Poisons cache found on Yorkshire grouse moor – no prosecution

This just beggars belief.

Have a read of this blog (here) written by Senior RSPB Investigations Officer, Guy Shorrock. It tells the story of how he and a colleague discovered a cache of poisons hidden underground in a small forestry plantation on Hurst Moor, a driven grouse moor which forms part of the East Arkengarthdale Estate, just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A suspect was identified from camera footage obtained by the RSPB and North Yorkshire police paid him a visit.



During that police visit, a number of items were seized including an electronic calling device that contained a series of raptor calls.

Despite the best efforts and intentions of the RSPB investigators, North Yorkshire Police and Natural England, working in some pretty harsh conditions, the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t want to proceed with a prosecution due to some procedural concerns. Nevertheless, North Yorkshire Police seized the gamekeeper’s firearms and revoked his firearms and shotgun certificates. That seemed perfectly reasonable, especially in light of Dr Colin Shedden’s evidence yesterday to a Scottish parliamentary committee that “any hint of illegal activity can lead to the right to hold a [shotgun] certificate, and the ability to shoot, being withdrawn” (see here).

However, the gamekeeper at East Arkengarthdale Estate decided to appeal this decision and get his firearms returned. This was a remarkable move because undoubtedly, the evidence that the police had based their decision upon would now be heard in open court! And indeed, that is what happened yesterday.

According to Guy’s blog, it was apparently accepted in court that this gamekeeper had placed the poisons in that underground stash on that grouse moor. Nevertheless, the judge decided that this gamekeeper could have his firearms returned and his firearms certificates reinstated.


Let’s remind ourselves again of Dr Colin Shedden’s evidence to a parliamentary committee yesterday:

“Shotgun certificate holders are among the most law-abiding sector of society and any hint of illegal activity can lead to the right to hold a certificate, and the ability to shoot, being withdrawn“.

Sorry, Dr Shedden, but the result of yesterday’s court hearing blows the credibility of your evidence right out of the water.

In an ironic twist, Dr Shedden works for BASC. The Arkengarthdale Estate gamekeeper’s defence barrister, Peter Glenser, is also associated with BASC – he’s the current Chairman, having recently been elected following a bit of a fracas at a BASC staff meeting where the police were called in. It struck us as amusing that on the day Dr Shedden is telling a parliamentary committee that shotgun certificate holders are already stringently regulated and their certificates can be revoked “at any hint of illegal activity” (and thus there’s no need for further regulation such as the licensing of gamebird hunting), at the very same time on the very same day, his colleague, Peter Glenser, is defending a gamekeeper’s right to keep his shotgun certificate even after admitting to hiding poisons in a secret cache!

You couldn’t make it up.

47 thoughts on “Poisons cache found on Yorkshire grouse moor – no prosecution”

  1. Its just wrong!!
    For me, the questions still outstanding, are
    1) Is the keeper still employed by the estate.
    2) Was he and is he still a member of the gamekeepers association?

    1. Hi Alan,
      I have no knowledge of this case but knowing how British justice works, how the system is so fixed against the ‘fair cop’ and the increasingly liberal attitudes to ‘anything goes’ I have absolutely no doubt that this gamekeeper will be picking up a great big Christmas bonus.
      Vicarious liability? What a joke!

      1. But there is no ‘vicarious liability’ south of the border yet, is there? And it wouldn’t have (couldn’t have) been applied because the CPS wouldn’t proceed with the case against the employee… although I don’t really see why they couldn’t proceed. And I’d like to know why the beak felt able to comment on the ‘amateurishness of the investigation’ when the matter at hand was the gun licence and whether or not it should be returned. What was wrong with the investigation? In what way did it jeopardise the action the police took against the gamekeeper in removing his licence. At least the police DID something! Compare it with the lack of action by the polis in the recent Invercauld Estate incident.

        1. ‘there is no ‘vicarious liability’ south of the border yet, is there?’
          According to e-mails with Andrew Gilruth there is some kind of vicarious liability in England but tying to have a discussion with him is impossible so i don’t know what he meant. Something extremely obscure and irrelevant i am quite sure, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

  2. You say that you couldn’t make it up, but in this field the reality is worse than anything you could make up.
    I’m really pleased that The RSPB has issued the blog by Guy Shorrock. It may, and indeed should, show to the politicians how the BASC really work. BASC and others are only on PAW to ensure that the old order can continue, and there are many in the criminal justice system well placed and able to ensure that this happens, and that criminality can continue unabated.

  3. Given the CPS decision not to prosecute, is there any mechanism whereby we can learn exactly why that decision was made? Is there an appeal process by which the decision may be overturned? The very idea of someone being caught ‘bang to rights’ in the commission of a criminal offence and not being prosecuted strikes a blow at the rule of law, which if it is to mean anything has to be applied equally and to all.

    1. If you read Guy’s blog, it seems that it hung around whether the pictures adequately identified the individual concerned (along with the chain of evidence on the calling device). The judge also critisised elements of the initial evidence, again showing just how hard it is to get admissable evidence in wildlife cases where the investigating agency is non-statutory – it’s bad enough when you are a statutory reporting agency, the slightest error results in you losing your case.

