Premature closure of poisoned eagle investigation was ‘proportionate’ claims Dorset Chief Constable

Yesterday evening Dorset Police held an hour-long live web chat on Facebook offering the public an opportunity to put questions to Chief Constable Scott Chilton and the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Sidwick.

Many thanks to all those who posed questions about Dorset Police’s unfathomable decision to prematurely close the investigation into the death of the white-tailed eagle found poisoned on an unnamed shooting estate in January this year.

To their credit, the Chief Constable and the PCC took two questions on this subject but I’m afraid their answers were unconvincing and simply a repeat of the damage limitation exercise they undertook last month (here).

The Chief Constable maintained that the decision to close the investigation without first conducting a search of the estate to look for evidence of potential criminality was ‘proportionate’. He also said that following complaints, he’d asked a senior detective to review the case and he, too, had determined that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ and ‘no outstanding lines of enquiry’ to progress the case. Well of course, if you fail to conduct a search you’re not going to find any evidence, are you? It’s simply bonkers.

Both the Chief Constable and the PCC were adamant that undue political interference did not take place. “Absolutely not true“, said Chief Constable Chilton, and “No credibility to that whatsoever“, said PCC David Sidwick.

You can watch a recording of the chat here. The two questions about wildlife crime and the poisoned eagle are at 28.35 and 33.17 mins.

[The poisoned white-tailed eagle found dead on an unnamed shooting estate in Dorset in January 2022. Photo by Dorset Police]

Yesterday also saw the release of a number of FoI responses from Dorset Police (although not mine – that’s still way overdue) and the ones that some blog readers have shared with me seem to be a cut and paste job, just repeating this line:

As a result of the sea eagle being found dead on land in the North Dorset area, our team has carried out a full and proportionate investigation under Section 1 of the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 in conjunction with Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit, the RSPB and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to identify any offences and perpetrators who may be responsible‘.

But that’s just not true. The RSPB has questioned the decision to close the investigation without undertaking the pre-planned investigation, and called the decision ‘completely baffling’ (here).

There’s still much, much more to come out about this case. For reasons that will become clear, I need to wait until the end of the week to publish some of it.

For a full list of previous blogs on this case please see here and scroll to the bottom.

10 thoughts on “Premature closure of poisoned eagle investigation was ‘proportionate’ claims Dorset Chief Constable”

  1. I think the key weasel word here is “Preportionate”. In proportion to what? Probably an inverse proportion to the amount of political pressure exerted. I think a further another FOI is required to determine exactly what the senior officer report said. This case is odd considering that wild life crime WPC had been very successful and then suddenly ends up on long term sick leave. Why did is this case so different and suddenly become so stressful?

    1. Indeed, it’s Police-speak for ‘not worth the money to investigate in relation to our priorities’

  2. Call my cynical but I don’t trust what Dorset police are saying. My experience of this force has been negative on this and other issues.

  3. Thanks for all you’re doing. These beautiful birds have nobody to speak up and out fir them. Nature is all the better for people like yourself, prepared to stand up to the biggest criminals of all, us humans.

  4. There is nothing unfathomable about this decision, it is money talking, again mps make the rules and don’t follow them, if you are a political member you can do what you like when you like, and suffer no consequences for your actions.
    The police chiefs decision to drop it was entirely to xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, I have said it before and will say it again, the gun , and shooting community have the full backing from mps, and it appears they don’t have to follow the laws, and have more rights than our protected birds of prey.
    Anyone shooting ,poisoning , trapping , or snaring a bird of prey should be punished to the full extent of the law regardless of their political status, and regardless of who they know, I bet if I was to do something like they have I would be inside, but because xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, it has been brushed under the carpet, and all charges dropped, if this isn’t money looking after money what is it?
    Just like all shooting estates across the land , one rule for us and another for them.
    I believe that the rural crime police should have the rights and ability to pursue all crimes and bring cases against all that break the law, regardless of their financial status, or political bent.
    While people are kicking off about Boris and his parties, I don’t see the same reaction to birds of prey being murdered to protect game birds, i just see cover-ups and hiding the truth , and even dare I say it, rules being adjusted to suit the needs of the gun toting criminal fraternity, who make lots of money from killing game birds.

