Prosecution dropped against gamekeeper in alleged hen harrier shooting

Regular blog readers will know we’ve been tracking the prosecution of Scottish gamekeeper Stanley Gordon, who was alleged to have shot a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in Morayshire in June 2013.

It took the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) almost three years to charge Mr Gordon, and they just beat the statutory time bar by a few weeks.

The first court hearing took place in May 2016 and there followed a total of nine court hearings in this case. Mr Gordon pleaded not guilty in September 2016 and so a trial date was set for 19 December 2016. This trial date was later dumped and another provisional trial date was set for 15 May 2017.

Today, there was supposed to be a final hearing (intermediate diet) to confirm the trial date. However, we have learned that the case was not called today because the COPFS have dropped all proceedings.

We do not yet know why the case has been abandoned.

There is no chance of anyone else being prosecuted in this case because the case is now time barred.

So in the space of ten days, yet again the COPFS have dropped a long-running prosecution for alleged raptor persecution; they recently dropped a vicarious liability prosecution because, they said, ‘it wasn’t in the public interest to continue‘ (see here).

And just as in the abandoned vicarious liability prosecution, this latest abandonment comes after a protracted period of court hearings, right up to almost the eve of the actual trial date.

Efforts will be made next week to try and find out why the COPFS dropped proceedings, but, as before, we don’t expect much detail to be revealed because public accountability appears to be limited.

It’s worth remembering at this point that hen harrier persecution is listed as a National Wildlife Crime Priority.

We will have more to say about this case in due course.

UPDATE 5 May 2017: Hen harrier shooting on Cabrach Estate – RSPB releases video footage (here)

UPDATE 5 May 2017: Hen harrier shooting – fury at decision to drop prosecution (here)

UPDATE 8 May 2017: Some more thoughts on the shot hen harrier video (here)

UPDATE 11 May 2017: Cabrach hen harrier shooting reaches First Minister’s question time (here)

59 thoughts on “Prosecution dropped against gamekeeper in alleged hen harrier shooting”

  1. So the only real relevant question left is would the evidence available be enough to warrant the removal of a game shooting licence, should such a licence exist?

  2. It’s the same old story – the bell ends in tweed have the bell ends in wigs amongst their ranks – the untouchables. Thank god the hen harrier’s range does not just encompass this sad little country.

  3. [insert defamatory and insulting rant of choice here]
    You all know my feelings. I’ll save the editorial team the trouble of deleting them, and just have you imagine it. Make sure you use plenty of swear words, heaven knows I did.

  4. Total disgrace, British justice at it’s best, it just makes a mockery of the whole judicial system when it can be so easily circumvented xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Expletives can be supplied in large quantities on request, you know the ones I mean !!!

  5. Is it the case that we know a hen harrier was shot, just that we dont know who did it? Is this a wildlife crime that will not be recorded in the official circumstances… on the off-chance that the bird was shot by natural causes?

  6. Would it be the case here that there was insufficient evisdence for a lawful prosecution??? This gentleman has obviously been wrongly charged and prosecuted!!!! Now that just shows how terrible the judicial system actually is, wasting their own money and the alleged man having to financially fight a case to prove his innocence. This bird could have died from natural causes and whenever sees a dead bird of prey thy just assume it’s been shot or poisoned, they are just like all other birds one day they will die.

    1. Well, fortunately, video footage was taken of this incident. Now that criminal proceedings have been abandoned, we hope the footage will be published…..

        1. “If there was video footage why no prosecution?”

          Good question, that’s what we’d all like to know.

          1. COPFS, whilst nominally independent, is an arm of Government. Questions should be asked of the Justice Secretary.

            One of the disadvantages of our legal system is that ‘justice’ is seen as an academic concept within the system, and not what those of us outside it would desire.

    2. The admissibility of video footage is often an issue in cases such as this.

      The fact that the case was discontinued doesn’t necessarily mean that the person was ‘wrongly charged and prosecuted’.

