Conviction upheld for buzzard-killing gamekeeper from Newlands Estate

scales-of-justiceIn April 2016 we blogged about a Scottish gamekeeper who was appealing his conviction for killing a buzzard (here).

In August 2015, gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick, now 26, was found guilty of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire, in April 2014. Two witnesses had observed him striking the buzzard with rocks and then repeatedly stamping on it (see here). In September 2015 he was sentenced: £1,500 fine for killing the buzzard and £500 for possession of the dead buzzard (see here).

Mr Dick had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and had claimed he was elsewhere when the offence took place (see here).

Mr Dick’s appeal was heard in May (here) and we’ve been waiting for the written judgement from that hearing. Yesterday, that written judgement was published and Mr Dick’s appeal was thrown out.

The judgement itself is well worth a read (see here) as it explains not only the evidence used to convict Mr Dick, but also the grounds for his appeal, which basically centred on what time Mr Dick and his line manager (Head Gamekeeper) had left a BASC training course in Dunkeld. Mr Dick has always argued he couldn’t have been the person observed killing the buzzard because he was still travelling back to Newlands Estate from Dunkeld at the time the observation was made. The Sheriff in the original trial had preferred the testimony of the two witnesses (tenants on Newlands Estate who knew gamekeeper Mr Dick) to the testimony of Mr Dick and his Head Gamekeeper.

You might think that 21st Century technology could easily have resolved this issue. For example, did the vehicle in which Mr Dick and his Head Gamekeeeper were travelling not pass any Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras enroute from Dunkeld to Newlands Estate? Surely that would have provided conclusive evidence about the timing of their journey? Apparently not.

Mr Dick’s appeal was heard by three senior judges: Lord Carloway (Lord Justice General), Lord Menzies, and Lord Bracadale. In the written judgement, each of these three judges state their individual opinion about the case and explain the reasoning behind their decisions. Two of the judges (Carloway and Bracadale) considered that the appeal should be refused. The other judge, Menzies, considered that there were sufficient grounds for appeal. [Interesting to note, according to Wikipedia, Lord Menzies’ interests include shooting]. The appeal was rejected 2:1 against.

This is a rare success and the SSPCA, Police Scotland, and Crown Office deserve credit for their efforts. Special credit to the two witnesses who risked a lot to bring this criminal to justice.

As Mr Dick’s criminal conviction has now been upheld, presumably this will now allow the prosecution to proceed against Andrew Duncan, the Newlands Estate landowner, for alleged vicarious liability of Mr Dick’s crimes. The case against Mr Duncan has been repeatedly delayed (see here) while Mr Dick’s appeal was underway.

Mr Dick’s failed appeal also leads us back to several questions we asked at the time of his conviction in August 2015. These were:

  1. Is/was criminal gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association? The SGA refused to comment on Mr Dick’s membership status at the time, saying they ‘wanted to wait until the legal process had concluded’. Well, now Mr Dick’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to:
  2. Will Scottish Land & Estates now expel the Newlands Estate from the ranks of SLE membership? SLE said at the time that Newlands Estate’s membership of SLE had been ‘voluntarily suspended’ pending on-going legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to:
  3. Will the Newlands Estate’s accredited membership of Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) now be revoked? The conditions of membership of this scheme include: “the requirements to maintain best practice standards of animal welfare and comply with all legal requirements and relevant Scottish codes of practice”. At the time of Mr Dick’s conviction, a spokesperson for WES said the Newlands Estate’s membership and accreditation of WES had been ‘voluntary suspended’ pending the outcome of legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to:

We’ll also be watching closely to see whether the Newlands Estate will now be subject to a General Licence Restriction from SNH. If you recall, this restriction may be imposed by SNH where evidence of raptor crime is apparent and it has been available as a sanction for offences committed since 1 January 2014. Mr Dick killed the buzzard on Newlands Estate in April 2014. Although, even if the GL restriction is put in place, the estate can easily side-step it by applying for an ‘individual’ licence instead (e.g. see here).

Had there been a gamebird licensing scheme in place, the Newlands Estate could now have been facing a temporary ban on pheasant shooting for a number of months/years. At the moment, no such licensing scheme exists, but a petition has recently been launched by the Scottish Raptor Study Group, asking the Scottish Government to introduce such a licensing scheme. You can sign the petition HERE

27 thoughts on “Conviction upheld for buzzard-killing gamekeeper from Newlands Estate”

  1. Two of the judges (Carloway and Bracadale) considered that the appeal should be refused. The other judge, Menzies, considered that there were sufficient grounds for appeal. [Interesting to note, according to Wikipedia, Lord Menzies’ interests include shooting]. The appeal was rejected 2:1 against.

    Proof that shooters really do feel they are above the law, and will do anything to be allowed to keep killing species that get in the way of their hobby. Must be all the lead poisoning.

    Did you guys see, by the way, that down south they have put a hunter who used his hunting whip on hunt protestors in charge of invesigating a fox hunt. I think we can all predict what the outcome of that one will be.

