money for his defence come from?

  5. Excellent work by the prosecutions team..a long hard slog with, no doubt a lot of pressure being applied in certain quarters.Once again this shows that if you want the job done go to the RSPB and SSPCA..not much mention of the police in all this but someone there must have done a good job, I hope all concerned get recognition. If there is an appeal, that can only be a good thing in the long term – either a loss [to conservation] leading to Scottish Government changing the law, or a win, which will seal the fate of a lot of raptor killers even quicker.

    1. Can I ask what pressure you are alluding to, and from whom? I thought the pressure was from SG to have video surveillance admissable.

      As an aside and quoting the current land reform consultation document –

      “The ownership and use of land in Scotland should be in the public interest and contribute to the collective benefit of the people of Scotland.”

      Difficult to see how the killing and removal of legally protected birds of prey is in the public interest etc. We should try and use these examples in consultation responses.

      Also presuming that the illegal operation of a crow trap will prompt the interest of RPID inspectors and risk penalties against any payments we make because of the contribution the estate makes to the public interest (ha!).

      Then there’s vicarious liability and the use of the General Licence.

      This may be a case that just keeps on giving.

  6. A brilliant result!

    So SGA which is it? – “a few rotten apples” or we need to kill raptors (and much else besides) to ensure we can run a viable sporting business. At least be consistent in your message however pathetic it is.

    If it is the former then five members in three years convicted of wildlife crimes seems rather a lot of rotten apples. If it is the latter then why should society tolerate and even worse subsidise through “agricultural” grants a business model that relies on illegal activity to claim to be viable.

    1. Alister, if the rotten apples were cleared out I think there would have an empty barrel or at best a barrel with a handful of good apples.

        1. I wonder what the number of game keeping members of SGA actually is? 5 is probably a significant percentage.

  7. This is excellent news at last, for now that is, let’s hope it will set a precedent for admissible film / video evidence in future cases, of which I am sure there will be many! It will be very interesting to see just how seriously this Raptor persecution offence is taken when it comes to sentencing, will it be the complete book or just a single page that’s thrown at him, will he lose his job and will his employer be brought to court for vicarious liability, we’ll see !!!

    What will the SGA say now ???

  8. I used to work for a transport company that used video cameras looking into all trailers getting loaded and unloaded. The film that these cameras took was used in court cases against employees caught stealing, all employees caught were prosecuted then sacked, some were jailed. Why is it that in the past video evidence was not used against Game Keepers.

    1. I completely agree – where there is evidence of crime then video evidence is frequently used. If they are not breaking the law why would they object. All the rest of society is on video all the time. In shops, on the street and the police will be video-ed soon – and for their own protection! SGA – keep up.

      1. Difference is – you go onto someone else’s premises or in public and filmed or someone films secretly on your premises.

        Right or wrong????????

        1. In Scotland, our public access rights allow us to go enter land as long as we behave responsibly. How can helping to catch criminals not be responsible behaviour?

  9. Great news let’s hope more cases bring the end to the criminal activity of the estates and the game keepers.

    I do hope that vicarious liability is now sought and won against the estate.

  10. Regarding the CAP payments. The land is owned by Kildrummy (Jersey) Limited. Data on CAP payments is published for legal entities (but not for “natural persons” i.e. individuals). There is no payment registered to Kildrummy for 2012 or 2013, which means the farming may be done in a different company name, or the payments may be received by an individual. I have looked at all the companies in the AB33 postcode, but nothing springs out. It would be helpful to know the landowners name? This will all change later this year as once again details of payments to both natural persons and legal entities will once again be published.

  11. Perhaps it should be made a condition of receiving any form of public subsidy that landowners [a] consent to covert surveillance being carried out on their land for the purpose of detecting wildlife crime and [b] assume responsibility for advising their empolyees, contractors and anyone else who might be on their land that surveillance may be taking place.

