Three gamekeepers suspended from Queen’s grouse moor after wildlife crime investigation

Following the news that a goshawk was recently trapped and apparently killed by a masked individual on the Queen’s grouse moor in North Yorkshire (see here and here), the Yorkshire Post is claiming that three gamekeepers were suspended.

According to the article, the Head gamekeeper and two underkeepers were suspended after being interviewed by North Yorkshire Police in relation to the alleged killing of the goshawk. Two have since been reinstated while the third one has been allowed to resign, and apparently allowed to work his notice period before he went!

The police investigation continues as officers await forensic results from items seized during a search of the estate.

Full article in the Yorkshire Post available here

44 thoughts on “Three gamekeepers suspended from Queen’s grouse moor after wildlife crime investigation”

  1. Interesting isn’t it, that this crime could not be pursued in Scotland because of a decision by the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service in 2015. The video evidence would not be allowed in court as the intent of the persons setting the camera was to investigate a crime.
    It is beyond time that the Scottish Government passed an amendment to the law which corrects this ludicrous situation.
    In Scotland we would have been unlikely to ever hear from the police about such footage.

    1. Does that decision relate to “official” investigating bodies, (the Police, RSPB etc) or does it apply to private citizens as well?

      Due to the regulations the police have to follow in England they are also restricted in what they can achieve by accessing private land however a private citizen can covertly gain evidence which will be accepted by the courts. I’ve even been told “go and get the evidence we can’t” by serving officers.

      Trespassing to gain evidence isn’t something the courts are concerned with.

      1. Accidental Activist
        The RSPB had good video evidence of a Hen Harrier being shot off a nest on the Cabrach Estate in 2013 and the placing of a bait on a pole trap st in the Brewlands Estate in 2015. These cases dragged on through the courts until 2017 when they were dropped by COPFS. See https://amilne.co.uk/Wildlifecrime/timeline/
        for the setting of these events. No one including the police could obtain video evidence and have it used in courts in Scotland of such crimes, individuals because they are not allowed to ‘investigate’ crimes and the police because they could not set camera in these cases.
        You could not make it up.
        Remember the huge pressures the Crown Office in Scotland would have been under from the ‘establishment’, while these cases were being heard in court.

      2. In most cases you don’t have to trespass as almost all moorland is Open Access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. One of the things we need whether or not this case results in a prosecution is the tightening of rules/legislation governing cage traps. The trap used looks like a very small Crow trap or a legal version of the illegal Swedish Goshawk trap, all such traps ought to be illegal. The rule changes should also encompass where traps can be set, not in woodland or woodland edge only in open country or under single trees in open country, that would in large part exclude catching Goshawk, Sparrowhawk and some Buzzards. After all these traps are supposed to be targeted at corvids only. Single decoys only should also be the rule.
        Let’s hope the forensics provide enough evidence for a prosecution.

        1. Its a “letterbox” or “ladder” type of crow trap if memory serves. To me even the setting of these for corvids should be restricted to Spring time. After all what harm can upland Crows really do at end of July now lambing is over and grouse chicks are mostly on the wing? I don’t think Curlews/Peewits go for a late brood now either, but could be wrong.

            1. Usually has a complete decoy cage underneath and essentially works like a Larsson trap. I understand several researchers in the UK have used them.

          1. I know its a ladder design trap but it looks very small to me, about the size of a big Swedish Goshawk trap. I suspect that this trap was never sited or set to catch corvids. Although like you I see no point in catching corvids anyway outside late winter and spring, neither apparently do many of the game estates I visit, hence my suspicions.

            1. I must say the dimensions of it isn’t all that remarkable to me, I am sure I have seen them used legally for Magpies on an moorland edge near me…but then again perhaps I should be taking a closer look! However I think you and I and many others on here are of the same confident opinion (I am certain of it) that [Ed: rest of comment deleted – this is a live investigation]

            2. Ah – thanks for explaining that. Yes – I see why you thought that. The ladder trap is small, as you say. I’ve never heard of a Swedish Goshawk trap – hence my interest – and the larsen type decoy bird housing set up.

        2. in Scotland, SNH could use this covert footage as the basis for the removal of the general licence….not that this is much of a punnishment. However, Natural England should be seeking to have this trap removed….it is clearly a threat to specially protected species.

      3. Accidental Activist, that’s finally clarified one aspect of this for me. Next – if a landowner or his nominated person (keeper) catches you in the act of setting up some trail cams for example next to snares, etc…I assume the worst you can expect (other than a bit of a confrontation) is a civil action for trespass? Would the keeper(s) have any rights to physically detain you or would they be breaking the law? I know they always act as if they have rights beyond what they actually do. Your views are much appreciated.

