Scottish gamekeeper convicted for using a gin trap on Cardross Estate: gets community service order

james_oreilly gamekeeper gin trapJames 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

  1. 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:

gin trap* 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:

1. Is O’Reilly still employed as a gamekeeper on the Cardross Estate (where they offer driven pheasant and partridge shooting)? Emails to:

2. Is O’Reilly a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, and if so, has he now been booted out? Emails to:

3. Is the Cardross Estate a member of Scottish Land & Estates, and if so, has it now been booted out? Emails to:

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:

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.

19 thoughts on “Scottish gamekeeper convicted for using a gin trap on Cardross Estate: gets community service order”

  1. For info – this just sent to the estate:

    I would be grateful if you could inform me of your company’s policy regarding wildlife crime. Do you strictly condemn the illegal killing of protected wildlife in contravention of the law?

    I would be grateful if you could inform me of your company’s policy on the continued employment of staff who have been convicted of a crime while under your employment.

    Finally, I would be grateful if you could tell me whether you still employ James Alfred O’Reilly, in light of his conviction for wildlife crime.

    I am a strong supporter of the important role that estates play in managing our land and supporting our wildlife populations. It is a concern to me that your estate has, presumably unwittingly, been employing a wildlife criminal. I’m sure that you will agree that this does not reflect well on you, the local area, or the shooting industry. It is often said that all estates are ‘tarred with the same brush’, and yet no-doubt you will agree that the vast majority of estates operate within the law and are strong advocates of wildlife conservation. It is important for the reputation of the shooting industry that bad apples such as James Alfred O’Reilly are given no place to commit their crimes.

    As a local resident who enjoys walking through the estate I personally have never seen any evidence of wildlife crime, I am pleased to say. However, I will be keeping a keen eye out from now on in order to support your efforts to eradicate wildlife crime from your estate. Indeed, with your permission I would be happy to invest some time in redeploying some of my covert ‘trail cameras’ around the estate to support these efforts. Would this be welcome? I would be pleased to share any evidence of wildlife crime that these cameras record with estate management, as well as with the police, of course.

    In these days of vicarious liability it is troubling to think that a landowner could find themselves on the wrong side of the law due to the actions of a rogue staff member. You have my sympathies in this regard and I will be pleased to assist you in any way that I can to scrutinise all pest-control activity on the estate to ensure that it is within the law.

    Yours sincerely.

      1. Some good ideas. I think Drone technology will be a big help in putting manners on these criminal gamekeepers in the years to come

  2. A fine as well would have been better, but 240 hours is going to take some working off, say at 8 hours a day 1 day a week for, about 26 days graft for nowt, it will give him time to regret his actions, and the very good letter sent to the Estate by the previous comment is going to really make them take notice, this was a good case and well done to the SSPCA.

    1. When you consider that the max penalty on EACH of the offences was £5,000 fine and/or six months custodial sentence, then a 240 hour community payback order is almost the most lenient penalty he could have received (aside from an admonishment).

    2. A CSO is supposed to be SUPERVISED unpaid work. It would be interesting to see the record of what this criminal does in his 240 hours “work”.

  3. This really made for some excellent reading.From a decent,caring member of the public going to help the distressed Red Kite,which must have been in absolute agony,then being good enough to take the bird home and contacting the SSPCA.Regretably the bird did not survive,but what did seem to happen was a sequence of events I thought would never take place, all those involved the SSPCA,Police Scotland( the officers concerned for getting the warrant then gathering the evidence are to be commended for their work)The Crown Office and anyone else involved in the c/a O’Reilly did an excellent job in working together to bring the disgusting matter to court.And there,ladies and gentlemen,all the work and effort is meet with an insulting 240hrs community service and a good kick in the ……for me.
    The depraved peice of an excuse for a human being would never have been caught out it weren’t for that decent member of the public.So how long had it been working as a “mercenary” sorry Gamekeeper,for this Independent Estate of the UK and would it or them be willing to reveal how many animals they have been responsible for killing in such sickening ways ?
    You’ve nothing but contempt for everything that intrudes on your money making scams.Shame on you.

  4. We are witnessing the return of the pole trap, a trap so cruel it was banned over a century ago, look back at the last decade and you will see a steady increase in the number of crimes reported using this trap. Worried by the prospects that a poisoned raptor might actually fly some distance from a poisoned carcase and be found by the public the criminal element in the countryside have now returned to fixed traps that aren’t quite so obvious as a crow trap but just as deadly. For anyone who has not heard of the trap it was banned because it leaves a bird hanging upside down by its broken legs, every time the bird moves it inflicts more pain on itself, to put some context into this, a snare is cruel and banned in most of Europe, we still allow its use in this country. As mentioned earlier this pole trap was banned over a century ago.
    Each Crime committed represents another two fingers shown to the law abiding members of this country. Each crime says we are above your laws and are untouchable, each crime says to the honest, law abiding hard working tax paying members of the British public **** you!
    Dr Aileen McLeod simple question, will you tackle/solve this problem or will we see another 2 to 4 years of ducking and diving as delivered so well by your predecessor Wheelhouse who now in respect of these latest incidents has changed absolutely nothing. Remember you now have a massive majority and you also have the overall support in your own party to tackle this!

    prefer anonymity, cracking post

  5. A criminal using a barbaric medieval device gets community service, pathetic , what sort of message does that send out. Imprisonment is the only deterrent for sick deviants like O ‘Reilly The new Minister is a soft touch. There’s no hope of a recovery for Scotland’s birds of prey with her in charge.

  6. Find it disgraceful, I think it should now be law ANY gamekeeper found killing, setting snares, caught with any type of poison, should be jailed but what are the chances of that. Basically zero, when are the Government going to start taking wildlife crime seriously, I have a very good friend who is a Wildlife Crime Officer and he said it happens in remote places that many of it goes unreported so can you imagine the real total of birds/wildlife illegally killed.

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