Jason North convicted for disturbance & egg theft from raptor nests

RSPB press release (3 May 2018):


An egg collector, who was previously unknown to police, has pleaded guilty to taking osprey eggs and disturbing rare breeding birds in Devon and Scotland.

Today (3 May 2018), Jason North, 49, from Plymouth appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to nine charges relating to the taking of osprey eggs from Highland Scotland, and the disturbance of golden eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and little-ringed plover during 2016.

He received a 6-week jail sentence on each charge suspended for one year and a fine of £665 for taking the osprey eggs. He was also put in a 10-week curfew to ensure he remains at home between 9pm-6am. Maps, books and equipment were also confiscated.

The four species involved are all rare breeding birds listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Offences against these birds can result in up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine per offence.

[Jason North leaving court yesterday, photo by Penny Cross]

In December 2016, Devon and Cornwall Police, assisted by RSPB and NWCU officers, searched the home of Mr North at Haddington Road, Plymouth. They seized a number of items including hand-written notes, diaries and a computer. Following forensic examination of the computer, hundreds of digital images and video clips were recovered showing eggs and nests. The evidence indicated that North had been routinely making unlicensed visits, over a number of years, to the nests of rare breeding birds in Devon and Scotland. There were also images of eggs which had been removed from nests and put into display cases. The location of these eggs remains unknown.

A detailed investigation by Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) PC Joshua Marshall, supported by RSPB and others, located several of the nest sites shown in the images. Evidence from people monitoring those sites, supported by expert evidence, confirmed that eggs had undoubtedly been taken in some cases. All the evidence clearly indicated that North, in addition to making unlicensed visits to take photographs, was also involved in taking eggs and it is believed these were then added to a collection.

PC Joshua Marshall of Devon and Cornwall Police said:

North was unknown prior to this investigation and only brought to account for his illegal activities via a number of diligent members of the public reporting to police confidentially. The public have such an important role to play in bringing wildlife criminals like this to justice. Please be vigilant while out in the countryside and report any suspicious behaviour, especially around nest sites, to the police on 101.

It also serves as a warning to potential or active offenders that you stand a high risk of being brought to account for any illegal activity you commit in respect to wild birds.

I would like to thank all those involved with the investigation including CPS, the expert witnesses and RSPB Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock.”

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations unit added: “These days, thankfully, egg collecting is by and large a thing of the past. However, there are still some active collectors targeting our rarest birds, and it is particularly worrying when new egg collectors come to light showing that the everyone needs to remain vigilant. We are grateful for the fantastic work by Devon and Cornwall Police plus the support from the CPS, NWCU and numerous people involved in monitoring and protecting these nest sites.

It’s hard to understand why someone would prefer to take the eggs of these incredible birds rather than see the birds flourishing in the wild.”

If you notice any suspicious behaviour around birds’ nests or breeding sites, including people looking in bushes or wading out to islands, often at unsociable hours, please call police on 101 and RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551.


UPDATE 9 May 2018: A good blog about this case from the RSPB’s Investigations Team (here)

22 thoughts on “Jason North convicted for disturbance & egg theft from raptor nests”

  1. “It also serves as a warning to potential or active offenders that you stand a high risk of being brought to account for any illegal activity you commit in respect to wild birds.”

    Yeah, right … tell that to the gamekeepers.

    1. Yes, he now has a criminal record.

      Agree with your thoughts on the sentence. This was an excellent investigation led by Police WCO Josh Marshall, with expert support from the RSPB Investigations Unit, members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, and others, but the suspended sentence and paltry fine do not, in our opinion, reflect the seriousness of his crimes.

      1. Furthermore, we know what the birds look like, therefore why should the convicted criminal be permitted to walk free from the court looking like the invisible man, shouldn’t we know his appearance.

      2. I want to know – why a suspended sentence, why not send him to jail straight away! And the fine is paltry, I agree with you.

  2. What if his response to questions had been a persistent “no comment” and his defence councel was on more than the rest of the court put together? Would there have been a conviction?