    [Ed: Thanks, James. Some of your comment has been edited to remove libellous content]

    1. How much previous experience in investigating wildlife crime has the senior Detective had? I suspect very little.

      How much success has Dorest police had in detecting wildlife crime in particular on sporting estates?

  5. When I began my interest in wildlife decades ago, I came on a scene of extreme deference to the country sports brigade, with Christmas cards resplendent with red-liveried hunt-the-fox people on horseback, and pubs named “Fox and Hounds”, “Bay Horse” etc. The post Second World War clearance of slums took me to a housing scheme with lots of countryside nearby for wee boys to explore, which lead to an epidemic of airgun ownership and the concomitant killing of birds along with severe injury to family pets, mainly cats. Empowerment had been given to immature young people, whose misdirected and direct line of fire began impacting on humans, with a national newspaper publishing a picture of a little boy who had lost and eye due to a deliberate shot. Public ire rose and campaigns began to have such guns licensed, but the gun lobby counter-attacked delaying action. The Dunblane school massacre brought things to a head, and allegations were made about the ease with which the culprit had acquired his gun licences, and an alleged familiarity with the police. The USA has exemplified the irresponsible behaviour of those who live in a society with the freedom to own over-the-top fire power. Trump and his sons were prime examples of the trophy shooter in action, with their slaughter of African wildlife. The USA, in certain states, has sanctioned the unbridled killing of Wolves and other predators, as the hunting lobby want more Deer to kill. In Europe and the Middle East, the shooting of migrating birds involves the death by shooting of millions of birds. Our upland moors witness similar scenes of such carnage, with shooters coming from other countries to satiate their desire to kill birds in large numbers. The carnage does not end there, as “vermin” has to be exterminated in the form of Birds of Prey, other bird species, Mountain Hares and other mammals. Where the law could intercede it is stultified by unseen powers, and alleged meddling with the prosecution of those hired to poison, trap, ensnare or shoot.

    Such is an account of the state of affairs in the UK and elsewhere, regarding Birds of Prey and other creatures with a huge toll on such raptors, perpetrated by a class of people which is reluctant to give up their domination of the countryside, and allow it to recover its biodiversity with reintroductions of key species, and the restoration of habitats. We now have a better and scientifically informed public, and many conservation and animal welfare organisations crying out for Government to free itself from its bondage to that rural anachronism called blood sports, which is really an internationally well-financed and connected industry, with tentacles allegedly influencing parts of our justice system, and Government bodies supposedly acting as protectors of wildlife, but “scared” to do so. With climate change, we have to waken up and stop play-acting and delaying the actions needed for the UK to play its role in making the planet safe for Life as we know it, to survive. Those in our heavy industries had to suffer the closing down of coal mines, steel works, shipyards, engineering workshops etc, but the pseudo-country mob has to accept the closing down or amelioration of its “industry”, and allow new forces into the vacuum, to create real jobs restoring the sea and landscapes, and thereby bringing in the new style of better-paid occupants who can be justified by their knowledge and other skills. If estates cannot comply with the wildlife protection laws, due to their shooting activities on offer and their inability to diversify, then they should terminate as our heavy industry did, and the economy moved on to other economic activities. If not, then the end result overall, will be that the seas will be emptied of fish, and the farming industry will not function profitably through high cost inputs. The whole planet requires a new regime, as negative change is inevitable, and the killing of a White-tailed Eagle is part of the story of getting
    the old-guards throughout the world to hang up their rifles and hand-in their snares and poisons, along with the closing of exotic meat markets, and the killing of wildlife for bogus cures or enhancements. Tough enforcement will surely follow, if the threats being experienced are not dealt with globally. We have to see our concern for endangered species as a wake-up sign, and thereby from there, make better headway with our poor response politicians and enforcement personnel.

    the the o

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