Conviction of gamekeeper Matthew Stroud: statement from Norfolk Constabulary

Following yesterday’s news that 46-year-old gamekeeper Matthew Stroud had been convicted, amongst other things, of shooting and poisoning at least five buzzards and a goshawk on a pheasant shoot in Norfolk (see here), Norfolk Constabulary has issued a press statement which provides a bit more detail about the case.

[One the buzzards that gamekeeper Matthew Stroud shot dead]

Press release from Norfolk Constabulary:

Gamekeeper admits killing birds of prey

A Weeting gamekeeper appeared in court today (Wednesday 5 October 2022) and admitted shooting and poisoning several birds of prey.

  • Three counts of using poisoned bait on or before 19 August 2021 and 14 September 2021.
  • Six counts of killing a Common Buzzard (a non-Schedule 1 wild bird) at Weeting between 10 August and 14 September 2021.
  • One count of intentionally killing a Northern Goshawk (a Schedule 1 wild bird) at Weeting on or about 10 August 2021.
  • One count of possessing a regulated substance – Strychnine Hydrochloride – without a licence on 14 September 2021.
  • One count of possessing 4 shotguns to kill a Schedule 1 wild bird on 14 September 2021.
  • One count of releasing 3,400 Common Pheasants into the wild between 1 June and 14 September 2021 contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • One count of incorrectly storing a biocidal product – Rentokil Phostoxin – on 14 September 2021 contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

He received a 12-month Community Order and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, fined £692 and ordered to pay costs of £145, compensation of £288.72 and a victim surcharge of £95. The court also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all Stroud’s firearms, mobile phones and any chemicals.

The court heard how the investigation started when RSPB officers found a young pheasant dead in Belvedere Wood, Weeting, on 19 August 2021. Tests later confirmed the pheasant had been poisoned with Strychnine Hydrochloride.

Further intelligence led Norfolk Police to execute a warrant at Stroud’s home, Belvedere Wood and Oisier Carr Wood on 14 September 2021 where the following discoveries were made:

  • Three dead buzzards were found at two release pens in Oisier Carr Wood. Tests later confirmed they had been shot.
  • Two pheasant carcasses with extremely high levels of Strychnine Hydrochloride and a poisoned Common Buzzard were found in Belvedere Wood – a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its internationally important population of Stone Curlews
  • Two bottles of Strychnine Chloride were found in the glovebox of Stroud’s all-terrain vehicle, and a bottle of Phostoxin discovered by officers in a lean-too style shed attached to his house.

In addition, Stroud’s mobile phone contained photos of a dead Goshawk and five dead Common Buzzards. He later confessed to officers that all the photos were of birds he had killed.

PC Chris Shelley, Norfolk Constabulary’s Rural Crime Officer, said: “This investigation is one of the biggest cases of its kind that we have dealt with in Norfolk.

Stroud actions were dangerous and inhumane – he shot and poisoned birds of prey as he saw fit, and at will, because it suited him to do so. He also used a highly dangerous poison – one that has been banned in the UK for the last 15 years – indiscriminately, which could have had a disastrous effect on other local wildlife and showed a scant disregard for the safety of others.

We’re committed to working with all partners to tackle rural crime and have worked closely with colleagues from the RSPB, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Natural England throughout this investigation. It is because of this close collaboration with them that we have been able to bring this case to court.

Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Laying poison baits out in the open is not only illegal but extremely dangerous and irresponsible. Baits like those being used present a deadly risk to any animal or person that might come across it.

It is particularly troubling that this was happening on an SPA, a designated area where wildlife and nature should have the highest legal protection.

We would like to thank Norfolk Police for leading such a thorough investigation, and to Natural England, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Crown Prosecution Service for their support.”

Ashley Petchey of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This was a case where Mr Stroud has, whilst in his position as a gamekeeper, killed wild birds by shooting and poisoning. He has also released non-native species into a SSSI.  

The scale of the offences in this case demonstrates the lengths people will go to in order to persecute raptors.   

The Crown take all cases of raptor persecution seriously and where the full code test is met, bring offenders to justice.”

ENDS

UPDATE 4th November 2022: RSPB Investigations Officer reflects on conviction of Norfolk raptor-killing gamekeeper Matthew Stroud (here)

31 thoughts on “Conviction of gamekeeper Matthew Stroud: statement from Norfolk Constabulary”

  1. The amount of the fines etc doesn’t cover a fraction of the costs of investigating and prosecuting these crimes.

  2. The conviction for releasing common Pheasants into the wild is interesting. Could you provide greater details about this offence and if it mightbbe applied to other such releases?

    1. According to the Suffolk News “He became the first person convicted for the unauthorised release of game birds on a Special Protection Area (SPA).”

