Raven poisoned with banned chemicals – Police Scotland withhold information

Last month I wrote about a poisoned red kite that had been found dead on a grouse moor, next to a poisoned bait (a Lapwing), and how Police Scotland had deliberately withheld the details of this crime for over 18 months (see here).

Now there’s another poisoning crime where Police Scotland has deliberately withheld information from the public. This time it’s a poisoned raven, and this time Police Scotland has been nothing short of obstructive when I started to ask questions about it.

A poisoned raven (file copy, photographer unknown)

I found out about this poisoned raven after stumbling across an entry on the database published by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), back in November 2022. The details were as follows:

‘Ref #21094. Raven, found April 2021. Lothian. Category: Abuse. Pesticide(s) involved: Carbofuran, Isofenphos. Case information: Despite extensive enquiries and property searches the investigation carried out by Police Scotland into the illegal poisoning of this raven failed to identify a suspect for the crime and the case is now closed‘.

This incident jumped out at me given that one of the poisons used was Carbofuran – a pesticide so dangerously toxic (to both humans and wildlife) that even possessing it, let alone placing it out in the open on a bait, has been an offence in Scotland since 2005 (Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005). The combination of Carbofuran with Isofenphos has been used frequently in the illegal poisoning of birds of prey for years, notably by the game-shooting sector.

I didn’t recall seeing any media about this particular poisoning crime, and the Scottish Government’s annual wildlife crime report is so far behind the curve that we won’t see details of anything found in April 2021 until 2024(!), so I asked a couple of officers from Police Scotland what they could tell me about the case.

Both officers told me that they weren’t allowed to comment, and that I should direct my enquiries to Police Scotland’s media communications team. So I did.

I emailed the news desk and asked for details, giving them all the info that I’d read on the WIIS database.

No reply.

I followed up eight days later to ask again. Here’s the response:

Good morning Ruth, we have been trying to track this one down for you. Apologies, but I need a bit more information. Unfortunately the incident number is not one we use on our systems so that has not enabled me to find it.

Are you able to provide a date in April when this was reported to police. I am afraid it is for the media to provide us with a location rather than the other way round so if you can narrow it down for me please – Lothian is not a county in Scotland – we have East Lothian, West Lothian and Midlothian, so a more accurate location would be helpful at our end“.

Eh? How many poisoned ravens were found in Lothian in April 2021 that triggered a police search? Surely there can’t be that many? And how am I supposed to know the location of this crime when it hasn’t even been publicised?! I wrote back to this effect, and suggested that the media officer could simply ask the Lothian & Borders Wildlife Crime Officer for details, given that his ‘patch’ covers East, West and Midlothian.

Here’s the response I received:

Hi again Ruth, sorry but I really do need to know a more accurate location. As mentioned we have East Lothian, West Lothian and Midlothian. Or if you have the name of a town nearest to where this is supposed to have happened. To speak to officers to find out more I need to know where. Please get back to me when you have that information“.

Needless to say, I was less than impressed. This is a serious wildlife crime, supposedly a national wildlife crime priority, involving the use of a highly toxic poison of which just a few granules could kill a human should they come into contact with it. It seemed to me that Police Scotland’s media team was being deliberately obstructive in releasing any information about it. Not even an appeal for information or a warning to the public that this poison had been used in the area.

I wrote back, asking the media officer where he might suggest I find a more detailed location to help him find the case, given that Police Officers had been directed not to comment about it? I also indicated that I was considering submitting a formal complaint.

Four days later, a different media officer contacted me with the following statement:

Hi Ruth, Regarding your previous enquiry please see our statement below:

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of a poisoned raven in the East Lothian area on Monday, 5 April, 2021. Extensive enquiries have been carried out. Any new information will be thoroughly investigated and anyone with new information should contact police on 101 quoting incident 1314 of 5 April, 2021.”

I really don’t know what’s going on with Police Scotland. They have some fantastic wildlife crime officers on the ground, many of them going above and beyond in their investigations to bring the raptor killers to justice, but they, and we, are being badly let down by the Force’s upper hierarchy who have clearly made a decision about withholding serious wildlife crime news from the public.

Why is that? Who benefits from such censorship?

As I wrote a few months ago on the withheld news of the poisoned red kite found on a Scottish grouse moor, news that Police Scotland had kept hidden for 18 months (here), I don’t understand the rationale at all. Certainly, in the early stages of an investigation it often pays for details to be withheld so as not to compromise searches etc. But 19 months (in the poisoned raven case) after the crime is discovered? It doesn’t make sense, and all it does is undermine public confidence, which really isn’t helpful when Police Scotland needs the public onside to report suspected wildlife crimes.

By the way, according to the WIIS database, a ‘suspected bait’ categorised as ‘abuse’ (name of chemical withheld) was discovered in Lothian in March 2021. The case notes say: ‘This incident is the subject of an ongoing Police Scotland investigation’.

So a poisoned bait was found one month prior to the poisoned raven. Are these crimes linked? Or is there another undisclosed location in ‘Lothian’ where deadly poisons are being laid out?

Where is the warning to both locals and visitors to the area from Police Scotland about this serious threat to public safety?

An MSP is currently in the process of asking formal questions about this ongoing censorship. Watch this space.

21 thoughts on “Raven poisoned with banned chemicals – Police Scotland withhold information”

  1. Same old, same old……who benefits for the status quo with regards wildlife crime…..only the criminals and those protecting them.