    1. Hello ‘Bimbling’. I am PC Josh Marshall, the officer that investigated the case. He gave a complete no comment interview but due to the level of investigation and the evidence collated I was able to present a strong case which no doubt led to the early guilty plea. To obtain a conviction of taking of eggs without recovering the eggs was pleasing as I’m sure you would agree despite the depressing nature of it. He has no collection according to his solicitor so where are those eggs now???

  3. I don’t see the point of the governing legislation providing for custodial sentences if they’re going to be imposed, but then suspended. This, together with the relative pittance of a fine – considering the number of no doubt very carefully planned offences – means that he’s got off very lightly after depriving numerous specially protected species of their eggs. He should consider himself extremely fortunate. I’m pissed off by the outcome, so I don’t know how the investigating officers must feel about it.

  4. Pathetic penalty! Not offering a clear signal to the criminals, that crime does not pay.

    Too many get away very lightly, including raptor killers on the shooting estates.


  5. Even accepting that a guilty plea somewhat mitigates the severity of the sentence this is by any measure a piss poor sentence considering what might have been leveed for each charge. To all Magistrates, egg collecting is relatively rare but will only remain so if you take cognisance of the maximum sentences available and use them! For the Osprey offences alone I would have jailed him, not suspended and hit him hard in the pocket for the rest, its called making an example to deter others!

  6. Much as I abhor crimes like these the real issue is with large scale systematic persecution of our birds of prey. I find it amazing that they can apprehend, charge, convict and sentence people like Jason North with what seems to be minimum easy, while they struggle to achieve the same results with an organised cabal of wildlife criminals who commit similar crimes against raptors on similar territory and in areas they are known to operate frequently. It would appear to some that the various authorities actively try to thwart the upholding of these particular laws and they exist simply as a smokescreen to fool the public. They justify and underpin this illusion by detaining and convicting the odd “freelancer” who is unconnected with the grouse or pheasant shooting lobbies.

    1. My thoughts exactly. If you commit wildlife crimes and work for the wealthy or well-connected, they’ve got your back.

    2. I couldn’t agree more with you. The police know how to act when someone is illegally collecting eggs, illegally catching and collecting rare butterflies, and even clamping down on illegal Hare coursing. But for some not that mysterious reason, when it comes to the illegal persecution of raptors by shooting interests, not only the police, but the CPS and the government, forget everything they know about investigating crime and bringing successful prosecutions. However, one thing we can be absolutely certain of is that if birds of prey were being persecuted by people from sink estates on benefits, the police and the authorities would come down on them like a ton of bricks.

      As you imply, there is a very narrow band of suspects for this repeated disappearance of satellite tagged raptors, and other evidence of this organized crime. So why do the authorities fail to act, when they know the specific individuals who are almost certainly involved in it? After all the police have been doing this for years. If they know who is committing crime regularly, they put them under surveillance, even bugging their houses, and they catch them.

      1. As we are all well aware but reluctant to acknowledge, the Monarchy are four square behind Red Grouse and Pheasant shooting, its the highlight of their social calendar. All the criminals hide behind their skirts, and If we expect change we will be waiting for either a revolution in British politics, or for a member of the Monarchy who is truly an enlightened conservationist! It’s just a matter of patience, and or time.

  7. Is it just me or do other people object to the use of the terms “egg collectors” and “egg collecting”?
    It’s Egg Thieves and Egg Stealing surely?

  8. Now I’m not saying that egg collecting it not a serious wildlife crime, far from it, but I find it utterly amazing how an egg collector can receive a suspended jail sentence and fines for stealing eggs and disturbing protected birds, but gamekeepers can get away scot free without a blemish on their criminal record for doing what is even worse, they are actually killing protected birds of prey and destroying or deserting their nests and territories. The upholding of the law in this country where crimes against so-called legally protected wildlife are concerned is so one sided and obviously depends on your status in life. If you are a well heeled grouse shooting estate owner with high connections in the right places you can literally get away with wildlife murder, and they do so too regularly to be coincidence.

  9. I wonder how much he was paid for the eggs? I’ll bet it was a lot more than £665!


  10. Another pathetic sentence handed down to a wildlife criminal. We have the laws, we have the sentences available, but the judiciary is weak or corrupt or both.

  11. Six months in jail should have been handed down, then at least the wildlife would have been safe for the breeding season.

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