      @davef68 The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is responsible for the Jusitice Directorate of the Scottish Government. COPFS (a ministerial department of the SG), is headed by the Lord Advocate.

      1. Normally when someone is charged that would be if there was sufficient reliable evidence , and this case was continued time after time wasting public money and he accused legal bill ….. this is a joke

        1. Your understanding of the legal process is slightly flawed.

          When deciding whether there is enough evidence to charge, Prosecutors must consider two issues.

          They must assess whether the evidence available can be used in court and is reliable and credible. Prosecutors must be satisfied there is enough evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” against a defendant.

          Prosecutors must also consider the public interest aspect of the case. A prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor concludes that the public interest factors do not support a prosecution.

          Given that the case has been pursued for such a long time, and there is video evidence, it is likely, IMO, that a decision by the prosecutor has been taken on the public interest issue rather than the evidence test however new exculpatory evidence may have been presented to the prosecutors by the defence team at this late stage. We simply don’t know.

          All this concern over the outcome and associated speculation really does support a call for an explanation. That would improve accountability for the COPFS and help to clarify whether or not justice has been served.

          Good luck RP with your questions!

  7. COPFS record on wildlife crime is disgraceful. It appears for some reason wildlife crime is being treated differently from other crimes in that there is unwillingness to go to trial with cases.

    A light needs shone into just how many cases are dumped by the COPFS.

      1. Read your local paper and note what summary cases are being proceeded with and go to trial.

        A great many are at the lower end of the scale and raise the question ” how did that ever make court”

        By comparison wildlife cases rarely go to trial and are commonly dumped at the eleventh hour.

        Casebin question is a good example.

  8. [rant deleted due to being libellous, treasonous, revolutionary, and containing detailed instructions on proper use of scythes, pitchforks and how to build guillotines]

    [also something about stuffing rabid ferrets down the trousers of the moneyed classes; where would we even get so many rabid ferrets anyway?]

    Yeah, the cops and prosecutors are useless. Can you imagine a Law and Order show set in Scotland?
    “In the Scottish Criminal Justice System the People are Represented by Two Separate but Equally Useless Groups: The Police Who Sit in Their Patrol Cars Drinking Cans of Irn Bru; and the Procurator Fiscal’s Office Who Have Brandy With The Lairds Before Deciding To Look the Other Way. These Aren’t Their Stories, Shut Up Plebs!”

  9. Its all down to land ownership, just take these estates of the buggers, the whole system is corrupt and medieval. Just look at our “national parks” and see how not to run things!!!

  10. It just such a shame for the accused as obviously been wrongly charged and out through hell for the last 3 years and must have spent a fortune defending himself and proving his innocence, police would be more beneficial investing some of their resources on these Audi, Mercedes and BMW drivers who are crazy on the roads and kill human lives !!!!

    1. How do you know the accused was “obviously wrongly charged”? He wasn’t given the opportunity to “prove his innocence”, just as the prosecution did not prove him guilty. The case was abandoned before the trial took place, which just leaves uncertainty on both sides.

      It would be surprising if the accused paid for his own defence (although in this case we don’t have any detail about this). Typically, a gamekeeper’s employer pays for the defence, or sometimes legal representation is covered as a benefit of being a member of a gamekeeping organisation.

      The police have a statutory duty to investigate crime, whether that be motoring offences or wildlife crime.

      1. I have done my own work and the accused no longer works for this local Estate and has not done so for quite some time. And I would assume as would many others if there was enough circumstantial evidence then the accused would have been proven guilty very simply. Obviously what has happened is the gentleman has been incorrectly charged with insufficient evidence it is simple as that

        1. Whether the accused still works for the estate or not is irrelevant, as the alleged offence happened almost four years ago.

          Sorry, but your argument that he was “incorrectly charged” is unproven, precisely because the prosecution was dropped before the evidence could be heard in a trial. Prosecutions can be dropped for a vast array of reasons, not necessarily linked to the standard of evidence available. Have a look at the COPFS Prosecution Code for information.

