Former Edradynate Estate head gamekeeper cleared of crop poisoning charges

David Campbell, the former head gamekeeper of Edradynate Estate in Perthshire, has been cleared of all charges relating to the poisoning of game crops on the estate in April 2017.

It had been alleged that David Campbell had maliciously damaged game crops by spraying them with an unknown substance which caused them to rot and perish. At the time of the alleged offences, Campbell was no longer an employee of the estate, having worked there since 1983 but after falling out with the landowner, millionaire city financier Michael Campbell (no relation), his employment was terminated in February 2017.

[Edradynate Estate, photo by Ruth Tingay]

Michael Campbell had told the court that he believed his former employee had caused the damage ‘in revenge’ and said he could identify David Campbell on CCTV by his distinctive “mutton chop” facial hair. Various witnesses had told the court that David Campbell had been “upset” at having to leave his long-term employment at Edradynate Estate.

Last week, David Campbell’s defence solicitor had argued that the case against his client should be dropped because there was a lack of evidence to show his client was the person caught on the covertly-filmed CCTV. Sheriff Gillian Wade had rejected the argument and said the court had been presented with sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.

However, at Tuesday’s court hearing Sheriff Wade cleared David Campbell after ruling the case against him had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

This latest failed prosecution is one of several linked to the Edradynate Estate, although the majority of the previous allegations have related to the alleged illegal poisoning of birds of prey, rather than alleged crop poisoning. Despite at least 22 police investigations over several decades (according to former Tayside wildlife crime officer Alan Stewart), nobody from Edradynate Estate has ever been successfully prosecuted for any of these alleged wildlife crimes.

[A poisoned buzzard at Edradynate in 2015, photo RPUK]

We’ve blogged about this estate a lot over the years (see links here), and most recently in relation to the alleged poisoning of two buzzards in 2015 and the Crown Office’s decision in 2017 not to prosecute one of the Edradynate gamekeepers (un-named), despite Police Scotland urging otherwise (see here).

Edradynate Estate is currently serving a three year General Licence restriction, imposed in Sept 2017 and which we believe relates to the alleged buzzard poisonings in March 2015.

Last year three dogs and two more buzzards were reported to have been “deliberately poisoned” in the area but nobody has been charged (see here) and we are not aware of any suggested link between these poisonings and any current employee of Edradynate Estate.

18 thoughts on “Former Edradynate Estate head gamekeeper cleared of crop poisoning charges”

  1. Ruth, your post leaves me with the impression that David Campbell is some form of serial poisoner. However I think this is doing the man an injustice:

    “There was not a shoot in place in 1983 when purchased by Michael Campbell. It is presumed that the woods must have been planted by previous owners, the Stewart-Meiklejohns, and they possibly had a bit of a low ground shoot before the war.

    David Campbell, the current headkeeper, started as a kennel boy at Sir John McEwan’s Marchmont Estate, then a keeper at Gannochy Estate, and came to Edradynate in 1983 where he and the Laird created the shoot from scratch.”


    1. Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t know why you’re left with the impression that David Campbell is some form of serial poisoner because the blog makes it quite clear that (a) nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for such offences at Edradynate and (b) there have been multiple people employed at Edradynate.

      There is certainly a serial poisoner in the area, of that there’s no doubt (see link below), but the identity of that individual or individuals has never been proven.

      1. Well I think the estate benefits greatly from the picture you paint that Campbell was a rogue element in the area.

        Your post certainly allows the estate to distance itself even though, through vicarious liability, it is ultimately responsible for what happens on the land.

        1. Stuart,

          To be clear, this blog is not painting David Campbell as a “rogue element” or “some form of serial poisoner” or anything else other than the fact he was a gamekeeper employed, with others, at Edradynate Estate from 1983-2017 and he’s just been cleared of all charges relating to the alleged poisoning of crops on the estate in 2017.

          Please stop suggesting otherwise.

  2. An interesting result. The area certainly suffers from, or has suffered from the presence of a serial illegal poison bait user. Whilst nobody has been charged, [Ed: thanks Paul but you’ll understand why the rest of this can’t be published!]

  3. I love it when gamekeepers and their bosses fall out……..messy indeed.

    Wonder who was doing the poisoning and what the reason for doing it was

    Wonder who knew what was going on

  4. The charges were a farce, an old man with a pack pack sprayer on an estate. Why was there cctv on a crop ??
    Looks like someone had a grievance against David Campbell .
    Waste of court time and taxpayers money.

    1. Perhaps he received a warning
      Perhaps he was tipped off
      There is obviously more to this than what has been reported in the media.

      Perhaps you know more than your letting on.

  5. So video evidence was used in court – I still don’t understand why RSPBs video evidence showing raptor persecutions aren’t allowed?

    1. Hi Steve,

      Covert video evidence was admissible in this case because the camera had been installed with the landowner’s permission (presumably to protect his interests on the estate).

