North Yorks Police try to justify police caution for criminal activity on grouse moor

Following today’s earlier blog about the man who was given a police caution after he was filmed setting illegal pole traps on the Mossdale Estate grouse moor within the Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here), North Yorkshire Police has now issued an unbelievable press statement in an attempt to justify their decision to caution instead of prosecute:

NYorksPolice statement

Before we take this statement apart, we want to make it clear that our comments are NOT aimed at the three police wildlife crime officers who attended the crime scene. It is obvious from the RSPB Investigation Team’s blog (here) and from recent accounts of police attendance at other raptor persecution crime scenes in North Yorkshire (e.g. see here) that these on-the-ground police officers are doing their utmost to respond quickly, collect evidence, issue early appeals for information, and work inclusively with the RSPB Investigation Team. We sincerely applaud their efforts and they deserve all credit for their actions.

Our comments are aimed directly at senior officers within North Yorkshire Police, i.e. the one(s) who took the decision to issue a caution rather than consider a prosecution.

So, THAT police statement. What an unbelievably stupid, self-congratulatory piece of work. It really beggars belief that this police force, which, incidentally, has just taken on the role of National Wildlife Crime Lead, views this result as a ‘successful conviction’. What interests us the most about the statement is the following sentence:

Based on the case at hand, it was decided the most appropriate course of action was to give him an adult caution“.

When the police decide on a course of action, they are supposed to refer to official guidance to help their decision-making. The official guidance document relating to whether a caution is appropriate can be read here. This is a fascinating read.

It explains that a ‘simple caution’ (once known as a formal or police caution) is a formal warning that may be given by the police to persons aged 18 years or over who admit to committing an offence. A simple caution must NOT be given if the decision-maker (i.e. senior police officer) considers that it is in the public interest for the offender to be prosecuted. Er, there’s failure #1 for North Yorks Police.

A simple caution may only be given where specified criteria are met. These criteria are listed in what’s called a Gravity Factor Matrix (see here). This matrix sets out the aggravating and mitigating factors that the decision-maker must consider for various types of offence. If you look at page 39, you’ll find the guidance the police are supposed to follow for a wildlife crime offence. Here are the listed aggravating factors, which, in this particular case, should have been considered by North Yorkshire Police:

The offence relates to a wildlife crime priority. Does this  aggravating factor apply to this case? Er, YES! Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. Failure #2 for North Yorks Police.

The conservation impact of the offence. Does this aggravating factor apply to this case? Er, YES! Hen harrier persecution is responsible for the precarious conservation status of this species in England. Failure #3 for North Yorks Police.

The offence results in or is intended to result in financial gain. Does this aggravating factor apply to this case? Er, YES! Raptor persecution on grouse moors is undertaken to maximise the number of red grouse available for paying clients to kill and the number of red grouse killed impacts on the estimated value of the estate/shoot. Failure #4 for North Yorks Police.

The offence involves cruelty. Does this aggravating factor apply to this case? Er, YES! A pole trap functions by crushing the leg(s) of any bird that lands on it and the bird can then dangle upside down from the post for many hours/days, unable to escape. Failure #5 for North Yorks Police.

The offence was planned or pre-meditated. Does this aggravating factor apply to this case? Er, YES! This offender re-set three traps knowing exactly what could result from his actions. Failure #6 for North Yorks Police.

The mitigating factors for the decision-maker to consider for this wildlife crime offence were:

The offence was committed by mistake or misunderstanding. Does this mitigating factor apply to this case? Er, NO!

The offence would result in little or no conservation impact. Does this mitigating factor apply to this case? Er, NO!

So, this offence starts off with a Gravity Score of 3. You then look at the aggravating and mitigating factors and then decide how to proceed. If you look at the guidelines (page 5), you’ll see that the appropriate police action for an offence with this gravity score is ‘Normally charge but a simple caution may be appropriate if first offence’.

We’d like to know why the senior police officer decided that this case was worthy of a simple caution instead of the ‘normally charge’ route, especially given that all five aggravating factors were met and the mitigating factors were inapplicable.

And we’re not alone in our concern. We sent a tweet to North York Police Acting Assistant Chief Constable Amanda Oliver (she with responsibility as the National Wildlife Crime Lead) asking her if she had sanctioned the above statement from North Yorkshire Police. To her credit, she responded as follows:


We look forward to learning the details of her review in due course.