    That would be more straightforward than a general change to the criminal law, which would struggle to be ECHR compliant.

  12. Great news for those of us who think their day is improved by the sight of such raptors flying overhead. Well done to all concerned.

  13. Dunno where the SGA are coming from, I keep getting told by the coppers that if you are out in the fresh air then you are a viable target to be filmed by anyone for anything. I was once told that even if I am inside, as long as the filmer is outside, so has a clear line of sight, then it is legal for them to film and photograph. Is it just the SGA, representing as it does the servants of rich people, that object to the same measures the rest of us have to put up with?

  14. This case could be the turning point in addressing the wide spread & common use of illegal and often barbaric practices against protected species on game managed estates by criminals like Mutch but only if the sentencing reflects the abhorrent nature of these crimes which the public find revolting. It’s time the likes of Mutch understand that the laws off the land apply to gamekeepers, their masters, as well as the rest of us.

  15. Well done to all involved in proving this case and especially to Mr Wheelhouse. I do hope the Scottish Government continues to put the necessary resources into stamping out this obviously highly prevalent activity in our countryside. Everyone in Scotland is subject to video cameras so why should gamekeepers be any different. Its time the SGA were removed from PAW because there agenda is to undermine the efforts of those who are committed to stamping out wildlife crime. Having the SGA as a partner is akin to the FBI inviting the Corleone family to join them to fight organised crime.

  16. Yes pheasant beater just like their proposal to remove pine martens from forests in the Cairngorms National Park which had nothing to do with saving Capercaillies, but a scam to open the door to widespread persecution of martens because they perceive them to be a threat to the millions of alien pheasants & red-legged partridges they release every summer to be shot. In fact the partridges & pheasants are a threat to the native wildlife by competing against them .For instance Grey Partridges are now extinct in the Park due to those aliens.

  17. I’ll second Alex Milne in thanking Raptor Persecution Scotland for keeping me up to date with all that is happening in this area. It’s hard to see this happening with any other Scottish political party in power than the SNP so thanks to them too, and to the members of the legal profession who certainly did their job to the best of their ability in this case. I would like to add that if the SGA were in any shape or form serious about ending crimes against raptors then they, too, would be lobbying for video evidence to be admissible as this would go a long way to strengthening their claim that only rogue gamekeepers indulge in this behaviour .. BUT … I have entered the realms of fantasy here. :) Thanks again to all concerned.

    1. ‘if the SGA were in any shape or form serious about ending crimes against raptors then they, too, would be lobbying for video evidence to be admissible’

      I wouldn’t support covert surveillance being automatically admissable in criminal cases. It’s too great an intrusion on civil liberties, and is unlikely to receive public support.

      There’s nothing however to stop the SGA making it a condition of membership that in the event of one of their members being charged with a wildlife crime the member will not object to evidence obtained by covert means being admitted in court.

      Likewise Scottish Land and Estates.

      1. Perhaps we could start up a kickstarter to buy go-pros for keepers and water bailiffs, if they are truly the guardians of the countryside they claim then it would make one heck of a documentary series.

    1. I was going to post the very same thing. He was much more cautious with the buzzard as generally they tend to turn on you as you try to gather them up. Goshawks tend to flee only retaliating when caught. If you are wondering about my knowledge I have legally handled birds of prey for many years.

  18. Personally I think it’s rediculous this man was convicted on all charges! On the clip that shows the man hitting the goshawk on the head it is so misty it’s impossible to prove identity and in the other clip of the man taking a bird out the cage he is wearing a balaclava which again makes it impossible to prove identity! Another corrupt and bias judge in the making I see!

    1. You’re right about the film quality – it wasn’t good. But the defence’s approach to this case was not to deny the identity of the man in the film – they admitted it was Mutch all along. Instead, their approach was first to see if they could get the video evidence thrown out (fail) and then to claim that Mutch killed the goshawk as a ‘mercy killing’ because it was supposedly injured (fail). It was a claim denounced by the Sheriff as ‘a convenient lie’.

