Convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson & his litany of wildlife crimes

Further to the news yesterday that Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 60, had pleaded guilty to nine of the 12 charges of wildlife crime against him (see here), here is some further detail.

From The Times (by Robert Fairburn):

Gamekeeper killed protected birds, badger and otter

A gamekeeper shot dead badgers and buzzards and set dozens of illegal snares in Scottish woodland in what one wildlife expert described as the greatest cull of protected species he had ever seen.

Alan Wilson, 60, has pleaded guilty to priming 23 illegal snares in a small wood on the Berwickshire estate where he worked. A court was told that the League Against Cruel Sports had been tipped off by a member of the public out hiking that snares were being operated at Henlaw Wood on the Longformacus Estate.

[RPUK map of the location of Longformacus Estate]

In March 2016 a research officer found snares and a “stink pit” containing a pile of dead animals designed to attract other animals. A year later he returned and found the carcass of a badger and dead birds.

The site was visited by police officers and Scottish SPCA officers when the full catalogue of shot protected species emerged.

David Anderson, conservation manager for the Forestry Commission Scotland, attended Henlaw Wood, which is 550 metres in length, and wrote in his report: “In 40 years working in wildlife management I have never seen so many protected species dead in such a small area.”

Jedburgh sheriff court was told that Wilson was the sole gamekeeper for the Longformacus estate. He had worked as a gamekeeper in France for ten years before returning to Scotland and lived on the estate with his partner.

Wilson pleaded guilty to shooting and killing two goshawks at Henlaw Wood between March 2006 and May 2017, three buzzards, three badgers and an otter. He also pleaded guilty to charges of using illegal snares and possession of two bottles of carbofuran.

Wilson was fined £400 last year and banned from keeping birds of prey for ten years after admitting failing to protect an eagle owl in his care from suffering. He had pleaded guilty to keeping the pet bird in filthy conditions in a pigsty at his home in Longformacus [see here for RPUK blog on that case].

Wilson admitted nine offences and will be sentenced next month [19th August we believe] after background reports are prepared. Sheriff Peter Paterson told him: “These charges are serious and numerous and before I decide on an appropriate sentence I will need a report to see what sentencing options are open to me. Society, whatever you may think, takes a dim view on this.”

There has been growing debate about Scotland’s grouse moors. Chris Packham, the naturalist and broadcaster, has urged ministers to introduce a strict licensing system on moors, with powers to ban shooting estates where protected species are vanishing. A Scottish government review of grouse moor practices is expected to be published within weeks.


It’ll be all eyes on Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 19th August when this criminal gamekeeper is sentenced. We believe the custody threshold has been easily met and given the range of offences against these protected species, in addition to being found in possession of the highly toxic (and thus banned) pesticide Carbofuran, only a custodial sentence will suffice.

There have been questions asked about Wilson’s employer and whether a charge of alleged vicarious liability is being pursued. We believe there is currently a live investigation on this and as such we won’t be blogging about it, or accepting comments specifically about it, until proceedings have concluded.

The conviction of gamekeeper Alan Wilson can now be discussed, however. We look forward to finding out whether he is/was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and if so, how they explain his appetite for illegally killing protected raptors and mammals, why he was setting illegal snares and why he had two bottles of Carbofuran in his possession.

Presumably the SGA knew nothing of Wilson’s crimes, which begs the question, how can the SGA make so many claims about the number of supposedly law-abiding gamekeepers when they haven’t got a clue what those gamekeepers are up to, nor do they have sufficient influence to prevent them committing wildlife crimes?

Over to you, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg…..

Previous blogs about this case: herehere here  here herehere, here, here, here here.

UPDATE: 24 July 2019: How has the game-shooting industry reacted to conviction of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson? (see here).


34 thoughts on “Convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson & his litany of wildlife crimes”

  1. It is nearly always the case that the list of persecuted animals by one individual is just the tip of a very big iceberg and would probably be truly shocking should the real amount of persecution ever be revealed!

  2. It will be interesting to see what happens on the 19th August, however the British legal system has very light punishment levels for any wildlife crime, thus the result will be something of a joke as he will only get 6 weeks in prison at best with remission. When he should be looking at years.

  3. I think he should be incarcerated in the same conditions to which he subjected “his pet” Eagle Owl a species which should have been flying free over hectares of wild woodland.

  4. Surely this justifies the maximum jail sentence for such heinous crimes, if not then our Scottish Government must admit total failure to address raptor persecution.

  5. Do you happen to know who his solicitors are, whether he is in receipt of legal aid, and if not how the defence is being funded?

    Also, regarding the previous conviction, was it ever explained to the court why he would have been keeping an eagle owl?

  6. “In March 2016 a research officer found snares and a “stink pit” containing a pile of dead animals designed to attract other animals. A year later he returned and found the carcass of a badger and dead birds.”

    Do we know what species of bird/mammal were in the stink pit, or were they too far “gone”? The research officer did not return until a year later knowing full well that this was an active crime scene – beggars belief.

    1. Stink pits are not in themselves illegal…if the snares are legal…it looks like LACS did a good job here..please dont shoot the messenger!

    2. What on earth is the problem? they went back, and more importantly when they did they got enough evidence to get the police involved, leading to further investigation and conviction. You should know by now that in itself is difficult enough, why attack a charity trying to do their best? They can’t keep going back and checking things continuously, there’s the issue of resources and remaining covert.