46 thoughts on “North Yorks Police try to justify police caution for criminal activity on grouse moor”

  1. Thank you for your coverage of this incident, I share your outrage, this person set these traps, then returned and re-set the traps, all seems quite clear, and should result in a charge.

    I am curious to know what, if any, connection to the previously mentioned Mossdale Estate he has ? or is he just a guy setting traps on the hill.

  2. It looks to me that the N York police were unwilling to upset a killing (sporting) estate, that has royal connections.

  3. Disgusting special pleading by the police. I wonder how the boots on the ground feel about their hard work being devalued?

  4. Thank goodness for RPUK. What a valuable asset you are for anyone concerned about the ongoing epidemic of crimes against our birds of prey, primarily on or adjacent to, grouse moors. As for the powers that be who are charged with enforcing the law … they are, once more, a disgrace.

    1. Very good question, Andrew. We’re not sure about that, but the cautioning guidelines has this:

      “There is no formal right of appeal against the administration of a simple caution once it has been accepted by the offender and administered by the police. However, it may be challenged by way of a complaint against the police force that administered it and by way of a claim for judicial review”.

      It’s not clear to us whether this guidance is aimed at the offender or at general members of the public, unconnected with the case, but who may wish to submit a complaint.

  5. Who on the force is up for a position on the local posh Golf Club’s board? When we find that out, we’ll find who took the decision to give something that isn’t even a smack on the wrist and is barely more than a slight inconvenience. It isn’t a wildlife crime to too many senior coppers, it is an opportunity for social advancement for making it go away for their lordships. I hear this estate also has royal links, perhaps the names on the next honours list will answer the question.

    1. I was wondering myself that maybe someone in the force liked to shoot or had been lean’t on by someone connected with the estate.

      Consider that let off and then the lengths the police came after me when I published photos of a stink pit and loads of traps and snares which mysteriously vanished from a local shooting estate ( When the boot is on the other foot it’s a different story I can tell you.

  6. I don’t think Amanda Oliver is chuffed about this or maybe I’m reading far too much into a tweet? Yes feel very sorry for the on the ground officers who have been diligent and supportive..and then effectively pissed on by senior ‘managers’. I hope the press pick up on this, friend of the Royals has blatant illegality on his property, dodgy individual gets exceedingly gentle treatment – practically a kiss and wee cuddle. Think the Sun might run this story – pole traps are feckin vile and there will be library images to show what would have happened (and probably did previously) if the hill walkers hadn’t spotted them, bet they are scunnered too. Suspect a person(s) might be in for a severe bollocking when Amanda gets back from her hols. Fingers crossed for the review.

    [Ed: We’ve changed one word, Les. We don’t know if this criminal is an employee of Mossdale Estate]

  7. One point that nobody’s touched upon is the strangeness of having a series of isolated posts dotting the hillside here. They seem too far apart to have been part of a fence and show no signs of ever having wire strung between them. If they were once part of a fence why were all the other poles removed leaving just these few standing? Neither do they seem to have been part of any structure, yet somebody’s taken the trouble to shore them up. In fact, just about the only purpose they seem to serve is to be a convenient place to put a pole trap. Hence, it is very hard to believe that the person cautioned was the only person culpable here.

  8. Thank heavens for Raptor Persecution giving these issues their detailed analysis. Bumbling, June 1st above, has it exactly right. If complaints fail, then application for a judicial review may be appropriate.

  9. RPUK – your detailed work on this case, together with the background information on legalities you have provided, is absolutely sensational and much appreciated.
    I have emailed the NY Police PCC ( and ACC Amanda Oliver ( expressing my disgust at what has occurred and asking for a full investigation.

  10. So how are those annual raptor crime statistics doing for the last year? Strikes me there’s been an awful lot of it about both north and south of the border. Are those nice people from the SLE, CA, GWC etc. going to be reassuring us that raptor persecution is reducing yet further?

  11. In relation to the estate itself, it contains a traditional Peregrine crag but you would need a very long memory to remember it rearing anything. Even at a time when most grouse moor peregrine sites in North Yorks still produced young this crag did not. As to the caution I cannot be but outraged that some numbwit in my local force deemed such stupidity appropriate it ought to cost him or her their job.