  2. Its time there was a television film about all this, theres certainly plenty of cases to be covered, its a sad twisted situation,

  3. It is corruption plain and simple – and that is the problem. No matter how good (or bad) the boots on the ground, it is clear that there is institutional corruption throughout the police and the judiciary when it comes to wildlife crime. That Police Scotland seem to not give a damn about the potential for indiscriminate poisoning of all wildlife and any domestic creatures that come across them is shameful.

    Who is the Justice Minister in the SNP government? They need to get on Police Scotland’s case and tell them to take this stuff seriously and spend more time investigating the crimes than they do covering them up. So what if a few senior officers lose their invites to shoot, they need to do their jobs.

  4. Police Scotland are an absolute disgrace it is so obvious that they have absolutely no intention of enforcing the law and would rather cover up these offences on behalf of the shooting fraternity It is a shock that the Scottish politicians are tolerating this kind of behaviour and a poor advertisement for the tourist industry and the reputation of Scotland as a whole.

    1. Hi Alan,

      It’s important to differentiate between the police wildlife crime officers on the ground and senior officers higher up the chain of command. It’s simply not true to suggest that ‘Police Scotland…have absolutely no intention of enforcing the law….’ There are many experienced and determined wildlife crime officers who go above and beyond in their investigations of wildlife crime – I know, because I’ve seen them do it and they feel the same level of frustration as we do when the criminals evade justice. The problem, as I see it, lies higher up the food chain with senior officers, who have likely been ‘got at’ by certain individuals and their lawyers who use any and every opportunity they can to shut down media commentary on raptor persecution crimes.

      1. It does NOT matter how keen some officer on the case may be if they are going to be blocked by senior Police who are the ones that dictate policy now does it.

        [Ed: you’re right, Alan, but it doesn’t change the fact that your claim, “Police Scotland….have absolutely no intention of enforcing the law…” is inaccurate. It’s unfair on the good, hardworking frontline officers to suggest as much]

  5. The obvious inference is that the raven was found on land that would be embarrassing for Police Scotland to reveal. Either that, or someone has an injunction preventing them from revealing the location.

  6. I know from personal experience that when police officers become involved in sensitive issues they get told from above to drop the case. I was involved in a case where residents were objecting to a planning application by McDonalds to build right next to their houses. As their community police officer, they contacted me when they received letters containing veiled threats from Mc Donalds which I thought amounted to causing harassment alarm or distress. Needless to say I was ordered to drop the case and the residents had to the endure bright lights and stink of McDonald’s.

  7. The intricacies of politics. It would be an interesting exercise to research the Government positions that the MSP’s whose Constituencies are in, or border, numerous Driven Grouse Moor Eestates are allocated on entering Holyrood. how their careers progress and the number of promises made in the area of gamekeeper and grouse are not kept prior to them moving jobs. High tier research staff might also be worth a look.
    This might appear rather evasive and intrusive, but no more so than mainstream journalism, but can be justified by the litany of dubious or suspicious decisons and conclusions emitting from the Ivory towers of our Governing Class. But it just might shine the light on the most sensitive, and thus vulnerable, part of this malign chain of events.

  8. OMG your experience of PS rings so true to my own as a journalist working in southern Scotland. We used to talk to the local sergeant or inspector and they’d give us updates or appeals for info. Often our PCs would drop in and give us news.
    They then moved to a system of regional PR people, mine being a former inspector who I knew well.
    I’d ring him with tip-offs and he’d look it up and give me all the info. A few years ago they moved to a national media phone number at 6 locations. I’d often ring about an incident and they refused point blank to tell me anything unless I gave them all the details.
    I’d say that’s why I was ringing them but I got nowhere.
    A media officer is Inverness couldn’t care less about minor crime in my patch.
    Because I couldn’t report these crimes I was unable to do my job and keep my readers informed.
    I believe a political decision was made at the highest level to hide crime from the public by making it ridiculously difficult to get info.
    Good luck!

  9. I do wonder – given the number of times that the Police have been (cough) ‘less than forthcoming’ regarding the publicising of wildlife crime in Scotland (and they are not alone, in doing this) – how much pressure this Police force may have exerted on the Scottish Government (Executive) when it has previously considered the extension of powers of investigation and prosecution for wildlife crime to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?

    After all, the Government would have been bound to consult the Police over such a move. And at the highest level.

    Makes one think, does it not? A few quiet words here and there? I’m sure all sorts of various ‘official problems’ could be thought up… Might help explain at least one delay?

  10. The Scottish Government want to stamp out the behaviour of the criminals. To do this they make wildlife crime a priority. They understand the difficulty of securing evidence for “criminal prosecutions” so they enabled and championed “civil standard” sanctions by SNH (naTurescOt).

    Now if the police are supporting the Governments priority surely they inform NAturEscot of the poisoning incident. So under FOI they may be able to reveal at least vague data? IE did Police Scotland inform you of this incident?

    Of course if the police have not informed SNH, then surely the Ministers will want to know why the police are undermining their justice system?

  11. My experience has been similar to that of Rachel Norris. This has also been in the south of Scotland. Apart from being a complete shambles since the various forces were combined to make Police Scotland, the police are corrupt beyond belief. This is closely connected to the influence of Freemasonry. Scottish Rite Freemasonry being the worst of the lot of them.

  12. My understanding is that the Scottish government and the national police authority make the policies and PS make operational decisions.
    It would be interesting to trawl through these to see why it’s not working and whether there is a gulf between policy and operational decisions.
    If the shooting estates are obstructing investigations and justice, MSPs need to start calling them out. Who will be brave enough to get the ball rolling?

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