North Yorkshire Police have arrested a man in connection with the reported shooting of a hen harrier on a grouse moor near the village of Keasden.
He has been released under investigation whilst police await the results of forensic analysis.
This incident relates to the reported shooting of a male hen harrier near White Syke Hill in the Bowland AONB last October. A previous blog on this case can be read here.
[Hen harrier photo by Richard Verroen]
This is significant progress from North Yorkshire Police, not just in this particular investigation but also more generally in the investigation of crimes against birds of prey. Regular blog readers will be well aware of the infrequency of arrests in many of these cases, sometimes due to incompetence, inexperience and/or missed opportunities, sometimes due to lack of support from senior officers, but more often than not due to a lack of witnesses and insufficient evidence to instigate a prosecution against a named individual.
This is an issue that especially affects the persecution of hen harriers. Rigorous scientific research has demonstrated the eye-watering extent of hen harrier persecution on many driven grouse moors in northern England (e.g. here); it happens so often it’s brought the English hen harrier breeding population to its knees, but when was the last time you saw a named individual in court facing prosecution for allegedly killing one?
We have long argued that the scale of illegal raptor persecution, particularly on some driven grouse moors, amounts to serious organised crime and that the people involved are skilled at removing and destroying evidence to avoid prosecution. It takes tenacity, sometimes a bit of luck, and above all, determination, to get these people anywhere near a court room, let alone to secure a conviction.
This investigation is still in the very early stages and it may not progress to a charge if the evidence doesn’t reach the required standard but for now let’s congratulate North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Crime Team for getting it this far.
If you have any information that could help this investigation please contact North Yorkshire Police on Tel 101 quoting reference number: 12190193431.