    2. I have my suspicions that Grousekeeper84 is actually Grouseman in a dastardly disguise!

      Why the name change, I hear people ask? Well, it could it be that he fully supports the criminal actions being carried out by the shooting industry, but he doesn’t want people to think that this is the case.

      And if I am wrong, we have yet another pro-shooter that cannot condemn the illegal activities carried out by gamekeepers.

    3. “Another corrupt and bias judge in the making I see!”

      Put yourself in his position, he has video evidence that clearly shows a crime has been committed, only a few years ago no one would have known about this criminal act, your now being watched and discussed by the whole world, just as you have a career! so does he, he too has to justify himself, his audience is bigger than yours.
      Now look even further, beyond you’re job on your small estate, in your small town, in your small county, in your small country and look at other peoples way of life and at other peoples enjoyment of the natural world on their doorstep in their small town, in their own etc, etc.
      Steel, coal and cotton industries, all way far more important than the Grouse farms have had to evolve, people in these industries have had to evolve and adapt in order to survive, many have failed! none of these industries had to rely on breaking the law, what makes Grouse farmers so special ! Pheasant farmers have even less reason to break the law, pheasant poults can be bought for as little as £2.50 and 14 weeks later can be shot for an average of £30, its so easy to make money out of this that there are now more than 40 million pheasants released annually into the UK countryside, ask yourself and please give us your opinion, if this wasn’t profitable how many would be released? my figures are fairly accurate, lets not argue about the slight discrepancies in figures, let this argument/ discussion be about the rights of people to see native wildlife in its natural surroundings. I once read an article that stated as a challenge, young people should have seen Salmon leaping, Hares boxing, a Stoat in Ermine, a Kingfisher fishing, Buzzards wheeling over a valley. There were more I cant remember, but the Grouse farming industry would deny the UK population of these 3 out of 4 of these sightings because of their own selfish ambitions. I could have mentioned sky dancers but this was not on the list
      Few of those involved in taking that record bag will bother to look at the shot birds in the game shed even fewer of them will bother to go to a local restaurant to sample the taste of the birds they have killed. It is time you questioned your own methods and looked at how you could improve them, its time to stop listening to the old men who control your organisation and take it forward before it becomes obsolete, look to Aviculture, these people have the experience to breed any species in captivity, be a pioneer, dare to dance the tide and hopefully you get the plaudits, if your still p****d about that Judges decision, think about us raptor enthusiasts who have been deprived of so much for so long of our pleasures!

      1. Fine comments, merlin, but as you are well aware, we are dealing with a pro-shooter that is wholly supportive of criminal activity, so it is highly unlikely there will be any sensible or progressive discussion coming from him.

        Sadly, instead of being irate that yet another gamekeeper, has brought shame upon his industry, he would rather show his anger by attacking the judge for finding the criminal guilty.

    4. No, it is a foolish decision by a defence lawyer. They admitted that it was Mutch in the video to try and get it thrown out even though that was far from a sure thing. Once they admitted it was him, they can’t then go back and claim it might not be, because that is perjury. Any lawyer caught trying that one says goodbye to their career. You can’t say “my rights were violated by being filmed” and then follow it up with “but ye cannae tell it was me”, because you’ve just said it was.

      Mutch might have been found not guilty if he’d stuck to the time honoured practice of common criminals and just said “it wisnae me, ye cannae prove it were” instead of trying to claim special privilege. His own arrogance tripped him up, because keepers are used to claiming special privilege and getting away with it. In future keepers ought to just use the defence tactics of the other scum and neds, the days of special privilege are over and not coming back.

      1. Not necessarily a foolish decision by the defence lawyer. Might be whoever was paying the bill was more interested in trying to make it clear covert recording was never going to be accepted than the fate of an individual gamekeeper. If they went the “cant prove it” route then that might have given the prosecution next time round a precedence for the use of covert recording. I dont know enough about Scottish law as to whether would work that way and be curious to see if any Scottish law experts would agree/disagree.