  12. Is it any wonder that this part of the UK is such a hotbed for crimes against BOP’s?? Real banana republic stuff!!

  13. It would be interesting to know who was responsible for making the decision to give a caution and if shooting is one of their interests, it is hard to understand the mentality behind this decision otherwise, 8 Red Kites have been killed in this region in the last few months, Raptor persecution is a wildlife crime priority, pole traps are such a barbaric method of killing birds they were banned over a hundred years ago surely all this was discussed before the decision was made!
    Organised crime simple definition, ongoing conspiratorial enterprises engaged in illicit activities as a means of generating income, check the grouse shooting industry, it ticks every box,
    Ask why there is no vicarious liability in England yet there is in Scotland, its because the environment minister at the time, Richard Benyon was a keen Grouse shooter and back in 2011 when asked the following question about Raptor persecution in “South Yorkshire” replied with the following bullshit
    On 30 June 2011, Labour MP Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire) asked the following question: Only two weeks ago, a gamekeeper was convicted for illegally killing birds of prey in my constituency. Is it not time to think about introducing a vicarious liability offence to ensure that landowners and estate managers supervise their gamekeepers more closely and more effectively?
    Richard Benyon’s response: There are very good laws in place to punish the illegal killing of any animal. If they are not being effectively enforced, they must be and we will take steps to make sure that happens. However, this is a good opportunity to applaud gamekeepers for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside.
    Laws still not being enforced effectively then eh Richard, the whole thing stinks of back handers and dodgy winks

  14. Ref johncantelo – Hence, it is very hard to believe that the person cautioned was the only person culpable here.

    The person involved has pleaded guilty or confessed to the offence. Does this leave the landowner subject to removal of EU subsidies?

    1. Re: removal of subsidies. The first step would be to establish what relationship, if any, the criminal had with the landowner/subsidy recipient.

      If the criminal was one of those random district nurses, out doing his rounds in the Yorkshire Dales National Park & in his lunch break he felt the urge to switch his stethoscope for a firearm and walk on to a grouse moor and re-set some illegal pole traps, then it would be difficult to apportion responsibility for the offence to the landowner/subsidy recipient.

      If the criminal was a gamekeeper, employed by the landowner/subsidy recipient, then that would cast a different light on things.

  15. Brilliant. What would we do without should be given the job of prosecuting. Wish the work you done hit headlines on national tv every week.hope she enjoying holiday while a bird hangs upside down.ggrrrrrrr

  16. This surely has to be the nadir in our battle to protect Britain’s birds of prey? When I read the first post I hoped to discover that I was in the middle of a nightmare – but the incredibly crass response from North Yorkshire Police has capped even the feelings of disgust I felt then. It is simply unbelievable. The setting of pole traps has been illegal for over a century (2004) and this cretin set three – twice – and has admitted committing the crime – and he gets a caution!!! GOD HELP US. If the police do not have the guts or credibility (and like others I do not place any blame on the foot sloggers) to apply the full scale of the Law, then surely the RSPB (who were involved) have the financial clout to take up a prosecution? I feel so strongly about this that my 60 year+ membership of the Society may well end if nothing is done. And take note Martin Harper and Amanda Oliver, I will make sure my friends and colleagues who are also in the RSPB are informed if nothing more comes of this farce. If we can’t get a successful prosecution out of this one – and I don’t mean a slap on the wrist or community service (the Stock come to mind!)- we really do have a massive job on our hands. But as usual RPUK I echo everyone else’s praise re your work and doggedness. We all salute you. Nearly forgot in the midst of my disgust and ire – will it be revealed if the cretin is an employee of the Estate, and whether he is in the National Gamekeeper’s Association? A chance for Mr Hogg to show his true colours perhaps? Also will we be told who exactly made the decision to give him a ‘talking to’ rather than a credible charge? To put this in perspective, many moons ago a friend of mine was jailed for a month because his dog pooed in a Burnley Park!!! Makes you think!

  17. I recently signed a government petition, Which seems to be aimed at pet owners, but could possibly fit wildlife crime, and farming crime ( esp. factory farming )

    Create a new offence of “animal murder” with a minimum of 5 years on conviction.

    The government response is shown above, but starts ” The Government abhors animal cruelty. ” It seems that they forgot to add ” except where it occurs on, or interferes with shooting estates ”

    I had failed to read the excellent RSPB report, so had missed the sentence ” Ominously, at least two of the traps had signs suggesting that birds may already have fallen victim to these cruel devices. ” So, in light of that, the failure to charge this man is frankly astonishing ! This needs to be investigated at the highest level.

    On a lighter note, reported in the Guardian,

    Andy Wightman, Land Reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, also put forward a successful amendment calling for calling for “radical and ongoing reform to democratise land”.