          Whether he would have been proven guilty or not is pure guesswork and unfortunately now we’ll never know because the COPFS pulled the plug before the trial, for reasons which remain entirely unclear.

        2. “Obviously what has happened is the gentleman has been incorrectly charged with insufficient evidence…” What is obvious about it? Raptor Persecution’s response to your allegation couldn’t be any clearer.

      1. In my reading it makes a loss every report… but am I right in saying that valuation keeps increasing? it seems to have lots of debtors(or a few big ones) who dont settle? Are they charging people to shoot but not getting paid? It is confusing and it would be good if somebody could unpick it. It seems to be owned by a company… who is owned by a company…. but they all have the same director?

        1. In all the talk about the commercial aspect of grouse shooting in the recent Holyrood debate, I didn’t notice either side referring to the land valuation factor, nor the fact that most of the companies involved are registered in tax havens overseas. Why not? The capital value of grouse moors on the international money markets has gone through the roof in recent years, and that’s where the real investments and serious profits are being made. It also seems likely that the “narrow profit margins” and the supposed “contribution to the local economy” claimed by the shooting estates need far more careful analysing. Any profit which genuinely does enter the local economy must be far outweighed by the untaxed profits hoarded by hedge funds, etc. Not to mention the agricultural subsidies claimed from the UK Government. I spent quite a lot of time while watching the video of the evidence wondering why the petitioners’ side failed to go into any detail on this, as well as aspects of conservation ethics and scientific research which could have debunked so many of the opposition’s arguments. Was I missing something? I also felt there was perhaps a wee bit too much concession being made to the shooting people, especially along the line of “we don’t want to spoil their fun, we just want them to obey the law.”

        2. I’m not an accountant but I think the Full accounts (the directors’ report and financial statements) are fairly self-explanatory – but not particularly interesting.

          Golden Lane Securities Limited generated £223,048 revenue in 2015/16 from sporting activities and agricultural tenancies (page 14) and its expenses were £494,606 (staff costs, interests payable, depreciation of assets, etc.), which resulted in £291,561 loss on ordinary activities before taxation. After taxation that loss was £213,435 (up from £165,807 in 2014/15) (page 14-15). Property owned by the company (i.e. land and the buildings) was revalued at 2016 at £60,000,000 which accounts for the £10,381,510 gain (page 16).

          There is no information as to the number of debtors. The total amount owed to Golden Lane Securities Ltd was £663,849, but note that debts of group companies account for most of it. Similarly, the amount owed by Golden Lane Securities Ltd to creditors is dominated by the figure owed to group companies.

          Golden Lane Securities Limited itself is owed by Chesterlodge Limited, which is a holding company, and it has around 20 subsidiary companies (including Golden Lane Securities Ltd, its ‘estate management company’).

          1. So by any stretch of the imagination… its a money pit propped about by enthusiastic valuations.

            is there no check on these valuations… for example do the tax inspectors never wonder what is going on?

            1. See my previous comment, circusmaxim. The valuations are genuine, and represent the real reason for the recent intensification of grouse moor management and the resistance to our concerns from the estates and their representative bodies. Talk of the economic return from shooting alone is a distraction.

      1. Forgive me, it has been some time since I posted on that matter, and I forget what I had posted ??

        However, I would say that the Carbrach estate is a poster boy for all the reasons that we need Land Reform, and especially some form of Land Value Tax !

        The Highland Clearances are still going on in places like this, and are a disgrace in 21st century Scotland.

        The only answer that I can see to raptor persecution, and general lawbreaking, by ‘sporting’ estates, is for Scotland to gain Independence, and then rewrite the law. Current law was written by landowners, for landowners, and is practiced by their own class – it is failing us.

  11. Estate owned by Christopher Moran, funded by Chelsea Cloisters … lives in a £100 Million London Mansion

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