Police confirm banned poison Carbofuran found on Leadhills Estate, again

Police Scotland have confirmed the discovery of the banned poison Carbofuran on Leadhills Estate, a grouse-shooting estate in South Lanarkshire that has been at the centre of police wildlife crime investigations at least 70 times since the early 2000s.

The highly dangerous poison, which even in tiny amounts can kill humans and animals, was discovered in July 2020. Police Scotland have told the Daily Record:

We are aware of this incident and did investigate.

Forensics identified the substance as carbofuran, an illegal pesticide the use of which has been banned since 1991.

It is extremely concerning that this substance was found in a location which is accessible to the public. Anyone with further information about this incident should contact Police Scotland on 101.”

According to the Daily Record, ‘further enquiries were stopped after officers found no evidence to link the poison to any person or persons’.

There isn’t any explanation provided for why the public weren’t alerted to this discovery sooner.

As regular blog readers will know, Leadhills Estate is currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed in November 2019 following ‘clear evidence from Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on this estate’ (see herehere, and here). We know via FoI that one of the contributing factors to the decision to pull the GL was the discovery of the banned pesticide Carbosulfan in May 2019 (see here).

[Chris Packham holds a dead hen harrier whose leg was caught in an illegally-set trap on Leadhills Estate in May 2019. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Since the General Licence restriction was imposed in late 2019, further alleged offences have been reported at Leadhills and are the subject of ongoing police investigations (see here) including the alleged shooting of a(nother) short-eared owl by a masked gunman on a quad bike as witnessed by a local resident and his eight year old son (see here).

And now the discovery of another batch of banned poison.

According to NatureScot’s Framework for GL Restrictions, ‘Individual restrictions will apply for a period of 3 years, but may be extended if evidence of further offences is obtained during this period’.

Let’s see whether NatureScot sees fit to extend the General Licence restriction at Leadhills Estate.

32 thoughts on “Police confirm banned poison Carbofuran found on Leadhills Estate, again”

  1. Why isn’t it a criminal offence to possess this poison? It is a banned poison so why no penalty for having stocks of it? Forget General Licence restrictions: they need to confiscate the land and kick the criminals out.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Possession of Carbofuran IS a criminal offence in Scotland, but to charge somebody there needs to be sufficient evidence to link it to an individual, e.g. the poison is inside somebody’s game bag, or their vehicle, or in an empty coffee jar on a shelf in their house, or inside a locked shed to which only one individual has access etc.

      If the poison has been stashed somewhere on the estate, e.g. kept in a hole, which is a commonly-used ploy, and there are multiple people employed on the estate who could all have access, then it’s going to be impossible for the police to charge any one individual unless there is an evidential link, e.g. fingerprints.

  2. According to the Daily Record….”A spokesman for Leadhills Estate said: “From our discussions with Police Scotland, it would appear the disposal of the container found dates back many, many years prior to the estate having direct responsibility for land management.”
    Does anyone know what this means?

    1. It means the estate is refusing to accept responsibility for something that was found on their land by arguing it was probably put there by someone who wasn’t supervised by the estate but perhaps by a sporting agent or a tenant shooter in previous years.

      It’d be interesting to know on what basis Police Scotland presumed the container had been ‘disposed’ (buried/hidden?) ‘many, many years’ ago, if indeed that is the police’s conclusion.

  3. Enough. This estate should be prevented (one way or another, by any means) from game shooting for at least 5 years.

  4. Are LACS likely to publish a full report? Surely their method of finding it is highly relevant, especially in light of this.

    ‘The League say the also discovered a stash of the substance on the estate in May 2019.’

  5. 70 investigations in 20 years would seem to suggest an awful lot of Police time; what an earth is the cost of Leadhill’s seemingly oblivious criminality in terms of Police hours ? It must run into 100,000’s of pounds ? Then there is the subsidy that they accrue….how much do these people cost the taxpayer ?

  6. How did this discovery arise? Was this a spontaneous spot check at the estate? You would assume if not that the poison would be removed / relocated prior to the search. If legislation exists that allows police to perform unannounced searches of estates then why is it not exercised more often? Ideally this should occur regularly for all licensed estates in a manner similar to that of environmental health checks on restaurants. If no such legislation exists, I revert to my original question how how did the discovery arise?

    1. Hi Charlotte,

      If you read the article in the Daily Record (see links in blog) you’ll see it was an investigator from the League Against Cruel Sports who found the poison.

      The police do not have the authority to conduct spot checks on private land. To enter, they must first have reasonable suspicion that an offence has occurred. If they want to search dwellings, they must first apply for a search warrant and have sufficient evidence to justify such a search.

