James Alfred O’Reilly, 50, a Scottish gamekeeper working on the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire, has been convicted of four wildlife crime offences, including the use of a gin trap to catch a buzzard. His punishment? It’s the usual pathetic response: he’s been ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.
Here is the press release from the Crown Office:
At Stirling Sheriff Court today, gamekeeper James O’Reilly was given a Community Payback Order and ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work after having pled guilty to four charges under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
O’Reilly was convicted at Stirling Sheriff Court on 24 April of a number of charged including the use of an illegal trap for the purposes of taking of wild birds on the Cardross Estate in March 2013. Common buzzards, red kites, goshawks and white tailed eagles can all be found nesting in or as regular visitors to the area.
A man walking his dog on the estate, at a location known as Gartur came to an open area next to a pheasant pen where a distressed buzzard was caught in a trap by its leg next to a decomposed deer carcase.
The man released the jaws of the trap from the buzzard’s leg. When it became apparent that the buzzard was unable to fly he took the bird home and called the SSPCA. The SSPCA reported the incident to the police who continued the investigation. They found an illegal trap, which by its nature and placement by the accused was calculated to cause injury to wild birds.
They also found that the accused had set a number of snares in the area. None of which had identification tags on them as required by law.
It was clear to police that there was an issue in relation to the pest control methods employed by the accused and as a result, a search warrant for his house was obtained and executed on 4 April 2013.
In the course of the search, a snare containing decomposed fox parts was found next to a pheasant pen near to accused’s home address. It was apparent that a fox had become snared and the Accused maintains that he shot the fox after it had become trapped, and left the carcase lying. Staff at the Scottish Agricultural College confirmed that the fox caught in the snare had been there for more than 24 hours and possibly from the back end of 2012.
The buzzard was examined by a veterinary surgeon who found it had a severe injury to the right leg just above the foot. He commented that the injuries would have been extremely painful for the bird and would have taken several days to occur. Treatment was provided to the bird but its condition deteriorated and the bird was euthanized on welfare ground as it would never be suitable for release back into the wild.
Notes to Editor
- James Alfred O’Reilly (DOB 30/06/1964) of Stirling pleaded guilty on 24 April 2015 at Stirling Sheriff Court to four offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as below. He was sentenced to 240hrs Community Payback Order, on all charges cumulo:
* Between 22 March 2013 and 25 March 2013 at Gartur, Cardross Estate , Port of Menteith, you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did intentionally or recklessly injure and take a wild bird, namely a buzzard in that you did set a gin trap also known as a leg hold trap on open ground or other similar type of trap which was baited with a deer carcass which trapped said buzzard by the leg, injuring it whereby it had to be humanely euthanased due to its injury; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 1(1)(a);
* between 1 February 2013 and 4 April 2013 at Tamavoid, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith, you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY, whilst carrying out an inspection of a snare, did find an animal, whether alive or dead, caught by said snare and did fail to release or remove said animal namely a fox; CONTRARY to Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 11(3)(A);
* between 1 April 2013 and 4 April 2013 at Gartur, Tamavoid and The Big Wood , Cardross Estate , Port of Menteith you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did set in position a snare without having been issued an identification number by the Chief Constable under Section 11A(4) of the aftermentioned Act and did set 2 snares at a stink pit , 4 snares at a pheasant release pen and 1 snare at a stink pit, all of which did not have identification tags attached; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Sections 11A(1) and (5);
* Between 22 March 2013 and 25 March 2013 at Garfur, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith you JAMES ALFRED O’REILLY did set in position a trap, namely a gin trap also known as a leg hold trap being of such a nature and so placed as to be likely to cause bodily injury to any wild birds coming into contact therewith in that said trap was set on open ground next to bait, namely a deer carcass; CONTRARY to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 5(1)(a).
The requirement to tag snares was introduced by the 2011 Wildlife and Natural Environment Act as part of a suite of measures aimed at improving the accountability of snaring. This requirement came into force on 1st April 2013. Under the new regime, those responsible for setting snares were required to attend a training course, prior to being given an identification number. The accused O’Reilly had been issued with such a number on 23rd March 2013 by the licensing office in Pitt Street, Glasgow.
So, here are some questions:
2. Is O’Reilly a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, and if so, has he now been booted out? Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Is the Cardross Estate a member of Scottish Land & Estates, and if so, has it now been booted out? Emails to: email@example.com
4. When will the review of wildlife crime penalties be published by the Scottish Government (we understand it’s been submitted) and, more importantly, when will the review’s recommendations for change be implemented? Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can perhaps combine this last email with one asking the Minister when we can expect to see a General Licence restriction order enforced on land where a poisoned red kite, a poisoned peregrine, and an illegally trapped red kite have been found – see here.
UPDATE 21st May 2015: some responses to these questions here.