  19. I’mm wondering about the taking away of the birds in the bags. Was there any convictions for this? Seems like a defence could claim that the keeper was taking them away from the pen to be released. Hence no evidence of a crime. May become standard practice if keepers think there may be a hidden camera on their cages. If however the conviction was for possessing a goshawk (in a bag) then that would be mutch (sorry) better.

    1. Yes, he was convicted for taking those two birds. The defence argument (as put forward by Hugo Straker of GWCT) was that it’s standard practice to remove the birds and release them away from the trap. However, this defence was shredded by the Fiscal because the General Licence states very, very clearly that trapped non-target species are to be released IMMEDIATELY – not removed, put in a sack and taken away. Apparently, Mr Straker later retracted his argument, according to our journalist friends.

      1. Thanks for that info, that is good news. Just shows how very careful rules/law drafting has to be. Need to think like a criminal.

      2. Interesting point there, RPS. If the GWCT have stated in a court of law, that their standard practice is to remove birds and release them a distance away from the trap, then does that mean that they, as an organisation, have been operating illegally for years, and have been encouraging their employees, colleagues, members and followers to actively break the law during this time?

  20. I believe caged pheasants etc are the property of the “landowner”, yes ? so if someone were to steal them and there was “video” evidence (or as I like to say “best evidence”) of the crime being committed I bet they would do everything possible to make sure that video was used to convict those involved.Also is Grousekeeper84 suggesting that someone “dressed” and “moved” in a similar manner to Mutch in order to “frame” him,dream on.
    And regarding your comment about the “Judge” tut , tut.

  21. Regarding the General Licence issue, would it be possible to have an amendment placed, stating that covert video set-ups could be placed near any trap, and that such surveillance could be used against the operator if suspected of breaking the law?

    I’m sure that could be easily achievable. Those operating within the law would have nothing to hide (and therefore happy to accept such an amendment), and only those that are supportive of criminal activity would be against the proposal. However, I’m quite sure all of the shooting industry partners would be up in arms against it.

    1. why covert?

      You want to operate a crow cage trap under the general licence? Then as well as a label with operators’ details, also a camera which the police or or other authority could require to see whenever…

      1. Yes, as Andrew has pointed out there would be enormous amounts of breakdowns (most probably, very close to 100% of cameras installed would mysteriously malfunction on an almost daily basis), so it would have to be covert. I honestly cannot see any problem with such a proposal, and it would mean that any evidence gained from this method would be used in court.

        If SNH, and those in the shooting industry are so determined to root out the “few rogues”, then they should fully support this, and ensure such an amendment is included in the General Licence as soon as possible.

  22. For an organisation that says it condemns wildlife crime, the SGA have at no point condemned George Mutch. That speaks volumes for what they really believe.!

  23. well done to all involved – let’s hope this is the start of things to come and we will see many more convictions.

    As for Grousekeeper84, well he’s clearly got his head up his uropygial gland so-to-speak. Denial must be a hard burdon to carry and playing the victim card for keepers such as Mutch is a shocking reminder of the type of people we have in society who believe they can behave as they see fit.

  24. He was filmed killing a goshawk & ‘removing’ another goshawk and a buzzard. Multiply that by how long he has been a game keeper and we then begin to see how species populations can be effected.

    This is an industry issue and like ANY other CRIME can only be changed by robust enforcement and sentencing.

    In the same week that Prince William gave a speech informing other countries about the importance of protecting rare wildlife………………………..Pot, kettle black!

