More info revealed on Dorset Police’s relationship with local MP & the botched investigation into the poisoned white-tailed eagle

Dorset Police were never far from the headlines last spring and summer, thanks to their appalling, botched investigation into the poisoning of a white-tailed eagle, found dead on a game-shooting estate and containing seven times the lethal dose of the rodenticide Brodifacoum.

As a recap for new blog readers, the corpse of the young satellite-tagged eagle, which was one of the birds from the high profile reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight, was found on the unnamed shooting estate in January 2022. Dorset Police’s wildlife crime team, led at the time by the exemplary Claire Dinsdale (one of few officers awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for her work), undertook a multi-agency operation to retrieve the corpse, sent it off for toxicology analysis, and when the results came back in early February 2022, she set about organising a warrant for a multi-agency team to search the estate to look for evidence that might identify who was responsible for this serious wildlife crime. She also issued a public appeal for information (here).

The news of this eagle’s death made national news and led to some disturbing criticism of Dorset Police by local Conservative MP Chris Loder, who publicly declared that Dorset ‘wasn’t the place for eagles’ and argued that the police should be focusing their resources on other types of criminality and not on suspected wildlife crime (see here). It also emerged that Chris Loder had some interesting connections with at least one prominent Dorset estate from whom his local party had received considerable donations, although it wasn’t known whether funding had been received from the [unnamed] shooting estate where the eagle had been found poisoned (see here).

By the end of March 2022, Dorset Police issued an astonishing statement, claiming that the toxicology results were “inconclusive” (actually they were anything but!) “and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed…..As a result, no further police action will be taken in relation to this report“.

This decision to prematurely pull the planned search and close the investigation made no sense whatsoever, including to the RSPB (here) and it even led to questions being tabled in the House of Lords (here). It was a ludicrous situation. For this dead eagle’s liver to contain seven times the lethal dose of Brodifacoum (i.e. seven times the amount needed to kill a bird the size of an eagle), it could only be the result of either (a) mis-use of the rodenticide or (b) deliberate abuse of the rodenticide. Either way, these are both offences and deserved a full investigation, especially given Dorset’s reputation as a bird of prey persecution hotspot (see here). For Dorset Police to effectively pull down the shutters and shout ‘Nothing to see here’, without conducting a search, looked very dodgy indeed.

Around the same time news also emerged that Claire Dinsdale QPM had gone on ‘long-term sick leave’ with stress and, strangely, Dorset Police’s Rural Wildlife & Heritage Crime Team had a name change, which happened just after MP Chris Loder’s Twitter outbursts about Dorset Police spending time investigating wildlife crime. The words ‘wildlife’ and ‘heritage’ were completely and mysteriously removed from the name, which had now become ‘Dorset Police Rural Crime Team’ (see here).

There followed months of protracted aggro, as FoIs were submitted to Dorset Police who first ignored them (e.g. see here) and then subsequently refused to provide the requested information (e.g. see here), even after appeal. Many people were asking whether there was evidence of political interference by Chris Loder MP and the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner David Sidwick, influencing Dorset Police’s decision to drop the investigation. All parties denied this, of course, and no hard evidence has emerged to answer the questions, but Dorset Police’s refusal to answer FoI questions simply left these concerns hanging in the air like a bad smell.

Dorset Police then attempted a futile damage limitation exercise where they claimed their decision to prematurely close the investigation before conducting a search was ‘proportionate’ (see here) and then they claimed to have undertaken a review (effectively marking their own homework) which concluded 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?!

In August news emerged that Wildlife Crime Officer Claire Dinsdale QPM had left Dorset Police and was now working at the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

On 7th October 2022, Dorset Police published another statement about this botched case, probably in response to the ongoing criticism that simply refused to go away. The new statement, issued by Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell (here), just reinforced the earlier denials of dodgy policing and repeated the line that, “…there was insufficient evidence to prove an offence of wilful poisoning by an individual – so no one person can be proven to have been criminally responsible for the bird’s death“.