  7. I can almost hear the ‘in denial’ head-in-the-sanders muttering, “Bloody Packham and his extremist friends probably planted it there in 2019”. Whereas those on the inside will just be going, “phew, that was another close one.”

  8. Would it be worthwhile to start a petition and/or campaign specifically to close Leadhils as a grouse moor? The list of incidents is eye watering, it must be near the top or at it in terms of the estate with the worst record, no mean feat in Scotland. If other grouse moors are being sold to people and communities who are going to turn them into more ecologically sensible businesses then the potential for this might be greater for Leadhills than we might think. Wouldn’t it be a precedent if one estate became the focus for a high and sustained level of campaigning? Post lockdown it could be the one estate where we finally get round to carrying out safe, within the law protest on site during grouse shoots. Speaking personally I’m really itching for that. And if that should ultimately be successful and Leadhills throws in the towel as a grouse moor, then maybe we could move to the next estate at the top of the list. How many years is this going to keep grinding on and on without an extra special effort to end it?

    1. Les,with the number of incidents at this estate alone,a petition,in my opinion,would be a a starting point,and you know me,am always happy to sign them and share,especially on twitter as I know you aint sure about navigating it If you get 1 started, gives a shout over on FB and I’ll share it something HAS to be done ! If we annoy the industry enough,especillay now as they’re hacked off about licensing,who knows,it might tip them over the edge and we could be rid of them of their own free will,now THAT would be a FAB outcome !!

      1. Thanks Diane, I’ve got a Scotgov petition on the go at the moment as it is (www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01850) and then I’ve got another one planned about a different aspect of grouse shooting – almost certain negative effect muirburn has on trout and salmon and thereby the game fishing industry, then another about waste reduction and recycling which is what my background’s really in, but I’ve been neglecting – Scotland is absolutely terrible on both ecologically damaging recreational shooting (probably the worst in the world) and on any waste issues from littering to poor recycling rates to use of recycled material. So hopefully I’ve got an adequate excuse for not doing this one and it’s really best if a local does it. It would be a big step and commitment for any locals to come forward and start campaigning with petitions, awareness raising, putting forward alternative business ideas etc but then again how much dreariness and lack of job opportunities is imposed upon them by the grouse moor?

        I’m positive there would be a fair degree of support locally and also from outside which is only fair as it’s the money from people living a long way away that keeps the grouse moor going. Crowd funding for campaigning expenses and awareness raising projects should easily bring in thousands – plenty of people wanting to express their disgust and hit back. It’s on the southern edge of the central belt so more accessible than most grouse moors. Not too far from Falkirk. I’d absolutely love to take part in a safe and legal protest there on shoot days – even if all we could do was stand on the nearest public path to the shooting butts and stare at them through the whole session it could be enough to take the shine of the day, spoil the ‘atmosphere’. It’s frustrating that not only does the grouse shooting fraternity ignore their opponents it looks like their actively taunting us too, if you kill things for fun not unlikely you get kicks from trying to damage people emotionally too. It just needs someone who lives there to decide they’ve had enough and they take that first step which would be the first step for formalised community based anti DGS campaigning in Scotland too (I believe?).

    2. Leadhills does appear to be an “epicentre” for wildlife crime. Maybe it needs to become a regional focal point for campaigning and more “practical” action to prevent even more recurrences. Something decisive needs to happen otherwise we will all be reading reports about wrong doings xxxx xxxxx xxxxx for the rest of our naturals.

      1. Hi John, I get your thinking but personally don’t think the goings-on at Leadhills are anything special. [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

        1. I strongly suspect that too, but it seems to be the one that’s highest profile re reported incidents year in, year out with no changes. As it stands is it sending out a message to other estates ‘look what they say about us and we’re still going strong’? The message needs to be changed to ‘oh no you’re not’.

      2. You’re right! I first read about the historical and ongoing persecution of our birds of prey when I was a wee boy in the 1970s and it disgusted me and broke my heart. I couldn’t get directly involved in raptor conservation because where I lived there weren’t any – I saw a short eared owl once on a country drive with my family and kestrels on motorway verges. That was it until I started going abroad. I’m about to turn 54 and the increase in birds of prey that has finally occurred in spite of everything is being maligned and threatened by those trying to prevent illegal raptor persecution by legalising it.

        Even if driven grouse shooting is slowly dying how many more poisoned eagles, blasted peregrines, pole trapped buzzards and stomped on harrier chicks before it takes its terminal breath? Not good enough. RPUK, Mark Avery, Chris Packham and a few others have punched way, way above their weight, but more people need to get involved. If as well as general campaigning against grouse moors there’s a specific one against grouse shooting at Leadhills I think that will send out a strong message. If local people start forming groups campaigning against the grouse moors and their charming employees that have been inflicted upon them that would be a big step forward. It would turn the crap coming from the estates that the local community is grateful to them for their pathetic economic input on its head, propaganda that’s all too often reported and unchallenged by the likes of Countryfile and Landward.