        1. A keeper or any other “legitimate person” physically detaining you for such as the civil offence of trespass (for which you either have to have broken an injunction not to be there or committed damage) would almost certainly be committing assault.
          All those rights keepers claim to have either never existed or have been rescinded, they have no more rights than you or me. I once had a keeper suggest he was going to search my car, I locked it and told him he had no right to and an attempt to do so may result in him requiring a dentist– he backed off and I continued along the road.

        2. If the only offence being committed was one of civil trespass- then the landowner or keeper would have no lawful authority to detain the person trespassing.
          Any attempt to physically restrain a person may constitute an assault.

          Where it could get complicated is if in the process of setting up a trail cam for example, any damage occurred to the landowners property, as this could constitute “criminal damage”, which is a criminal offence.
          Sect 24A Police and Criminal Evidence Act allows a person other than a constable to arrest a person committing an indictable offence – criminal damage is an indictable offence. Certain criteria also have to be met- but for the purpose of answering the question, the keeper could detain a person whilst the police arrive. Reasonable force could be used to effect this detention.

          Likewise a gamekeeper/landowner may have a power of arrest if a Breach of the Peace occurs or he/she reasonably believes a Breach of the Peace will occur in the immediate future – Breach of the Peace includes where the person perceives harm will be done to his/her property.

          Regardless of the trespass aspect, the trail cam however remains the property of the owner, and any attempt by a landowner or his agent to confiscate or damage it may well constitute a criminal offence of theft or criminal damage.

          As many moorland areas have open access under CROW legislation then hopefully this type of situation won’t arise -as trespass won’t be an issue.

          It is probably best to leave covert camera work to the various investigators who work for many of the NGO’s which investigate wildlife crime, who then pass their evidence onto the police.

          1. Thanks for that reply. I expect there will be test cases in the next few years regards hidden trailcams, go-pros and drones etc. I ‘ll save my own crusade for early retirement, when I intend to make a real nuisance of myself.

    2. Yes, and it clearly supports the view that the SG are not committed to see a proper effort made to decisively address the scourge of wildlife crime.

      Re the Yorkshire Post report. Three keepers suspended, then two reinstated, then the third allowed to resign. Oh what a tangled web that sounds like.
      Anyone else suspect that there is much more to this affair.

    3. Is anyone going to lose their firearm licence over this or by resigning will they just move to another post.

      1. As far as I can tell the only way the public come to know about removal of a firearm licence or shotgun certificate is if the loser appeals in court (in Scotland that would be a Sheriff Court).
        I am of the opinion that there is a case for a public register of firearms so that we can all see whether some of the knavish characters that float about have been permitted to possess weapons.

      2. If he loses his Shotgun Cert. and Firearms Cert. he will be out of keepering for a while, take up some random country type job for a bit e.g. walling, tree felling, tractor driving. But he will be back, if he’s over 30 the dye is usually cast. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

      3. It all depends whether he is taken to court or not and found guilty, even then it is up to the magistrate, although it is possible that when they come up for renewal NYP may or may not withdraw them.

  2. In 2018 the ‘Goathland Moor East Partnership’ and the ‘Goathland West Partnership’ received £127,656.95 & £22,850.92 respectively in subsidies paid by the Rural Payments Agency. What for? Who are these ‘partnerships’? I can find precious little online about them.

    Therefore, IF one of these ‘partnerships’ is in any way linked to the land that the goshawk was killed on, will public subsidies paid be reviewed I wonder?

    1. Unlikely, I’ve reported (English) landowner damage to a SSSI and been told by the RPA that the public should not get involved with such matters.

      Irrespective, that this has brought shooting estates into the public gaze again, can only strengthen the case for reform. Those ‘few’ bad apples seem to be doing a lot of damage still ….

      Resignation with good aftercare package perhaps?

      1. He will probably gone straight into another job, possibly even with the same agents on a different moor.

        In terms of the shooting industry “few” seems to have a very different meaning to that of all other contexts.

      2. Thanks for the clarification, RPUK.

        On a good day I can almost remember what it was like to have a working memory.

    2. If we hadn’t got the most corrupt tory government in power that we’ve probably ever had, then I’m sure they would be reviewed. As it is, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  3. When you read how the estate management company have increased grouse populations on other estates; how this was done? Now this one gamekeeper has resigned, will lots of raptors inhabit this moorland? Just asking for a friend :-)

    1. No, when an agency takes over a moor in order to or promises to improve the grouse stocks it is a euphemism for exactly what you and all the rest of us think it means.