      I wonder if his admission yesterday would allow him to be prosecuted?

    1. Nobody will be paying anybody. Just look at the connections of the ‘xxxxx’ Agent and his wife and the judiciary and with the local MP who made such an ‘interesting’ speech in the recent debate.

  4. So who owns the Arkengarthdale Estate, No doubt some Lord HaHa Poncenby Smallpiece with friends in all the right places!

      1. Not sure that’s accurate. The wiki page is probably referring to WEST Arkengarthdale.

        According to our local sources, EAST Arkengarthdale Estate (where the poisons cache was found) is owned by a Swede. The land agent was (not sure if still current) Adrian Thornton-Berry – er, a Moorland Association rep. Imagine that.

  5. How widely and effectively can this case be publicized? The estate and the gamekeeper concerned can hardly sue since the facts have already been admitted in court so why not place a few big billboards in prominent locations? The apologists for the shooting industry have continually relied on the fact that cases of persecution are so hard to prove, to push the lie that the scarcity of prosecutions is a reflection of the scarcity of incidents. The present case may have failed to result in a prosecution but they cannot deny the facts nd as many people as possible should know this.

  6. The only way we are going to get rid of banned poisons, and their use, is to criminalise the estate upon which they are held / stored / used. MANDETORY jail sentence for the keeper/factor/landowner, and prohibit all shooting on the estate for 10 or 20 years etc.

    The current laws, and paltry fines are discouraging nobody, it seems. I feel for the RSPB and police teams, and thank them for their work.

    1. I don’t think that’s fair in this case, going by the remarks of the magistrate quoted on Guy Shorrock’s blog.

      In law the magistrate probably had little choice but to allow the appeal against the decision of the police, which suggests the law needs to be amended.

    2. Regrettable though this decision was, the account given by Guy Shorrock does not support the contention that the judge was ‘in the pocket’ of the estate owner. Rather, I think the case highlights just how difficult it is to bring a water tight case to court when attempting to prosecute these crimes. Given that the gamekeeper concerned has admitted in court that the alleged facts are all true I wonder why a private prosecution can’t be brought.

      1. If a private prosecution can be brought against said gamekeeper or the estate, Could a crowdfunding page be set up? I’d certainly donate. I’m sick of these people getting away with murder. There are enough of us of have no confidence in this Government or the judicial system when it comes to Wildlife Crime. Time to take it to the people.

  7. I wonder if the RSPB could take a private prosecution? This happened many years ago when badger diggers were caught red handed at a sett but the police totally refused to prosecute them. The county wildlife trust took out a private prosecution and won even though the diggers appealed against their initial conviction.

  8. If BASC and other representative bodies were true to their word,and had some common sense between them,they would be pushing for the refusal of the return of this mans certificates. This is not pole trapping or shooting protected wildlife its poison for gods sake.The lowest of the low.They will all have blood on their hands one day.

    1. Instead the chairman of BASC defends him. Every defendant is entitled to a decent barrister but why didn’t he think this was a good time to cite a conflict of interest and step aside. Waiting with baited (no bendiocarb included) breath to hear BASC’s take on this case. And next time we hear their representatives say that they deal harshly with anyone that breaks the law the reply can be “sure you do, you send your chairman to defend them”.

      Is this really what most BASC members want?

  9. Bit of lateral thinking: Has the Health & Safety Executive been informed? They may want to bring a prosecution against the gamekeeper and his employers under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations.

  10. anyone thinking of organising a mass trespass to take a look around and check there are no other illegal activities happening, and to let them know this is completely unacceptable.

    [Ed: it wouldn’t be classed as ‘trespass’ – moorland is ‘open access’, which means you don’t need the landowner’s permission to visit]

    1. I believe, and eco-worrier is free to correct me, that the term “Mass trespass” is used less for the legal terminology and more as a reminder of what gained us access to the countryside all those many years ago: The mass-trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932, that one was a legal trespass, but it has leant its name now to any mass action group which seeks to ensure public access and mass public scrutiny of land (although in the spirit of updating things, we could call it Occupy Grouseland, that doesn’t quite trip off the tongue in the same way though). I’d be 100% supporting a mass trespass of the moorland of whichever is the highest ranking moor owning cabinet minister on next year’s glorious 12th though. That would probably be closest to both the spirit and legal terminology of the term.

      1. Well done – I couldn’t think of a smart answer. Now, please could someone tell us the real answer, we’re not all experts.

  11. A few years ago when R Benyon was a DEFRA Minister, I questioned him about why the poisons, of choice for raptor killers, were not illegal to hold as they are in Scotland. His answer was that they were banned chemicals and in his option that was sufficient.

    The farce continues!

    1. I hope so, and also hope the land-owner can be prosecuted for endangering the lives of small inquisitive children. In my mind irresponsibility=psychopathic behavior.

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