    And yet it is only the RSPB member who is asked to recuse themself? #OneLawForThem

      1. Declaration of membership of.. SLE, BASC, GWCT, CLE, etc would need to have been declared as a conflict of interest… wouldnt it?
        After all some of these organisations could have been directly or indirectly involved in the defence in this case? Eg a BASC training course was part of the alibi and SLE may be giving advice to the estate?
        I wonder if it would be bad form to ask Lord Menzies if he is a memeber or donner to any of these organisations?

  2. Finally at Long Last this Bxxxxxd cant Weasel out of it anymore and will be rightly prosecuted, BRILLIANT ! and now we await for the NEWLANDS ESTATE to be Prosecuted for Vicarious Libility,this is a Watershed Moment,well done to everyone involved in this case ,and Especially to the 2 Witnesses after What they have Endured .It just goes to show we should all keep our eyes and ears open when out and about ,and more and more of these Criminals will be caught.

    1. Perverting the course of justice is the usual charge for supplying a false alibi. I’m not holding out much hope though. It is one thing to not have the alibi be believable in support of someone else, but it is harder to have it stand up as an independent charge on its own. Unless it is 100% beyond reasonable doubt on its own it is probably best not to charge because a not-guilty on it actually would be grounds for an appeal. Better to leave that genie in the bottle if it is in any way a bit marginal.

  3. Excellent result, now let’s hope they increase his sentencing significantly for [Ed: rest of this sentence deleted as libellous].

    Now let’s hope that Andrew Duncan, the Newlands Estate landowner, is prosecuted for alleged Vicarious Liability of Mr Dick’s crimes.

  4. I tend to agree that xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx but am doubtful whether anything will happen on that one. So I am more interested in seeing Andrew Duncan being successfully charged with Vicarious Liability. What are the odds on the hearing Judge being Menzies for that one!!!

  5. Lets hope that he is ordered to pay costs for the appeal; it can’t be cheap hiring a QC to prepare and argue such a case – must be many times more than the £1500 fine. I’d guess the estate paid for this as a QC would likely be beyond the means of an estate worker. Lets hope the case for VL is successful too [Ed: rest of this paragraph deleted as libellous].

  6. He had the right name {Dick} a good job the appeal was thrown out and what about perjury charges for the head keeper?

  7. Well done to the two witnesses that witnessed the offence and had the strength to report it and put up with the disgraceful treatment commonly associated with being a prosecution witness within the Scottish criminal justice system and also risk any come back from the estate.

    I would like to say how much I recognise their efforts, well done.

    And hoe nice to see another bloody nose for levie and mckray solicitors.

  8. Excellent work RPuk, thanks for keeping us informed. Happy that a conviction has happened…. at last. Surprised that a shooting judge did not declare a ‘conflict of interest’ ? also somewhat strange the alibi was not further tested? but I do take the point above. Extremely annoyed that a custodial sentence was not given, there are close similarities to the Kildrummy case ! and these crimes will not stop until the judiciary uses the full weight of the law.

    A fine will simply be paid by the estate, not by the minimum wage/tied house estate lackey, so a very ineffectual punishment for dick. Hopefully Vicarious liability will be meted out on the estate owner + severe financial penalties.

    There would seem to me, to be a clear case to charge someone ? court costs, which I imagine, will be far greater that the small fines levied.

    An interesting read, thanks for the link. Does bring to mind the official police caution ” anything you fail to……may harm your defence”

  9. I would urge everyone to read the written judgement. It poses interesting questions about the alibi defence. Various plausible conjectures present themselves which it would be wholly inappropriate to commit to writing.

  10. excellent result, another bad apple pulled out of the basket, it must be difficult to find a decent apple in there, The SLE will be getting short of members soon with this sort of criminal behavior from their member estates. makes you think they do not vet potential members or have any control or influence over who they allow into their ranks, sound like a very dodgy organisation to me, if I was a member I think I would be asking questions as to why criminals are allowed to join

  11. Do they care, Merlin?

    If they’ve been getting away with it for so long, they haven’t needed to change.

    Hopefully they will think now – and stop it.

    But groups like RPUK have to continue to be ever-vigilant – for which, many thanks.

    And thanks to everyone else!

    1. Marian and Merlin…you would almost think that these bodies dont believe that raptors should be protected or that wild animals dont need to be killed humanely…but that would be ridiculous, wouldnt it??

  12. Thank you for sharing this. It was really interesting to read the judgement and heartening to see that despite being ripped apart at an attempt to discredit each of us, our truth was recognised. Really, really grateful to read the judgement and see this result after 2 years of unknowns and worries about money preventing true justice for an innocent victim.

    1. A Really Big Thanks to you both Sally,this must be a Great Relief after What you have both Endured !

  13. Great news. I want to see more cases brought to justice for their hideous crimes. Let us hope that Vicarious Liability is found to be needed. Fingers crossed but I’m not holding my breath.

  14. I couldn’t let this pass without commending the courage of the witnesses who gave evidence against Dick given the position they were in. A magnificent example of civic responsibility. Thank oyu both.

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