    Commenting after the vote, Wightman said: “With the notable exception of the Tories, there is clearly an appetite for radical land reform in this session of parliament and tonight’s vote puts the pressure on government to deliver on that expectation.

    Now, if we can get Roseanna Cunningham to step up, and tackle wildlife crime……….

  18. More superb reporting from RPUK, along with useful contacts for readers to ‘do their bit’. Keep up the good work!

  19. I’ve got nothing much to add to what’s already been said, but I have to agree with Tony Warburton that this case “takes the biscuit” in terms of shock value. No wonder crime figures are so high, and that wildlife criminals treat the law with such disdain. This case will only give them even more confidence that they are virtually untouchable, and make life more difficult for those of us who try to uphold the laws which allegedly protect wildlife. More power to your elbow, RPUK.

  20. I emailed the PCC for North Yorkshire about this case and received an auto reply including these words:
    “There are strict constituency protocols that Police and Crime Commissioners must follow, one of these states that Commissioners should only help people from their own constituency”

    So don’t expect any helpful information from her if, like me, you don’t happen to live in her constituency but are concerned about this apparent crime because of the national and international aspects of it.

    1. Don’t blame the PCC for the system. She’s the elected representative covering the constituency of North Yorkshire. However, if her inbox is overwhelmed by emails from all quarters, she should realise the strength of feeling on this matter.

  21. Setting evil, cruel traps. Medieval & barbaric. Yet no prosecution. But why are people so surprised? Come on get real. This is Yorkshire. Saville, Hillsborough. Yorkshire Police are the best at cover-ups.

    1. Oh and Orgreave, Rotherham child sex abuse, It just keeps going. Yorkshire police; from North to South, utterly corrupt.

  22. Pole traps – outlawed in 1904…112 years of increasing penalties until the present day, when we have a maximum of imprisonment and/or thousands of pounds in fines..the man admits the offence..and we get this??…1904, back when the big estate owners and their pals ran the countryside like their own private feudal kingdom..but things have changed now havent they??..not in Yorkshire apparently. Lets all doff our caps and accept it….

  23. Dave Dick is quite correct – pole traps were outlawed in 1904, not 2004 as stated in my response. I’m afraid I was so angry that my mind was obviously scrambled!

  24. And here’s a wee taste of how North Yorkshire Police deal with other criminals, such as those committing motoring offences, drugs offences, shoplifting, verbal abuse, etc.

    No hesitation in charging a variety of people here, with many leading to equipment seizures and jail sentences, but the next one is a perfect example of how the same police force will treat similar crimes in a completely different manner. Indeed, some would argue that the following link refers to a lesser crime than the main topic.

    No caution here, but the culprit was immediately arrested and subsequently charged with eight separate offences. This happened less than a year ago, so perhaps a spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police would care to comment on why this latest raptor persecution incident does not merit the same level of effort?

    On the point raised above, regarding the uncertainty of the status of the gamekeeper’s employment, yes, we don’t know for sure who employs him. However, if I was the owner of the Mossdale Estate, and I had been informed of a “trespasser” coming onto my land to commit serious criminal offences against protected raptors, I would be absolutely livid, and as the victim of criminal action, I would be demanding that the “trespasser” be charged. Perhaps the owners of the Mossdale Estate will be seeking a judicial review against the police for their failure to charge the criminal?

    Or could it be, given the deafening silence emanating from the estate, the estate owners and the management team are perfectly happy that trespassers are repeatedly going onto their land to target protected raptors? Who knows?

  25. Don’t tar all NY Police Officers with the same brush. I know some dedicated NY WCOs who are likely to be just as pissed-off as the rest of us at this outcome.

    I predict that the verdict here will be that the caution was appropriate because the person involved was a first-offender. Right, that takes care of the first trap he set. By setting two more he’s a repeat offender, in which case there must be considerable doubt as to the appropriateness of a caution.

    In the event of a successful review of the NYP decision, the further question arises as to whether a person with such flagrant disregard for wildlife and the law is a suitable person to retain his shotgun permit.

    Given the miracles of DNA testing these days, might it be possible to determine what species had been caught by those traps which showed evidence of previous use. Whilst it might be difficult to pin this on this particular individual, it would indicate what sort of possible offences had occurred previously.

  26. The only possible justification for the actions of the police here is that the individual has implicated others.

    But I just can’t see that being the case.

  27. An adult caution is given when an offence is minor and the offender admits the offence

    What offence did he admit to?
    Setting traps in an attempt to kill wild birds i suspect.