  9. It would be interesting to know how much of this banned poison was found. Im sure an FoI to the police would reveal that. Wonder if they tested for gamekeepers prints/DNA on the package or tin it was stored in?

    If a stash of a banned substance was found on a council estate in glasgow i wonder if more effort would be put in to investigating it. One day a person will die from coming into contact with one of these banned substances. Shame the scottish govt cant be more proactive and sort this problem before something like that happens. Seem obsessed with pushing for another once in a life time indy referendum 7 years after the last.

  10. That’s the way it’s beginning to look now – whereas some time ago there were often inferences by estates or agents of the material having been placed by their accusers or a member of the public – In this case to hear it suggested that the estate is likely suggesting it was probably hidden there by someone not employed by the estate, but possibly an individual in a management or agency role is almost an admission in itself that it was “the done thing” This hints at the possibility that there may have been something in the find, not necessarily the Carbofuran, that linked it to the estate, that made outright denial difficult.

  11. The common theme to previous incidents on the estate would seem to be the xxxxxxx denials of the possibility that the estate could be guilty of the crimes. The arrogant denials and blatant nature of some of the incidents are what set this estate apart.

  12. There needs to be a long lasting solution to this whole issue of carbofuran, and other pesticides being used to kill wildlife.
    As a suggestion would it be worthwhile Natural England and Nature Scot offering an amnesty, whereby those who have possession of these banned substances can hand them over to the authorities for disposal?
    Once the amnesty period is concluded then any future finds of such substances, or instances where wildlife is found to have been killed be such substances, would result in an immediate suspension of the GL, and the imposition of other restrictions on any land owned, controlled or leased by the landowner or management company on whose land the substance was found. These restrictions should include all forms of “keepering” activity, the rearing, release, management or shooting of any game birds, and other activities associated with wildlife control. NE and NatScot could set a time limit for these restrictions to be in place.
    The fact that there are so many reported cases of illegal poisoning means that there are people out there who have hidden these substances and are prepared to use them.
    An amnesty period would give those with knowledge of where these substances are hidden time to remove and dispose of them.
    At the moment the law is in the criminals favour, as it is almost impossible for the police to find these substances, let alone link any found substances to an individual.
    The claims that wildlife conservationists or the public are responsible for planting such substances is just fanciful. I don’t believe any evidence has been found to substantiate such claims.
    A solution has to be found to removing these substances from the countryside. No law abiding land owner or shooting estate will use these substances, so ridding the countryside of these substances will be in everyone’s interest.

      1. Ed,
        Hopefully the use of pesticides to commit wildlife crimes will be a feature of the proposed DGS licensing regulations, with a zero tolerance to their use, possession, or being “found” on grouse moors- with the burden of proof resting in civil law. But I can see the shooting industry claiming such an approach will be unfair and potentially open to abuse by those who want to see sanctions imposed on a particular estate.

        A solution to tackling these awful poisoning crimes has to be found.
        Despite the legislation and the talk of tough penalties, there is still far too much wildlife dying and far too few prosecutions.
        Would an approach similar to how knife crime is being tackled be a solution?
        It might be something that whichever senior police officer get appointed to the chair of the rppdg gives some consideration to?

  13. Please, no more pointless amnesties. Give the SG a hint of that and they will grasp the chance at doing something that provides a route to industriously disregarding all the vital actions that are truly vital.

    [Ed: rest of comment deleted]

  14. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx Where do they get it from if it’s banned? I get frustrated with the “Law.” I agree with Yorkshire Pudding – if it was being used in a Glasgow (or wherever) Council Estate I’m quite certain more would be done.

    [Ed: Part of this comment had to be deleted as it’s libellous. Please note: it’s not a strict liability offence so the owner cannot automatically be held responsible]

  15. No more amnesties!! – they obviously have not worked in the past, except to give a smokescreen to a deeply criminal part of rural society. “Look how good we are, handing in some out of date poison”, while keeping the good stuff in reserve and making sure we dont get searched again for a few years…When will people learn about what we are dealing with here?..Look at the deeply offensive utterances coming out of the gamekeepering community on other recent raptorpersecution posts and ask yourself..how far would you trust such people?..what on earth makes you think you can negotiate with them??..Use the laws we have and strengthen the justice system from front line cop/SSPCA investigator right through to court room Sheriff and Fiscal…..By all means have local and national protests against such estates as this….and never just accept the status quo.

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