On 16th November 2022, coinciding with the publication of the RSPB’s latest annual Birdcrime report, Claire Dinsdale posted a remarkable comment thread on Twitter as follows:

Tweet 1: 2020 – a series of concerning incidents in Dorset stood out to me & colleagues from various agencies. Progress was being made with multi agency searches & raising nationally at our Bird Of Prey PDG (Priority Delivery Group) meetings. It is clear to anyone with a basic understanding of wildlife crime that Dorset had a problem.

Tweet 2: Up until early 2022, there was thankfully no-one interfering with these specialised cases. Policing must be objective & not influenced by threats or pressure from other parties or their own officers. Without fear or favour. So no surprise to see Dorset is 2nd worst county in UK Bird Of Prey Crime 2021 data, with only 1 less than the No 1 slot.

Tweet 3: I hope lessons will be learned by those who made serious errors of judgement. Policing needs to respect & listen to those experienced & specialist officers on the ground.

Tweet 4: It needs to have the strength & courage to do what is right without personal regard for ambition or self importance. The public are not fools & will rightly hold us to account for the decisions made. When policing or other public servants get it wrong, they should say so.

Tweet 5: If I can correct the statement for the record here by the Dorset Echo and Natures Voice. The eagle case was shut down prematurely in my view & the planned multi agency search I had arranged was cancelled by a new boss with no understanding of wildlife crime and a very senior officer within days of an MPs rebuke & threats on police funding, got the word wildlife removed from our twitter bio. [Ed: I believe the Dorset Echo article to which Claire was referring was this one]

Tweet 6: The previous Chief Constable (who’d retired before these events) advised me should anyone interfere with one of my cases to come straight to him.

Tweet 7: There has been some great work done by WCOs colleagues in other forces. My last Dorset wildlife crime case myself & other agencies worked so hard on, will hopefully show how you can investigate bird of prey crime with searching being a key part of it.

Claire’s tweets earned her considerable support on Twitter – it takes an incredibly courageous officer to speak out on police failings – but by the end of November all but Tweet #7 had been deleted. We can only imagine what hell some senior officers in Dorset Police are now bringing to her door. Nevertheless, her revelations will lead to even more scrutiny of Dorset Police’s obvious mishandling of this case…more on that soon.

Meanwhile, and also in November 2022, MP Chris Loder’s apparently cosy relationship with Dorset Police was once again in the spotlight. Two Dorset residents and long term anti-sewage campaigners, Beverley Glock and Fran Swan, both received police visits to their homes after they’d registered to attend a public meeting to raise concerns with Chris Loder about sewage pollution in the area (see their press release here). [EDITOR UPDATE 4th Jan 2023: the original press release now appears to be unavailable. There is an archived copy (here) and if that also disappears I’ve provided a copy and paste version in the comments section of this blog].

What the actual?!

According to a subsequent article published on the DorsetLive website on 3rd December 2022 (here), Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner David Sidwick (whose astonishing correspondence with Chris Loder (“You and I need to get our ducks in the row on this one“) on the poisoned eagle fiasco was revealed by FoI, here) is now conducting a review about why a uniformed officer visited these two ladies, at night, apparently after police had received an email from Chris Loder’s office about their planned (registered!) attendance at the public meeting.

A spokesperson from Dorset Police is quoted:

Officers from the neighbourhood policing team wished to understand the intentions of those people to ensure that public safety was preserved and any lawful protest could be facilitated. This approach was well-intentioned without any direction from the local MP“.

And David Sidwick is quoted saying he was given a “satisfactory explanation” (from Dorset Police) about why the two women were visited by police. He noted that it is “routine” that the police are notified of attendances to MP events following the murder of Sir David Amess MP, but has promised a review into the incident.

