Statement from Durham Constabulary (27th May 2022)
Joint operation targets suspected raptor persecution and poisoning of birds of prey
Police have carried out searches at several locations this week in connection with suspected raptor persecution and poisoning of birds of prey.
Officers from Durham and Northumbria attended the addresses across the two force areas following information received from the public.
Suspicious substances were seized from some of the locations and taken away for forensic examination.
[Photo from Durham Constabulary]
The multi-agency operation was carried out with the help and support of Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
It also formed part of Operation Owl, which is a national initiative to increase awareness of bird of prey persecution and to seek support in tackling it head on.
Raptor persecution is one of the UK Wildlife Crime Priorities, which includes poisoning, shooting, trapping, and habitat and nest destruction.
PC David Williamson, Durham Constabulary’s Wildlife Crime Officer, said: “In the UK, birds of prey are a protected species and any criminal offences committed against these beautiful creatures are completely unacceptable.
We have acted on intelligence from the local community to carry out this operation and try and disrupt those involved in these activities.
We’d encourage anyone with an information on potential criminal activity in their area to call us on 101 or report it via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Well done Durham Constabulary, Northumbria Police, Natural England, RSPB and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
These latest multi-agency raids are the latest in a surge of similar investigations in response to raptor persecution crimes over the last 18 months, including a 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 2021 (here), a raid in North Wales on 8th February 2022 (here) and another raid in Suffolk on 22nd April 2022 (here).
So far, only two of these investigations have concluded. These are the Nottinghamshire case (from January 2021), 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 (also from January 2021) where 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).
I was at a wildlife crime meeting recently when it was announced that at least 12 raptor persecution cases are pending court hearings, some of them also 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.