    3. Hi Colin, in the UK it is lawful to dump a whole lot of dead wildlife into a pile and surround it with wire snares, as incredible as this may seem. As long as those animals being used as bait have been lawfully killed and no livestock is being used and the snares are being operated in accordance with the law, then there is nothing anybody can do. The ordinary person in the street has no right to see the snare logging records of the keeper either. Apart from snares in their own right being cruel and indiscriminate, used in conjunction with a stink pit and snares go up a notch in the animals that may be drawn to them including protected animals such as badgers, pine martens and even cats and dogs. In addition to that, maggots, particularly in the summer, can be a concern to near by livestock such as sheep, but all legal…for now.

  7. ‘Wilson pleaded guilty to shooting and killing two goshawks at Henlaw Wood between March 2006 and May 2017’


    Presumably 2006 is a typo, and should be 2016.

  8. Shouldn’t there be a national register of people employed as gamekeepers? Given the impact they have on the nation’s wildlife and habitats, they should be subject to registration. They call themselves ‘professionals’ – well most professionals in this country are registered.
    It will be maybe make it easier to police them if they are registered and maybe make it easier to convict them when they engage in wildlife crime. It could also ensure that they are not employed in another Estate when they are convicted.

    1. We’ve touched on this before – with, surely, a legal requirement for snares and all trapping mechanisms (if they can’t be banned completely) to be stamped and/or tagged with the name of the estate and operator, with updated inspection records kept on file.

  9. Like thousands of others who would like the judiciary to actually give a sentence that at least goes someway to make these people suffer. Thank you to all those who bought this awful man to court. I hope we all won’t be let down.

    1. I agree with that.
      The justification, in my eyes, for a stinging sentence is clearly there. Unfortunately the criminal justice system frequently appears to be at odds with the generality of the public.
      There has to be questions asked, and answers given, as to how such a criminal came to be employed and conducted a horrendous and sickening campaign of wildlife crime.

  10. This is one of those cases where one wishes we had a penalty system rather more like that in Spain where not only would the man almost certainly go to prison for a significant time but there would also be a substantial fine and a restorative penalty added to that plus a ban from his chosen profession quite possibly for life. Whatever happens on 19th August it will not amount to anything like that, which is probably what we need to help stamp out this sort of crime which we all know is both widespread and routine whatever SGA and SLE tell us.

  11. The maximum term for killing a protected species is 6 months: if this judge has any integrity he will sentence him to the maximum to run consecutively, not concurrently. Expecting a slap on the wrist though: I don’t trust the judiciary. If Allen Lambert could dodge jail for his litany of crimes then I don’t expect much for this criminal.

  12. The question also arises as to where/how he obtained his carbofuran. As a banned pesticide it is an offence to supply it as well as to possess it so another crime has been committed. Clearly people like Wilson don’t have much trouble getting hold of the stuff but where from and from who?

    1. Carbofuran is the poison of choice worldwide and used widely in Africa to kill vultures by ivory and rhino horn poachers. It is still legal in much of the third world. The question is not only where was it obtained but why the hell is the stuff still made?

  13. There is no need to kill wildlife like this this keeper should be put in prison his licences ie shotgun and firearms licence taken off him l hope his working life as a keeper is over and no employer ever take him on again these crimes against wildlife have to be stopped

  14. Yet another ” bad apple” gamekeeper found to be exterminating everything in the name of game bird shooting.

    The death tally is truly shocking and would certainly have a serious impact.

    The list of dead birds and animals that were recovered in one day makes me wonder what the accumlative tally is over the time he has been employed as a gamekeeper.

    Longformacus is very close to the South Scotland golden eagle project.

    The eagleowl tells it’s own tale……so many other Gamekeepers keep them and we know why.

    1. I suspect that, if they didn’t have enough sense before, the nation’s gamekeepers have learned not to dump illegally-shot birds in their own stink pits.

      One less bad apple – has the SGA commented?

    1. Allegedly as decoys, tied to a post, other raptors will attempt to mob them. Gamekeeper is hidden near with shotgun loaded.

      1. I once unknowingly used an upstairs toilet about 12 feet away from a free flying eagle owl perched on some guttering in the middle of the day. I wondered what the hell the commotion was with the local corvids and gulls which sounded absolutely frantic. I guessed that maybe flying ants were being produced from a couple of nests and that was drawing the excited birds to the house. It was only later when a neighbour called us to say we had an eagle owl on the side of the house that I realised the correct reason. Having witnessed that I have absolutely no doubts why gamekeepers would want to have an eagle owl, they are a magnet for other species keepers don’t like.

    2. If one was to put an eagle owl out onto a grouse moor then this may attract territorial birds in and then those birds could be shot……….The owl would almost certainly attract raptors…….

  15. It is so good to hear that the joint working of so many agencies has put paid to this wildlife black hole.

    Particularly of mention is the field worker who was brave enough to roam into the area and happen upon the dead birds.

    And the SSPCA who were so important in using their specialist expertise and assisting the police to have investigate these offences.

    This case highlights that these crimes can and are solvable if the correct organisations come together.

    So many attempts are made to drive a wedge and prevent this collaborative working.

    SSPCA need to be given additional powers and there will be an increase in persons convicted in wildlife crime.

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