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)