    1. Indeed 2 goshawks in a month would have a large effect on species with such a small number (sorry SGA, The Field, etc. large number) of resident (sorry Hogg et al, introduced) birds. The sample from only one keeper is too small for decent estimates, but perhaps we could ask for more research on this. The effectiveness of these traps in catching goshawks and buzzards is clearly shown, but would a hen harrier be interested? As these traps are legal, it would perhaps be possible to require those gamekeepers using them legally to provide for research purposes a catch record of non target species.
      Then, rather than say we think persecution is going on, some keen PhD student with a mathematical bent could make an estimate of each raptor species and say the effect on the population due to this type of trap (Mutch et al) or shot (xxxxxxx et al), disturbance (xxxxxxx) or poisoning (McNeil et al), spring trap…….
      Mmmm, I’ve just realised that we can’t ask for bag reports to assess the effect of many of these on population.
      Seems like I’ve got carried away yet again.

    2. correct ,one thing is for certain, mutch looked very adept at murdering birds of prey , xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  25. ” Nirofo – Another possible scenario is he sold them on to falconers for captive breeding !!!”

    Highly unlikely. Firstly to sell a buzzard or goshawk the young have to be registered to legitimate parents and their ancestry has to be provable. (CITES documentaion required) DNA testing can be carried out at any time at any breeding establishment.
    Secondly very few breeders are interested in common buzzard as there is no great market for the young so what is the point of using an illegal specimen for breeding when you can buy a legit bird for £250.
    Most goshawk breeders use artificial insemination and you need to start with a chick and hand rear it to use it for AI. Plus most of the above points apply.

    Not saying there are no idiots out there prepared to break the law but financially it doesn’t make sense as it won’t take long for another breeder to get suspicious and report them.
    Unlike gamekeepers the majority are legitimate and don’t want to see illegal activity.

    In case you were not aware, you can thank falconers for the fact you have a goshawk population in the uk just now as it was them who imported and released birds to reintroduce them. Add to that the ones lost while hunting. before the days of radio tracking it was very difficult to keep a goshawk for long before loosing it.

    1. Andrew, get real, since when has a little thing like being registered ever stopped anyone, I know it happens, I have seen it myself, and as you said there are many idiots out there on the shooting estates prepared to break the law and do so habitually most days of their working lives. Incidentally, I was involved with the recording of Goshawks breeding in the UK from the mid sixties and into the late eighties, many of the nesting birds we found were native stock and not falconers releases as some would like you to believe. However, some of the nesting birds appeared to be of possible Scandinavian origin and were much larger, we did once find a nesting bird which still had jesses attached, this was a large male, the female was a smaller bird which is unusual in itself, and was possibly natural stock.

      By the way, I never mentioned Buzzard, it was a Goshawk he put in the bag!

      1. To quote again “he sold them” which I reasonably took to mean both the buzzard and goshawk.

        I’m not sure if you misinterpreted what I was saying about registration. Any breeder taking unregistered birds from a keeper or otherwise then has to have any chicks registered to sell. Otherwise you have to have a customer base that is prepared to participate in the illegality. This is so limiting given the ample supply of cheap legal birds of prey.

        Tell me how you defined and proved/assumed goshawks breeding in the uk as native stock. They were shot to extinction, the last record being 1904.

        With that scenario you have two options they reintroduced themselves (not impossible) or they were introduced from continental stock. Whichever way you look at that they were not native and came from Europe.

        Falconers released both German (smaller) and Scandinavian (larger) birds.

        So what is this “natural stock” you refer to?

        And I stand by my opinions that there is little illegal activity by falconers or breeders these days. There is ample stock of captive bred birds at low prices which limits the profit to be had from any illegally taken birds.

        And most falconers are just as passionate about wild raptors as most readers of this blog.

        1. No, I didn’t misinterpret what you said about registration, I know full well that chicks have to be registered, that’s why in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s and probably later, chicks and eggs disappeared on a regular basis from nests throughout the areas, (mainly the Peak District) I was involved in. It’s well known that stolen eggs can be incubated and chicks ringed and registered to be legal.