      The RSPB’s video evidence is often (although not always) ruled inadmissible because it is used without the landowner’s knowledge.

        1. From the first I heard about this case and its reliance on covert CCTV I was struck by the irony that CCTV was admissible in a case where the owner of a shooting estate was the victim!

          Regarding the comment on the admissibility of the evidence because the landowner had given permission, with respect I am not sure it is a simple as that. The main issue for RIPSA (the regulation which cover the use of covert surveillance) is whether or not it was covert or overt. Even with the permission of the landowner the use of covert CCTV can still be problematic for a public authority if they to rely on covert CCTV in a criminal case. Ultimately it would be for the Court to decide the admissibility or otherwise of covert CCTV. Other issues which may come into play may include the purpose the CCTV was set out, ie if I set it out as a wildlife trap type camera and happen to capture a criminal act it may be admissible whereas if I set out a covert camera for the purpose of capturing images of a criminal act I suspect to be occurring without getting RIPSA approval it is unlikely to be admissible.

          Keep up the good work, I really value this blog and all the work that goes into it, even though it usually depressing reading.

      1. I found regarding the use of video evidence that Lady Dorrian in an opinion given in early May 2017 [2017] HCJAC 25 stated: “The most recent of the cases was reported in 2000. Even since that time there has been a significant increase in the use of video evidence in court. We consider that it is undesirable that the law in this area should be in a state of uncertainty. We consider that this would be an opportune time for the matter to be reviewed by a larger court, and on this ground of appeal alone, we will put the case out for a hearing before a bench of five judges.” I have been unable to find such a hearing about video evidence, nor do I know if it ever happened. In my submission to the Public petitions committee dated 21 March I suggested that this hearing should happen, and gave suggestions on areas related to wildlife crime where clarity could be given as well as the general issues regarding video evidence not supplied directly by the police. My petition PE1705 was sent yesterday to the Environment etc. Committee for consideration.

          1. Thanks very much Dave. I had searched for it but not found this. That is annoying. There is a lot to take in. I’ll see how to proceed now after I review it. My initial thought is that I will likely need to make a revision to my last submission. The main body of the submission may not need to change, only the summary and history may need to be altered, as I will likely still ask the government to recommend that the Judiciary review the matter by some means. My reasoning when I submitted it can be seen here:

  6. The issue of admissabilty of covert evidence is interesting.

    RIPA and RIP(S)A both were implemented to regulate the activities of ‘public authorities’ this would include council ,police etc.

    The spirit of these Acts appears to be to ensure that public authorities actions are regulated and giving due regard to being necessary and proportionate.

    The regulations do not appear to extend to persons or organisations that are not public authorities, i.e. private investigators, RSPCA RSPB and members of the public.

    This does NOT mean that non public authorities cannot use methods contained with the Acts.

    The legal systems in England and Scotland are obviously different and the courts have obviously interpreted things differently.

    In England evidence obtained covertly by non public authorities is regularly accepted as admissible .This evidence has been gathered by covert cameras and directed surveillance where land owners permission has not been obtained.
    I suspect that it is viewed by the courts that any civil issue (trespass or ECHR) is outweighed by the seriousness of the criminal offence, I.e dog fighting ,badger baiting, or the organised killing of raptors. It is therefore in the public interest to accept the evidence as admissible.

    The Scottish courts have interpreted RIP(S)A differently choosing to regard evidence gathered covertly without landowners permission as inadmissible. This appears to be on the basis that only public authorities can gather evidence covertly and without landowners permission.

    ECHR also appears to have a bearing in this view in particular article 8 Right to privacy.

    Whilst I’m sure most would agree with this in principle I’m sure the right to privacy should not extend to a person(s) carrying out serious criminal offences.

    It is my view the the Scottish courts and COPFS are wrongly interpreting the spirit RIP(S)A and article 8 ECHR.

    Until these issues are rigorously tested by the Scottish courts, evidence obtained covertly by non public authorities will continue to be inadmissible and public authorities (police) will continue not to deploy directed surveillance methods to gather evidence in crimes involving wildlife or animals.

    Meantime wildlife criminals will continue benefit.

    1. Mick,
      As I see it, the courts will never be able to rigorously test the issues, due to the 2017 decision of Crown Counsel. As a petitioner seeking to amend the law, agreeing with your interpretation that Scotland puts on RIP(S)A I cannot urge the government to change the law because it does not need changing. The changes I have proposed would cover setting a camera on a nest, but cannot cover the issue of coming upon a set and baited pole trap as that is governed, in my opinion, by RIP(S)A.
      Frustrating, to say the least. I have adopted the proposal that the judiciary could review the general and particular cases of video evidence, but it may not be in the power of government to get it reviewed by the Judiciary.
      The whole situation is ridiculous in Scotland.

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