Covert video footage secures gamekeeper’s conviction

There was an interesting article on the BBC news website a couple of days ago relating to the conviction of Nigel Smith, 60, Head Gamekeeper of the Buckminster Estate on the Leicestershire/Lincoln border (see here).

The BBC article is well worth a read for the level of detail it provides, as is this blog and video from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Smith’s conviction was for animal cruelty (relating to a fox, not a raptor) but what interested us about this case was that District Judge Peter Veits accepted covert video footage from the League as admissible evidence.

Note, the video evidence made it to court and the judge was given the opportunity to rule on its admissibility, in direct contrast to several cases in Scotland last year where prosecutors from the Crown Office refused to accept covert footage filmed by the RSPB and subsequently dropped the cases prior to the trial dates (see here, here).

Convicted gamekeeper Nigel Smith at Lincoln Magistrates Court [photo from BBC]

11 thoughts on “Covert video footage secures gamekeeper’s conviction”

  1. It just goes to show that if cases are allowed to go to court that many courts will accept evidence obtained in this way.
    Is that why cases are not being allowed to go to court in Scotland? I wonder.

    1. Yes Alex,because Vicarious Liability law in Scotland would mean wealthy powerful landowners would have to be charged and we can’t have that an we?

  2. As a criminal lawyer in England I probably spend more court time arguing about the inadmissibility of evidence than anything else! Unfortunately I know very little about Scots law but have read Edinburgh Observer’s post with great interest and would agree, it’s scandalous that the Crown Office is able to decide issues of admissibilty and therefore which evidence should be put before the court. What mechanism is there for the defence to challenge this? In England it would be by way of a judicial review, but in England, as is noted, it’s for the court to decide on all issues of admissibility. No wonder there are so few successful prosecutions in Scotland!

    1. I wonder what the Crown Office’s performance indicators are? I had considerable experience of the CPS’s until I retired in 2015 and they were often at odds with the police’s PIs and we frequently speculated that the reason for some of their decisions was that the outcomes would contribute positively to the CPS (and against the police). Might it be, and I reiterate the word ‘might’, that a case to court north of the border and lost due to CCTV arguments going against the Crown Office would be a negative PI but a decision not to go to court would be a negative police PI.

  3. I am ashamed and disgusted that Scotland does not allow video footage to be used, To me it makes it look like the Scottish justice system is on the side of the criminal.

  4. This case givea very interesting insight into what is in involved in fox hunting.
    Pest control or pursuet of a fox for pleasure.

    Also this case would definitely not have resulted in any form of success without the efforts of LACS. Police would have undoubtleldy not have been able to gain the evidence that formed the crux of this case.

    Another example of the importance of the involvement of NGO,s.

    Also the common mistake by some to treat animal welfare and wildlife crime as separate issues.

    I see this case is as very relevant to this blog as it involves almost all the same issues normally associated with raptor crime and provides valueable reference and learning issues.

  5. this is brilliant. so much violence is inflicted upon Hunt Saboteurs and Monitors and people are getting better
    at filming to get clearer evidence of law breaking and GBH. evidence of not trail hunting is improving. another nail in the coffin of fox and deer hunting.

  6. We should use this case to up the pressure on the SNP and Greens to push for a change in Scots Law to hand admissibility to the courts, rather than the COPFS.

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