          You say the birds were shot to extinction, the last record being in 1907, how can you prove there weren’t a few birds left undiscovered and still breeding, they can be quite secretive breeders and that I can vouch for? The BTO Nest Record Scheme didn’t start until 1939 and only had a few seriously active members for many years until the 60’s, so it would be quite easy for a few nests to go undetected, especially during and just after the two world wars.

          Tell me how you can prove that many of the breeding Goshawks weren’t from native stock. Why can’t some of the birds have reintroduced themselves from other areas of Europe and Scandinavia, you say yourself it’s not impossible. Nobody’s denying that some falconers birds were released or escaped to breed, but to say that all UK Goshawks are descendants of these birds is rather a nostalgic assumption believed by the falconers.

          It may well be that illegal activity by falconers or breeders is less these days, I don’t doubt it, and I can understand your willingness to stand up for them, however it doesn’t mean that there are no bad apples in the barrel just the same as the gamekeepers continue to quote a few bad apples among their bunch of stalwarts.

          1. 1. regards registering illegal chicks. Yes this can be done(and I didn’t say it didn’t happen), BUT if there is any suspicion around any chick or adult bird DNA tests are done to prove the ancestry and you have positive evidence of a crime and the perpetrator. Unlike a gamekeeper chucking a few bits of poisoned bait which is very difficult to prove and prosecute. This plus the low costs of birds today makes it a poor proposition.

            2. How can you prove there were a few birds left undiscovered? To me it doesn’t seem like a plausible argument. They had been considered extinct for 50 years (since 1904) and while in more recent years forestry plantations allow them some secrecy there was probably 30 years (in the establishment years) where that cover did not exist, so even if we take your “few birds left undiscovered” it is a pretty poor gene pool to be starting from.

            3. You suggest, as I did there may have been some natural reintroduction from mainland Europe but then suggest they are native stock. Surely if they come from Europe they are not native stock?

            4. “how you can prove that many of the breeding Goshawks weren’t from native stock” well I can’t, just as you can’t prove they were.
            However, lets take your few survivors theory.
            The position would be, either that there are insufficient to maintain themselves and they die out or there are sufficient for the population to recover. Recovery is gradual with numbers increasing year on year. I would think that scenario would almost certainly lead to sightings over a 50 year period. That did not happen. That suggests they were extinct.

            5. If they were extinct, where did they come from? I doubt there would be many making the journey across the sea. I did hear one story of the forestry commission in Norfolk importing some to try and control squirrels. I don’t know if it was true. I do know falconers released them, as you have agreed.

            6. I am still waiting for some explanation of how you identified goshawks as being native, which you seem to suggest is original British stock and that is the crux of your argument.

            Finally ” illegal activity by falconers or breeders . . . . . . and I can understand your willingness to stand up for them”

            I take exception to that.

            I have not in any way put up a defence for any illegal activity, quite the contrary. My argument with you over that point is scale and you seem to insist on harking back to years last century when birds were in short supply and risk versus profit was a different equation. I put it forward that Mutch would be unlikely to find a falconer willing to take his captured goshawk or buzzard for the reasons given.

            I, like most falconers, will happily report anyone I have good reason to believe to be carrying out illegal actions. I don’t want falconry tainted with the illegal activity of a few rogue elements. If you still think there is a significant number then consider the ease of obtaining evidence and prosecuting versus the number of prosecutions occurring these days. If we could gather evidence for raptor persecution with similar ease the courts would be pretty busy.

            I don’t really care where the goshawks have come from but importation seems most likely to me but I leave it to you to come up with a plausible alternative for the goshawk recovery, if you can.

            1. You seem to be going round in circles in an attempt to prove your theory is the correct one, the point is you don’t know for definite one way or the other, just the same as I can’t prove one way or the other.

