Suffolk Police’s Wildlife & Rural Crime Team posted this photograph on Twitter yesterday and said:
‘With support of RSPB Investigations, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Natural England & colleagues, we carried out some searches today. Raptor persecution is something taken seriously in Suffolk and we’ll continue to target this evil criminality. Help us stamp this out for good. #233 1639 1238‘.
That’s a pretty unequivocal statement from the police, isn’t it? And in stark contrast to Dorset Police who don’t appear to be taking raptor persecution seriously at all, having demoted their award-winning wildlife crime officer and closed the investigation into a poisoned white-tailed eagle.
This multi-agency raid in Suffolk is the latest in a surge of multi-agency investigations in response to raptor persecution crimes over the last 15 months, including another raid in Suffolk on 18th January 2021 (here), a raid in January 2021 in Nottinghamshire (here), on 15th March 2021 a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March 2021 a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March 2021 a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April 2021 a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August 2021 a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August 2021 a raid in Herefordshire (here), on 14th September 2021 a raid in Norfolk (here), a raid in Wales in October 2021 (here) a raid in Humberside on 10th December (here) and a raid in North Wales on 8th February 2022 (here).
So far only two investigations have concluded: the Nottinghamshire case where gamekeeper John Orrey was sentenced in January 2022 for battering to death two buzzards he’d caught inside a trap (here), and the Suffolk case (from January 2021) when gamekeeper Shane Leech was convicted of firearms and pesticides offences in November 2021 after the discovery of a poisoned buzzard found close to pheasant-rearing pens in Lakenheath (here).
However, I was at a wildlife crime meeting this week when it was announced that at least 12 raptor persecution cases are pending court, some of them dating back to 2019. That’s indicative of the hard work of these investigators and they deserve full credit for their efforts. It’s been a long, long time since that number of raptor persecution cases have got anywhere near a court room. Well done all.