  3. About £1000.00 total fine and costs, petrol money to the Estate owners.
    Is he still employed by the Estate?
    What does the NGO have to say about this?
    Can the RSPB appeal the leniency?
    Utterly inadequate sentence, message is very simple…Carry on killing chaps

    1. You mention petrol money – the daft thing is if it was petrol / diesel (or feed, or the builders merchant petty cash account, etc) that he was caught fiddling off the estate – as a good few keepers have done – they would have either quietly sacked him and blackened his name on every other estate they could, or got him up in court for fraud / theft and I bet the sentence for that would have much tougher than this gentle tap on the wrist. At least it gives another fine example for any neutrals newly looking into the subject of the nature of this ongoing national scandal. Ps big well done to all the investigators involved.

    2. “Can the RSPB appeal the leniency?”

      Anyone can, but there are rules. See https://www.gov.uk/ask-crown-court-sentence-review

      You will see that wildlife crime is exempt. But I still send in complaints, with the additional comments that I want wildlife crime to be included in the cases accepted for review.

      It is a way of adding public pressure for reform. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  4. ….these punishments need to be far more harsh than what this toe rag received! He has violated so many countryside laws indiscriminately…..a custodial sentence should have been minimum…which may have just helped serve a warning to other such toe rags operating similar methods on other estates!!

  5. Soft sentencing for so many crimes against nature in a SPA. Utterly deplorable.
    It will not deter others; he should have received a hefty span of time in prison for all the deaths he caused, either by shooting or poison.
    Many thanks to all the many agencies who did such excellent work in their investigations and getting this person to court and convicted

  6. All this work by the police and others was in my view unrewarded the sentence absolutely ridiculous and sends out the wrong message altogether but those of us who follow this blog are not surprised by anything anymore.

  7. Making the punishment fit the crime? I don’t think so! Another case of the magistrates wanting to be seen to be doing something.

  8. It is some, small, consolation that his firearms are being confiscated for destruction. Hopefully his having been found guilty on firearms offences will ensure that he is not allowed to hold permits/licences for their use in the future.

      1. Yes he will have had his Certs revoked right now, but in my opinion if he keeps his nose clean he will be able to apply again succesfully in a few years if not less. Much depends on which police force you are applying to, and the way they intepret the home office guidance. I knew a keeper personally who was convicted and fined (raptor persecution) and only lost his guns for a few weeks / 3 months at most, and then just carried on as before. It would be good if a newspaper took an interest in this case on just this point – and more widely on the often differing attitudes of police forces around the country (england) to Shotgun Cert & FAC applicants with convictions.

  9. Another pathetic sentence, another failure of judges / magistrates to take wildlife crime seriously. Are all judges / magistrates hell bent on supporting shooting estates / hunts to the detriment of our wildlife?

  10. This should show how deeply coercive is the hidden vested interests that promote blood sports, and thereby ensure our judiciary is mild in its sentencing, where it can be, , even in gross cases such as this one. It is an association that has to be exposed and rooted out. Political parties should now examine who in their ranks have extra-curricular interests, with a bias towards having a contempt for humane wildlife protection laws. It is great to see how various environmental and wildlife conservation groups are uniting to express their concern for the blandness being shown by the Governments of the UK. The whole natural world has its existence under severe threat, and we must play our part in saving our part of it. There is a protest march in Edinburgh at the end of October against SNARES, another anomaly from a Dark Age.

  11. Once again, a sad excuse for a human being has murdered several beautiful birds of prey-protected species .Well done to the Norfolk Police for catching this criminal .Not so well done to the judiciary for “smacking him of the wrist”-of course he should have been sent to jail and his employers, whoever they are should also face a prosecution. I hope that this disgusting and frankly dangerous man is never allowed to work in this capacity again but I expect that he will creep his way back into some sort of game keeper employment.The legal system needs to be tightened up and judges and magistrates need to issue appropriate sentencing for people like this coward. Things really do need to change in this wildlife depleted country

  12. CPS are having a laugh – whats needed is the next government to send a rocket up the @r$e of sentencing in this area

    [Ed: Jimmy, the CPS were responsible for the successful prosecution of this criminal. They were not responsible for sentencing]

  13. It is reported that he had images of the dead birds on his phone. For what purpose did he photograph them? Was it, perhaps, to show his boss how effective he was at his job?

    1. I was wondering that too. Reasons I thought of (a) to show boss or agent, as you say, (b) he wants to impress some other keepers / for bragging rights, (c) keeping photos has replaced a habit a lot of the old-timer keepers had i.e. keeping leg-rings and feathers in old biscuit tins and jam jars, to bring out and look at once in a while.

  14. I agree, the sentence is far and away too lenient, magistrates and judges need to be seen to make these crimes less of a slap on the wrist. Jail time at least for the illegal poisons, and I would suggest at least a year for each slaughtered bird.

    1. I’m assuming that, as the current crop of prosecutions work their way through the legal system, first quiet then public warnings are given / will be given to the shooting fraternity that jail sentences will be imposed.

      We may soon have a general election: time then for we opponents to become active.

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