In May this year, Scottish gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies, 28, pleaded guilty to a number of depraved animal cruelty offences relating to the keeping and training of dogs for animal fighting (badger baiting) and of failing to seek veterinary attention for dogs that had sustained serious injuries from those fights (see here).
He also pleaded guilty to a number of firearms offences after the Scottish SPCA raided his home in 2019 on Millden Estate in the Angus Glens and found three unsecure guns and ammunition left lying around inside the house.
His fellow gamekeepers, the sporting agent and the landowner at Millden Estate (a well known raptor persecution hotspot) all apparently failed to notice any of his crimes, or the injuries sustained by some of his eleven dogs housed in kennels on the estate. They also apparently failed to notice the bags of dead raptors scattered around the estate – more on those soon.
Davies was only caught because, being a top-notch criminal mastermind, he sent ‘trophy’ photos of himself and some of his mates posing with mutilated animals to a printing shop and used his address on Millden Estate as the return address. The shop assistant alerted the Scottish SPCA who immediately opened an investigation.
On conviction at Forfar Sheriff Court on 5th May 2022, Sheriff Derek Reekie ignored the mitigation plea from the defendant’s QC (who paid for this QC??) and instead concurred with Crown Office Fiscal, Karon Rollo, who made clear that Davies was a fully-trained gamekeeper (three-years college training) and had been employed as a gamekeeper for four years so knew exactly what he was doing. Sheriff Derek Reekie agreed and asked for social reports on Davies before sentencing was due on 28th June 2022.
[Photographic evidence of badger baiting from Millden Estate gamekeeper’s phone. Photo provided by SSPCA]
Sentencing day arrived but frustratingly, sentencing was deferred for a further five weeks (here) without any explanation appearing in the media. This led to all sorts of unhelpful conspiracy theories on social media, mostly referring to the Masons and a corrupt judiciary.
I’ve since been provided with some information by someone who was present in court at that deferred sentencing hearing and hopefully this explanation will put to bed the conspiracy theories.
In May, Sheriff Reekie had asked for a report on Davies’ domestic circumstances in Wales, where Davies had since moved to after leaving Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. The Sheriff had allowed seven weeks for that report to be compiled and expected it to be available at the sentencing hearing on 28th June.
However, it turns out the social services department in Wales had only managed to make one phone call to Davies’ parents during that seven-week period and had not made a home visit. That’s probably an indication of how stretched these services are but nevertheless, the background report on Davies wasn’t ready.
Rather than ignore the non-existent social report and just pass sentence anyway, Sheriff Reekie allowed a further five weeks for that report to be completed. Apparently he made clear that this was to avoid providing any grounds for an appeal (by Davies’ QC) later on.
Sentencing is now due on 1st August 2022.
On the separate issue of dead raptors being found on Millden Estate during the search, I’ll be blogging about that very soon.