Scottish Gamekeepers Association fails to influence the criminals within its membership

Gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 61, sentenced yesterday for his appalling crimes against protected raptors and mammals on the Longformacus Estate in the Borders (here) was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

[Convicted criminal gamekeeper Alan Wilson photographed outside court yesterday, photo by Daily Record]

As an SGA member, Wilson cannot possibly claim that he wasn’t aware of the laws protecting birds of prey and mammals such as badgers and otters, nor that the deadly poison he had in his possession, Carbofuran, has been banned for approx 14 years, because although the SGA can be viewed as a bunch of raptor-hating Victorian throwbacks who lobby to have birds of prey added to the lists of ‘vermin’ that can be killed with impunity (e.g. see here), it has always made it clear that the illegal killing of these species is unacceptable. It wants to kill raptors, yes, to stop them interfering with game bird stocks, but acknowledges that so far, this is still unlawful unless the Scottish Government decides to issue licences to kill birds of prey.

Wilson carried what looks to be his SGA member’s log book in the same bag as he kept one of his bottles of Carbofuran.

Here’s his bag, with the bottle of Carbofuran in the front pouch [SSPCA photo]

Here’s the small bottle of Carbofuran (remember only a few granules are enough to kill a human) [SSPCA photo]

Here’s his SGA member’s log book, contained in the side pouch [photo SSPCA]

The irony of this is not lost on us.

The SGA issued a statement yesterday, after months of refusing to say anything, confirming that Wilson was indeed a member and his membership has now been terminated. Expelling criminals from within its ranks is a relatively recent endeavour by the SGA (in the last five or so years) and undoubtedly is a result of public and political pressure. The organisation has to at least make an effort to appear civilised and expelling criminal members is one way of doing this.

It begs the question, though, how many more criminals are hiding in plain sight within the SGA’s membership? It’s worth bearing in mind that, despite the industry’s claims, gamekeeping is not a profession in the sense that potential candidates don’t have to pass a formal qualification process to enter the ‘profession’ (although increasingly they do need to be certified in certain areas of their work) and absolutely anybody can become a member of the SGA unless, it seems, you have a recent conviction for wildlife crime. There’s no independent register of gamekeepers and nor is there a professional body to whom members of the public can complain about a gamekeeper’s behaviour or conduct, which when you think about it is pretty odd, given the job mostly involves killing things. Those responsible for caring for animals have to be highly qualified and are answerable to their professional bodies (e.g. vets) and yet those who kill animals for a living can do so without any professional oversight.

It’s pretty clear from the criminal activities of SGA member Alan Wilson that the SGA had absolutely no influence or control over his behaviour whatsoever. Did the SGA know about Wilson’s crimes? It seems unlikely, given the risk he posed to the SGA’s reputation.

So how many more Alan Wilsons are out there, fully-signed-up members of the SGA but with a huge appetite for killing protected wildlife with impunity?

How can the SGA possibly claim that gamekeepers are law-abiding members of society (e.g. see here) when the SGA hasn’t actually got a clue what its members are up to?

We won’t know, of course, until the next time. And there will be a next time, and another one, and another one, and another one….

Meanwhile, the SGA will be kept busy on a damage limitation exercise for the next few months trying to counter the media coverage of Wilson’s atrocities:




23 thoughts on “Scottish Gamekeepers Association fails to influence the criminals within its membership”

  1. It’s notable that the SGA didn’t act when he admitted his guilt, only when he’d been sentenced.

  2. Look at that face and remind yourself that this man was (and soon will be again ) legally allowed to roam the countryside with rifles and shotguns. Something very wrong with this country.

  3. Despite the widespread anger about the apparent leniency of the sentence it is good to see the coverage in the Scottish tabloid press. This will not be lost on the Scottish public nor at Holyrood. Another tightening of the screw.

  4. Sadly this ignorant oaf knows he got away with it, he should have gone to jail and knows it only too well, so do his ex colleagues in the SGA.

    Lets be clear here a gamekeeper is often in a tied house fairly close to his master if not physically then there is by all accounts very frequent contact. I can well remember being told by an ex-keeper that he in thirty years had not met a keeper that did not persecute without being told to, I have since then come across two who did it without instruction, indeed one did it against instruction. When challenged he said that he felt his job was at risk if there weren’t plenty of birds to shoot so he did “what he had to.” Many keepers feel this or are directly under this sort of pressure, they do not operate in a vacuum.