    If so given that it is accepted that killing birds of prey in the course of protecting game birds is serious and organised crime because of the potential for serious financial gain.

    Raptor persecution is a UK crime priority.

    Something does not stack up.

    It would be helpful to know actually what offence he pled guilty to and on what basis the police considered it suitable for an adult caution

    The police need to explain on what basis they felt it suitable to administer an adult caution.

    Coincidentally an adult caution is not a conviction and will not prevent him using the general licence.
    Another lost opportunity……..

  28. Thank you RPS & Mark Avery for your excellent blogs. I hope readers channel their anger into some meaningful action. The best thing to do is to email a complaint to either the North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan or the Acting Chief Constable Amanda Oliver

    Here is a template email that people can tweak/extract bits from as they wish:

    Dear Julia/Amanda

    Like many others, I am disgusted by the unfathomable decision to only caution the person responsible for setting three pole traps on the grouse shooting Mossdale Estate inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The decision is non-sensical from many angles. Poletraps are banned and it is clear that the perpetrator was intending to harm protected species. From a financial sense, hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money (e.g. DEFRA, police resources) are having to be spent on protecting birds such as the Hen Harrier from persecution. This is despite the clear evidence of persecution by gamekeepers of grouse moors. The situation will not change until prosecutions of severe sentences are enforced. I understand that in response to a recent enquiry about wildlife crime being taken seriously, you said “it’s important that the police deal with incidents according to the law and that definitely includes wildlife crime”. It seems that the official guidance using a Gravity Factor Matrix to help senior police officers decide to prosecute or otherwise was not followed, as analysed by Raptor Persecution Scotland:

    There could not be better evidence of an offence than the footage provided in this case, such that the individual even admitted responsibility, are rare occurence. It begs the question what sort of crime or evidence would actually make the authorities act? There is no excuse for this offence, the estate concerned are fully aware of the issues of persecution.

    I understand that North Yorkshire Police works closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) which lists Raptor Persecution as one of its 6 priorities (
    What sort of a message does it send to gamekeepers around the UK if a crime related to a NWCU priority is treated as lightly as this? Not to mention the embarrassment to the NWCU. What an opportunity missed for worst county in England for raptor persecution to take a first step to improving its reputation.

    It also does a huge disservice to the relentless efforts of the RSPB investigations team to provide the kind of clear evidence that is often claimed is missing for a prosecution. The investigations team is funded by over a million members of the public who expect police authorities to enforce the law whether it be burglaries or wildlife crimes. It also does a big disservice to the 3 Wildlife Crime Officers of your own Police Force who acted commendably on the ground in this case and many others.

    I hope the correspondence you receive on this issue makes you realise that a mere caution is totally unacceptable. I hope it doesn’t come to it, but there are mutterings of a private prosecution, there is history of the public donating large amounts of money for rewards to catch perpetrators of wildlife crime and given the strength of feeling about this case, I can see this happening here. What an embarrassment it would be to your Police Force if it took a private prosecution to bring about the action that should have been the automatic response of the force in this case.

    I look forward to hearing from you and sincerely hope that due process is followed and that action is taken, please we are sick of empty platitudes from authorities in general about wildlife crime.


  29. Having complained to the relevant PCC for the area, I have now had the following response from one of her case workers:-

    “Wildlife crime is something Julia Mulligan takes very seriously, both as Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and as Chair of the National Rural Crime Network.

    In this case, Julia has asked North Yorkshire Police about their actions and questioned how such cases fall into the remit of our new Rural Crime Task Force, which has just been established and includes specialist wildlife crime officers.

    Moreover, North Yorkshire Police is currently reviewing the caution of the individual involved in the case, but it would be inappropriate for Julia intervene in this decision or operational policing more widely. We have been reassured that North Yorkshire Police will update the public on the review once it has been completed.

    You may also be interested that Julia has established an ‘Out of Court Disposal Panel’, which assess the use of Out of Court Disposals, of which a caution is one. Whilst the Panel is not a review or appeal body, cautions in relation to wildlife crime might be something they look into to identify any wider issues.

    Please be assured Julia is aware of the strength of feeling regarding wildlife crime and will continue to prioritise this work in North Yorkshire. In particular, I am sure the benefits of the new rural crime task force will be keenly felt in the months and years ahead.”

    The proof they say is in the pudding, so I’ll be interesting to see whether anything substantive comes from this appalling case ….

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: