From an article in today’s P&J:
A protected bird of prey died when an oil executive shot a buzzard he thought to be a pheasant when it flew out of woods on a Highland estate, a court heard yesterday.
Keith Riddoch, of Craigden in Aberdeen, was on a shoot on the Ralia Estate near Newtonmore last November when he made the fatal mistake.
[Ralia Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Estate boundary details from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website. Map by RPUK]
Even after he fired the first shot of the day, the 65-year-old self-employed consultant was convinced he had bagged a hen pheasant.
But all but one of his fellow “guns” on the same shoot knew that the bird was a raptor. Riddoch was informed of his error at the end of the shoot, Inverness Sheriff Court was told.
[Photo from P&J]
They said it was the first time in their experience that a raptor had been shot by mistake.
The buzzard was so badly injured by the shotgun blast, it had to be destroyed.
Riddoch yesterday denied injuring the bird by recklessly shooting it on November 26 last year at a corporate shoot.
However after hearing evidence from the people accompanying him, including gamekeeper Alistair Lyon, Sheriff Margaret Neilson convicted the businessman of a contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. She fined him £500.
Riddoch refused to comment after the trial, but told the court: “I made a genuine mistake. I didn’t misassess the situation.”
Defence solicitor David McKie accepted his client had made a mistake, but added: “It was negligent or perhaps careless, but not reckless.”
It was accepted by both prosecution and defence that a buzzard was of a similar size and colour as a brown female pheasant.
Mr Lyon was in charge of the outing where beaters scared the birds out of woods into the line of fire.
The 52-year-old gamekeeper told the court: “It was the first shot of the day and I glanced round. I saw the bird falling. It was a brief glimpse. But it didn’t look right. Buzzards fly differently to pheasants. But if it just came out of the trees it would look similar.”
Defence solicitor David McKie said the guilty verdict may have wider consequences for his client, saying he frequently travelled to the USA and the conviction could present problems for entry to the country.
He could also lose his shotgun licence.
Could lose his shotgun licence? Good grief! If he can’t differentiate between a pheasant and a buzzard he shouldn’t be let anywhere near a bloody shotgun!
This is an interesting case. We’re pleased to see a prosecution and even more pleased to see a conviction, which are all too rare, but we’re left wondering how this crime came to the attention of the Police. Did somebody from the shoot alert the Police? Good on them if they did.