3 month suspended sentence for possession of two shot buzzards strung up on farmland

Press statement from National Parks & Wildlife Service (Ireland), 21 October 2021:

Three Month Suspended Jail Sentence for the Possession of two dead Buzzards

A County Laois man has been given a three month suspended prison sentence for the possession of two dead Buzzards, which were found strung up on his land.

On Friday the 15th of October, at Portlaoise District Court, Mr. Desmond Crawford, Roskelton, Mountrath, Co. Laois pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of two dead Buzzards contrary to Section 45 (2) & 45 (7) of the Wildlife Acts. The offence took place on the 19th of April 2020 at Clonadacasey, Mountrath, Co. Laois. The offence was investigated by the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage. It was prosecuted under the Wildlife Acts by Rory Hanniffy BL, instructed by Sandra Mahon, State Solicitor for County Offaly.

In his evidence to the Court, District Conservation Officer Mr Kieran Buckley of the NPWS told Judge Catherine Staines that he, accompanied by two NPWS Conservation Rangers from neighbouring areas, travelled to Clonadacasey to investigate a complaint from a member of the public that two dead Buzzards were tied up to an electricity post and a fence stake in cultivated fields.

Upon arrival, the NPWS searched the area and found one dead Buzzard strung up by its outstretched wings to an electricity post and another dead Buzzard strung up by its legs to a fence stake. Following a line of inquiry, Mr Buckley established that Mr. Crawford was farming the land where he found the two dead Buzzards. Accompanied by NPWS Officers Robert Edge and Colm Malone, Mr. Buckley then interviewed Mr Crawford under caution about the incident.

At the District Court sitting, photographs of the two dead Buzzards and X-ray evidence were presented to Judge Catherine Staines. Mr Buckley told the Judge that the X-ray evidence left no doubt that both Buzzards had been shot, adding that the tight pattern of the lead shot showed clear evidence that both birds were shot at close range. He added that given the time of year, the dead Buzzards may have been a breeding pair. This, he said, would leave them vulnerable to being shot at their nest. Mr Buckley also told the Judge that Buzzards were the most frequent casualty of bird of prey persecutions and added that the NPWS is determined to tackle wildlife crimes of this nature, particularly when this species has recovered from the brink of extinction.

The defence solicitor, Josephine Fitzpatrick, told the Judge that Mr. Crawford denied he had shot the Buzzards, but he was very sorry for what he had done and apologised to the Court.

In her summation, Judge Staines expressed her abhorrence at the undignified manner in which two beautiful birds were displayed, saying it showed no respect whatsoever. It was, she said, “an example of a disgusting lack of respect in an outrageous act of wildlife crime”.  

Judge Staines then detailed to the court that she had to consider a prison sentence as an appropriate way to deal with this matter. She convicted Mr. Crawford of the possession of the two Dead Buzzards under Section 45 (2) and 45 (7) of the Wildlife Acts and imposed a three-month sentence of imprisonment, which she suspended on the Accused’s own bond for a period of one year.

The Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD said that recent judgements in the District Courts indicate clearly that wildlife crimes have serious consequences:

“I welcome the conviction in this awful case and would like to thank everyone involved in securing it. I particularly welcome the comments of Judge Staines, who acknowledged the outrageousness of the crime and the lack of respect shown to these beautiful birds. Recent judgements being handed down in the Courts to people convicted of deliberately destroying habitats or harming wildlife are sending out a clear signal that, as a society, we will no longer tolerate such actions. Wildlife crime is serious, and it has serious consequences. We need to protect nature,” he said.

Ciara O’Mahony, Regional Manager of the South East Region of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, welcomed the reporting of this matter by a concerned member of the public, and encouraged more who witness wildlife crimes such as this to come forward in confidence to the NPWS.

“We are increasingly receiving contact about wildlife crime and habitat destruction, from people who are concerned about biodiversity loss. We welcome such reports, and the nature conservation consciousness and awareness that they represent,” she said. 

Any member of the public wishing to report possible wildlife crime or illegal habitat destruction in Ireland can contact the NPWS through natureconservation@housing.gov.ie or direct to local NPWS staff. For more detail on wildlife legislation, see www.npws.ie

Information in relation to recording incidents involving birds of prey, including Buzzards, “Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to our Raptors. A Review of Incidents” can be found in: https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/IWM126.pdf


7 thoughts on “3 month suspended sentence for possession of two shot buzzards strung up on farmland”

  1. Justice only partially served. The xxxxxxx goes free!

    [Ed: Please be careful, Sue. He was convicted of possession, not of shooting the buzzards]

  2. A stiffer sentence might have sent the message that in today’s world all involved in the persecution of birds of prey would now face meaningful retribution for their actions. The world has changed and old traditional practises are now criminal acts and will be taken very seriously.

  3. No formal charge, then? According to Wikipedia, the criminal jurisdiction of a District Court in Ireland is limited to summary offences – i.e. offences heard without a jury where the maximum punishment is 12 months imprisonment. Indictable offences may also be tried by the court provided the accused, the judge and the Director of Public Prosecutions agree. But no indictment over the shooting was made?

    I suspect a jury might have come to an interesting conclusion as to the shooting… especially since no one else appears to be being pursued over poaching?

  4. The judge needs to be held to account as to why she has been so lenient in her sentencing. Clearly the problem of judicial dereliction and inappropriate sentencing is not just confined to these shores.

    Personally, I think it is because the judiciary identify with the landowners, who are the real force behind raptor persecution, as their peers and friends and they want to keep in with them.

  5. As a child I remember my father (a truly, knowledgeable countryman, who neither shot for sport, though he was a fine shot, nor supported hunting) showing me keepers’ gibbets, the bodies crows etc. strung up in fields, traps and snares. He explained to me that there was a fine line between legal and illegal acts & decent and immoral acts. He made sure I knew the difference! He was a decent, honest countryman.
    I remember, in the early 60s, some local lads would steal full bottles, sometimes crates of ‘pop’, from behind the village shop … and then drink it all as quickly as they could, ”Cos you can’t get done for empties!’ if caught.
    Similar, though more serious is this scenario, re this buzzard persecution.
    It obviously couldn’t be proved that the callous man who had illegal possession of these birds, & had strung them up, [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

  6. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx! [Ed: libellous]

    Why else would he string them up!!!Did they check the pellets and his gun??

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