  4. It is really encouraging to read such an honest piece of journalism in the Yorkshire Post, without the propaganda input from the shooting lobby.

    From the article it would appear local residents have a very good idea of exactly what is taking place on their nearby grouse moors, and its encouraging the regional newspaper has given them a voice.

    We need much more of this, especially in areas like Nidderdale and the Peak District.

    Hopefully once local people are encouraged to speak up, and realise their voice will be heard- then that could start to make life much more uncomfortable for the wildlife criminals operating in those areas.

    What is disappointing, but unsurprising is the comment in the article that gamekeepers who are convicted, resign but are quietly found jobs on other estates.

    Does this comment suggests that the shooting industry not only tolerates the criminals within their midst, but actively encourages them by ensuring their criminality is rewarded with future employment?

    What the various shooting associations seem to fail to understand is that such practice completely undermines all their comments about not accepting raptor persecution- which simply become “empty words”.

    If the shooting association want the public to start to believe them when they say they will not tolerate raptor persecution ,then they also have to take firm action against those individuals and estates where raptor persecution takes place.

    This should include
    -expelling any estate where raptor persecution or suspected raptor has happened from association membership,
    -game keepers convicted of wildlife crimes should be barred from the membership of the various gamekeepers associations, and barred from future employment as a gamekeeper.
    -shooting estates and landowners should openly have policies regarding not employing gamekeepers who have wildlife convictions or are barred from association membership.

    I would also suggest that the various shooting and conservation associations should also consider a scheme of “moorland accreditation”- and only those grouse moors which can prove without doubt that criminals are not employed, raptor persecution does not take place, and sound ethical and ecological conservation methods are practised should receive accreditation. (Is this not the gist of what they publicise and want us to believe ?)
    This accreditation could then be a guide to those looking to shoot, whether individuals or syndicates, that they are not funding criminal behaviour.

    If something so simple as car parks can offer an accreditation scheme, so that potential customers know that they are leaving their vehicle in a safe place; then it is beyond understanding why the various shooting and conservation associations haven’t developed something similar?
    Or could it be that the criminality is so embedded within grouse moor management and shooting , that to attempt to do so, would cause the entire industry to collapse?
    This is a question the various shooting and conservation associations really need to answer!!

    1. You mean would the DGS industry collapse by becoming law-abiding? Possibly…or more correctly – it would just shrink by two thirds to be the size it should rightly be, had the laws been followed/enforced from the 1950’s onwards.

    2. In every workplace it is preferable to allow an individual to resign, rather than pursue serious disciplinary action.

      Let’s give credit to the estate, I presume that the suspensions were whilst an internal investigation was being carried out and as a matter of procedure the line managers would be included.

      I hope the head keeper and the under keeper gave full disclosure in their police interviews and we have heard the last of this.

      xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  5. The shooting industry now needs to really seriously turn up the heat on xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, this is a massive own goal, a real shot in their own ship, as ive said before every bad case is another nail in the coffin of shooting.

  6. Looks like this estate has held its own kangaroo court on the three keepers and “one has been allowed to resign”. Presumably if the estate had that much evidence against him, they will have shared this with the police, who will be pursuing a court appearance?…or will it just be the old “well that taught him a lesson”..it never does…this is like a glowing reference for some employers.

    1. My initial thoughts were that a can-carrier has been elected to draw the flak.
      We may see how this unfolds. Will there be other casualties who become ensnared in the toxic environment of wildlife crime or, will exclusive responsibility be put on the shoulders of one of the “rare” rotten apples.
      Rotten apples have an unfortunate habit of falling close to the tree.

  7. This goshawk is the martyr that will change things. They have gone too far now and the whole nation is sick of this. It`s in all the papers. I have been sick of this for about 45 years now.

    God help any gamekeeper that tries to speak with me anytime soon. I am absolutely livid.

  8. Well done the Times for publishing the article which has obviously caused major embarrassment to the hierarchy. Read between the lines though of the actions since, not sacked with immediate effect for gross misconduct but allowed to resign says it all, sorry to see you go mate xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx and we have to make it look as if we give a shit. If they kicked them off the shoot then perhaps we might believe them

  9. It appears that the shooting tenant W&G LLP have registered with companies house to be dissolved. If this is the case I wonder why the Duchy continues to keep BH sporting, whos gamekeepers are under investigation?

    1. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx the other members appear to be deaf dumb and blind to the wishes of the local people the laws of the land and the views of the vast majority of the British public, totally alienated from real life and stuck in a bygone era

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