    This is why Wilson should have gone to prison to send a message to all that this is really not acceptable in this day and age and when caught there are real consequences. The SGA hide behind an apparent intolerance of proven wildlife crime xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    Light sentences not only fail to send a message to the criminals in game management they also frustrate and anger many conservationists. One hopes some fool does not at some stage take the law into their own hands as a result of that anger, that would serve nobodies purpose.

    1. Even though the sentence could have been much more severe, they must be beginning to recognise that, if discovered, it’s no longer going to escape publicity – what’s still in their favour is the slim chance of discovery and the even slimmer chance of proving guilt.

  5. They’re all the bloody same, as far as I’m concerned, some of them aren’t dim enough to keep records…

  6. From that picture at least it looks like this vile wildlife criminal is totally repentant of his despicable crimes, not… [Ed: the rest of this comment has been deleted as its just personal abuse]

    1. Apologies Ed. about venting my spleen, I just got a tad miffed (!) reading all this stuff. It simply beggars belief that this man is not behind bars. The penalties for wildlife crime need to be increased significantly and soon.

    1. Par for the course Tim, GWCT, BASC and the CA have all held events or given a days shooting in competitions on estates with very bad reputations due to solved or unsolved wildlife crime in their recent past. Nor are they great at responding when this is pointed out to them.

  7. Someone could point out to the Fiscal that the Sheriff misdirected himself. Reference to the presumption of no prison for less than 12 months only applies to offences committed after July 2019

    1. Thought I’d read somewhere that the Sheriff had 6 months available for each offense (pleaded guilty to 9) so there was the opportunity to pose a custodial sentence.

      I’m also puzzled why [Ed: alleged] vicarious liability wasn’t triggered, anyone shed any light how / why this wasn’t pursued please?

      [Ed: Hi Nimby, please read the blog!]

  8. Sometimes I think we need to be more aware of the wider slaughter taking place throughout the UK countryside, where birdwatchers and other naturalists venture away from nature reserves into wilder parts, which attract the lesser known sources of wildlife that hunters just love to kill. In my particular recording area, certain hotspots like the local RSPB Reserve can be mobbed with local birders along with more ‘ordinary’ members of the public, enjoying cups of tea and browsing through the bookshop.

    A minority of amateur ornithologists undertake more intensive studies along the lines of organised amateur research by bodies like the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, BTO and (in Scotland) the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club. Others prefer to make solitary trips to their local patch, which can often be surprisingly productive. Those who adopt wider local patches are the ones most likely to encounter the killing spree which takes place far too widely. Grouse moors tend to be avoided, especially during the shooting season, for obvious reasons. So the vast majority of wildlife killing and cruelty is happening without detection. The scale of raptor persecution is virtually underground, and even the more astute conservationists can under-estimate the consequences.

    However at last we have a dedicated pressure group like Raptor Persecution UK who are already widely raising awareness which will hopefully make wildlife slaughter unacceptable in a civilised society. Many thanks to all concerned, especially Mark, Chris and Ruth, whose arduous dedication is already making a difference.

  9. The Sherrif has explained why he did not impose a custodial sentence. However, I’ve seen no explanation for him not imposing a hefty fine, for which there was plenty of scope under the WCA.

    1. It would have been paid by his bosses but at least it would have topped up the coffers towards prosecuting other offenders.

  10. Yesterday you said that this idiot had a previous conviction back in Feb 2018 where he was fined £400. If that’s the case, how come the SGA didn’t kick him out then? Why wait until now? And why not kick him out as soon as he had admitted the crimes? Not really covered themselves in glory have they.
    Still, Werritty will be along to sort it all out in a few years!

  11. II am pleased that Wilson has had his guns confiscated, presumably because his licence to hold them has been withdrawn. I am writing to Police Scotland to confirm that this is the case. In every case of wildlife crime that is successfully prosecuted the public need to know that the privilege f carrying around a lethal weapon is withdrawn.

  12. A picture paints a thousand words and that’s definitely the case with Wilson’s picture, someone has deemed him fit to hold a gun license, at what point will government realize that gun licensing rules are wholly inadequate especially with respect to the continuous disregard to the law by the gamekeeping fraternity

  13. So was he already a convicted criminal following he owl incident and still a member of the SGA? Then they didnt kick him out when he was found guilty, they waited until the sentence was handed down? Soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime.

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