Dorset Police continues its damage limitation exercise re: its botched investigation into the poisoned eagle

Dorset Police is still desperately undertaking a damage limitation exercise in relation to its botched investigation into the poisoning of a white-tailed eagle found dead on an unnamed shooting estate in January.

The following article appeared in the Dorset Echo yesterday, reproduced here:

DORSET Police said it has “never been in any doubt” the poisoning of an “extremely rare” white tailed eagle is a “serious offence”.

An investigation was launched in February after the bird had been found dead in North Dorset.

Despite finding high levels of rat poison brodifacoum in the eagle, named G461, Dorset Police dropped the investigation, a decision which “baffled” the RSPB.

Dorset Police said tests were “inconclusive” and it was not possible to confirm if a criminal offence had been committed.

Now, after large criticism and a Freedom of Information request revealed correspondence between West Dorset MP Chris Loder, who reportedly said the investigation should not be a priority, and Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick, a specialist investigator has been brought in by police.

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: “We understand that concern has been expressed as to whether more could have been done in respect of the investigation into the death of the white-tailed sea eagle.

“Therefore, in the interests of transparency, it was important for a senior detective to review the investigation, seeking expertise from the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme and liaising with a specialist prosecutor from the CPS to ascertain if the evidential threshold for prosecution is met. We hope this will give confidence in decisions made.

“It has never been in any doubt for Dorset Police that if poisoned deliberately, this is a serious offence as the sea eagle is protected by the law.

“We have always been keen to secure a prosecution if at all possible and have been working with a range of partners to try and achieve this.

“We have increased the number of officers with knowledge of wildlife crime offences and are working with our partners to ensure we are able to utilise our different powers, expertise and resources to their best effect.

“We will of course reflect on any learning in respect of the initial or future investigations.”

The spokesperson added the force was always open to new information and hoped it could give “further transparency” to future decisions.

Correspondence between Mr Loder and Mr Sidwick showed the latter saying the pair needed to get their “ducks in the row on this one”.

In a statement on the PCC’s website, he said suggestions the investigation was politically impeded were “bizarre and entirely without merit”.

He added: “It is a plain and simple fact that the team continues to do what they have always done, which is to tackle all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime in Dorset.”

Answering what was meant by getting “ducks in a row”, Mr Sidwick said: “All this meant was that was there was a need a for a mutual understanding about the independence of Dorset Police to carry out investigations as they see fit.”

The eagle was released as part of a reintroduction project by Forestry England in a bid to bring the breed back to the country after an absence of over 240 years, by releasing up to 60 birds over five years.

ENDS

It’s a nice try by Dorset Police, but, as I’ve said previously, asking a senior officer from the same police force to review the investigation is effectively just Dorset Police marking its own homework. Had it been a review undertaken by a senior officer from another force it might have been more credible, although of course that would depend on the integrity of that force/officer. As regular blog readers will be only too aware, there is huge disparity between how different police forces and different officers tackle wildlife crime investigations. Some are fantastic, some are not.

But anyway, the ‘review’ undertaken by the senior officer from Dorset Police has already been done according to comments made by Dorset Police Chief Scott Chilton in a Facebook live chat almost three weeks ago, and that officer 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.

And increasing the size of the force’s rural crime team is utterly pointless if investigations are going to be closed down prematurely. Dorset Police could employ 3,000 wildlife crime officers but if they’re not allowed to undertake a search to look for evidence when an eagle has been found poisoned with 7 x the lethal dose, then what’s the point?

Besides, they don’t need 3,000 wildlife crime officers – they had one (Claire Dinsdale) who was brilliantly committed and effective and who was leading on the poisoned eagle investigation until senior officers pulled the plug and Claire left on long-term sick leave. They only need to employ a few like Claire (and Dorset Police does have some good officers in its rural crime team), and then support them in their investigations, and they’d get results.

And as for claiming ‘transparency’, good grief. Dorset Police continues to refuse to respond to Freedom of Information requests and has now been reported to the Information Commissioner for multiple breaches of the Freedom of Information Act.

If it wants to regain public trust and confidence, Dorset Police can start by explaining the real reason the poisoned eagle investigation was dropped (because this fundamental question still hasn’t been answered). And then it could highlight the ongoing investigation (running since 2021) into alleged raptor poisoning, on the very same estate where the poisoned white-tailed eagle was found(!!) and tell us whether anyone is being charged.

It can also provide an update on the toxicology results of the dead buzzard and red kite, picked up on another shooting estate in early March (see here), and the dead buzzard found on another estate in late April (here).

There is clearly a raptor persecution problem in Dorset, and Dorset Police needs the public onside to help detect these incidents, and we need Dorset Police to do its job properly and try and bring these criminals to the courts. Nobody is suggesting this is easy – we’re all well aware of the difficulties involved, but the least we should expect is that the police will take every opportunity to undertake a robust and thorough investigation, and not to drop it when a local MP kicks off on social media with ridiculous and outdated anti-eagle hysteria.