              Why you take exception to the sentence, “It may well be that illegal activity by falconers or breeders is less these days, I don’t doubt it, and I can understand your willingness to stand up for them” is strange considering that I never said or hinted that you put up a defence for illegal activity and was in fact agreeing with you. You obviously misread and took out of context what I said.

              One point you seem to miss is that between the last 1904 record you quote and probably the 1960’s, there were very few serious ornithologists actually available to cover the whole of the UK and the recording of Goshawks in any form, or any other birds for that matter would be very sparse. As I stated earlier, for much of that time people were too occupied with two world wars and a series of depressions to bother doing much serious bird recording, even gamekeepers were preoccupied with more serious matters. It was not until the 60’s and 70’s that general birdwatching started to take off with groups and clubs springing up all over the country, even then very few birdwatchers throughout the UK were seriously into nest recording, especially birds such as the Goshawk, which as I said previously can be very secretive and easily overlooked if you don’t know what you are doing.

              So, whatever the real facts are regarding the source of these birds, which obviously can’t be proved one way or the other, one fact that does remain is that the gamekeeper was filmed putting a Goshawk in a bag and taking it away, no doubt to meet some nefarious end.

              1. I don’t like going round in circles but one thing I have to respond to is your glossing over of the slur on my character, to quote in full
                “It may well be that illegal activity by falconers or breeders is less these days, I don’t doubt it, and I can understand your willingness to stand up for them,”

                I have read this again and to me it says I am willing to stand up for illegal activity by falconers and I take exception to that.

                Fact – the goshawk was accepted as being extinct. You think maybe otherwise although you have no evidence and a very implausible theory to back it up.
                Fact – goshawks were released by falconers.
                Fact – goshawks increased in numbers coinciding with those releases

                Fact – you still haven’t answered my question, repeated in all posts, “how did you identify goshawks as being native stock?”

                I’m happy to accept a better alternative explanation that is backed up by some fact and plausible theories. So far yours have been unconvincing.

                    1. Still hanging on and going in ever decreasing circles? I’ve already said that neither you nor I can prove without doubt one way or the other whether the Goshawks came from natural stock, natural re-colonisation or falconers releases / escapes. I have my opinion and you have yours, I see no point in you pushing it any further and it’s run it’s course. Let’s just agree that it was probably a mixture of them all, unless you are still determined to get me to agree with you that is.

                      Apology, FOR WHAT? – Please see the following quote from my previous post.

                      “Why you take exception to the sentence, “It may well be that illegal activity by falconers or breeders is less these days, I don’t doubt it, and I can understand your willingness to stand up for them” is strange considering that I never said or hinted that you put up a defence for illegal activity and was in fact agreeing with you.”

                      If you can’t or wont understand that then there’s not much more I can say.

  26. Re the earlier suggestion that cameras should be mandatory at traps, why not, and as to the suggestion that they would soon all malfunction, then that should render the trapping operation to cease until they were repaired.

    1. Mandatory cameras at traps would be self defeating, the keepers would know they were there, they would just find other methods to trap and kill protected wildlife that didn’t have cameras attached; better to leave it as it is and have them guessing. Now that the use of camera evidence of wildlife crime being committed has been proved admissible in court it will be harder for the defence to prove it inadmissible in future similar cases.

  27. In an ideal world, driven game shoots and trapping would not occur, but we do not have the pleasure of such a state. As noted by others, we are dealing with serial criminals, so the idea that trapping should not occur unless a camera is operating, would not bother them, as they would just ignore the law and continue to trap and kill protected wildlife.

    Covert surveillance is a useful tool to catch those breaking the law, and if it was to used as a condition of the General Licence, we would soon find out that it is not just a “few rogue gamekeepers” that are routinely breaking the law.

    Video evidence being used in courts, along with Vicarious Liability and some tougher sentencing, would soon bring about changes to the industry.

  28. Marco if they were operating a trap without a functioning camera then they would breach their licence if it was made statutory. Statutory cameras wouldn’t have to be instead of covert ones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s