Well done to local Dorset Echo reporter Ben Williets for tracking this case and keeping it in the news.

7 thoughts on “Dorset Police continues its damage limitation exercise re: its botched investigation into the poisoned eagle”

  1. I think they are digging their ditch deeper. After the reluctance to answer FOI requests and of course the premature closure of the WTE investigation I for one won’t be persuaded that it isn’t as a result of the Loder intervention.
    Additionally, when the chief constable blocks you on social media for politely asking questions about the policing of fox hunting, it’s difficult to see that this ‘nothing to investigate’ here position doesn’t stem from the top echelons of Dorset police.

  2. Two questions:
    1. What is it going to take to persuade Dorset Police to explain why the investigation was closed down prematurely?
    2. Wouldn’t the NWCU have been an appropriate body to undertake the independent Police investigation into how the case had been handled?

  3. Its sad but true that the main purpose of the police is to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. Its’ ironic that the tax payers pay them to do it. This is the so called ‘democracy’ we live in.

  4. Personally in regards to a former post, albiet misconstrued by a very few, and whether deliberately obtuse or genuinely ignorant, this isn’t the place for argument because it’s just my opinion as I made very clear, and it’s just like a bum****, everyone has one. That said, re post…I mentioned having a separate dedicated team (which they do) BUT entirely a separate devolved sort of team, one in which the officers have chosen this position with a heartfelt dedication to it; but that also means it would also have its OWN chief officer to whom they report; an equal supervisor on par with the Dorset chief. In the way many police dept work together, firearms, traffic, etc. Many with cross over, the same should be for wildlife crime, officers supported by their own chief. It stands to reason that they should have their own resources, budget, ability to freely connect, utilise other organisations, many we know of which would be happy to do so. Having a chief, perhaps an appointed position chosen by the team, would make certain that no external agendas, political or otherwise, could be allowed to undermine their position. Only wildlife dedicated officers would be able to know and recognise one of their own, and if they were just a ‘puppet’ or someone they chose, respect, work well with. Is it SO hard for Dorset police to consider that devolving a team with an agreement like they have with other external forces would be in the BEST interest for EVERYONE? Whilst I admit I am STILL learning, devoted to learn as much as possible as I can about the entire UK political, civil, judicial, gvmt system, as it whilst US modeled itself on the centuries old tested, tried and true democracy, it still remains that the citizens have more control over officials, elected from judges to police chiefs (not just commissioners) and the ability to RECALL them if they think they are being taken for a ride. I’ve seen a few like changes in the UK in my last 14-18+yrs, to now hold SOME to account; but we should consider wanting MORE, and with an ability to petition for changes, asking for the above devolved sort of police force, an ability to elect AND recall more judges, prosecutors, police chiefs, would NOT be such a bad thing. I suspect from multi topic conversations and the discontent we feel, it won’t be until we the public do something to push our elected MPs to do more than pee in the wind whilst pretending they are really achieving anything. I am still unable to vote …and with things like this, it’s when it genuinely hurts the depths of my soul; as after so many yrs I am STILL struggling to achieve my final citizenship step, w/a bonus (expensive) step to rescind my US/dual, as paying 2 nations taxes, both charging me to obtain and remove my citizenship (greedy bl**dy US govt!)…yet one day I will be 1st in line to vote for whomever is genuinely devoted heart & soul to prioritise, make & enforce changes WE want for our cherished nation and it’s wildlife.

  5. Is it not possible for Claire Dinsdale to be contacted. Surely she must know the truth? She can hardly be closed down in the interests of national security.

  6. I note Dorset Police appear not to have published the findings of the senior detective in relation to the planned initial searches which were cancelled, but merely mention they would “reflect on any learning in respect of the initial or future investigations.”
    Since the search of a crime scene is normally a basic and fundamental part of any police investigation, it would be interesting to know exactly what the senior detective said about this matter.
    Certainly, it would seem that whoever was initially in charge of the investigation believed that searches should take place, and arranged for a multi agency response to carry out these searches.
    So what changed, who decided the searches should not take place, and what was the rational behind this decision?

    Readers might like to contrast the events in Dorset, with the post on 13th June when a gamekeeper was convicted of poison related offences at Wrexham Magistrates Court. This followed the discovery of Red Kite which was found to have been poisoned. In this case North Wales Police certainly thought multi agency searches should be conducted. Whilst these searches appear not to have led to the prosecution of someone for the death of the Red Kite, other offences were discovered which did result in a successful prosecution.

    No amount of obfuscation by Dorset Police will detract from the belief by many people that something was very amiss with this investigation.
    Dorset Police may well want to also “reflect” on the notion that public trust in the police service is based on honesty, openness and transparency.

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