Public confidence in Dorset Police continues to plummet, and I guarantee there’ll be an even bigger shit storm after revelations emerge about Wednesday’s court case concerning a Dorset gamekeeper facing multiple charges of alleged raptor persecution, poisons and firearms offences dating back to March 2021.

Interesting times.

UPDATE 4th January 2023: The estate that Dorset Police refused to search after discovery of poisoned eagle is the same location where gamekeeper was today convicted of multiple raptor persecution crimes (here)

27 thoughts on “More info revealed on Dorset Police’s relationship with local MP & the botched investigation into the poisoned white-tailed eagle”

  1. Well, well, a shit storm indeed, if my sense of smell was a little better I could probably smell it from here in Mid Wales. I wondered why my dog kept standing sniffing the breeze. This shows what we all thought that the Eagle investigation was interfered with, we all knew at SEVEN times the lethal dose that if in the unlikely event of it being accidental there was at the very least criminal incompetence involved. My own view for what it’s worth is this was deliberate abuse, to me it seems the only explanation of a SEVEN times lethal dose ( how many rats can an eagle eat!). It now seems that they are still acting on the potential behest of their xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx heads should be rolling over these fiascos, remember the police oath contains the words “without fear or favour.”

  2. I get the impression that Chris Loader is a farmers boy type, who is ill at ease with the modern media circus and thinks that if he has an issue, he can just call his mates he knows from Young Farmers or similar, and they’ll sort it for him, and no one will bother.
    I’m not really involved in any action groups but I did comment on his FB page over Eaglegate, and I noticed a couple of weeks ago he blocked me. Even more childish.

  3. Well done Ruth for keeping this stinking issue in everyone’s mind. I like PI’s comment about the police oath ‘without fear or favour’.

  4. Whilst I understand the need to protect the safety of our elected representatives, I am getting more and more concerned about the state of our democracy in this country when you cannot raise your legitimate concerns with those elected representatives without being ‘investigated’ to see if you are some sort of terrorist. Loader and the Police will have known the background of the two anti-sewage campaigners and their legitimate aims and objectives. There was no need for the Police to visit them, especially at night. This type of behaviour from authorities who should know better makes it look as though we are living in a Police State. If the powers that be think that they can shut us up, they had better think again!

  5. Shocked and saddened but not surprised to discover that Dorset is the 2nd worst county in UK Bird of Prey Crime 2021 Data! A badge of shame for all residents who care about our wildlife heritage.

  6. You’ve worked tenaciously, tirelessly (and courageously) on this, Ruth. Huge respect!

    [Ed: Thanks, Jim, that’s kind, but I’m just one of many. The real credit goes to Claire Dinsdale and also to the local raptor fieldworkers]

  7. Probably the saddest thing about your update is that I should be shocked and yet I’m not, because a) in reality it was pretty clear what had happened and b) it just seems to fit a wider pattern of ‘political’ behaviour. I don’t know if it is happening more than in the past, or maybe just being identified and called out more effectively. I suspect the latter. Keep up the good work and all the best for 2023.

  8. And yet, as far as I know, neither the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation nor Forestry England have ever issued any complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct about the premature closure of the investigation, by Dorset Police, into the poisoning of the young, male, White-tailed Eagle – G461 – following Loder’s extremist demands.

    In fact, in its ’round-up’ of the year 2022, the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation do not even mention the episode: “events this year give us real optimism for the future”, but they do find time to criticise “conservation organisations, government and NGOs” for being “behind the curve” on re-introductions.

    At the time, the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation pointed out that G461 had died a horrible death: “The satellite data indicates that the eagle, which was otherwise healthy, deteriorated and died over a period of several days.”

    But they reproduced the Dorset Police statement that “A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed” without comment!

    It has been conservation organisations, alone, which have criticised Dorset Police, but these organisations, apparently, are ‘behind the curve’!

  9. Immense credit to Claire Dinsdale and those supporting her in addition to Ruth doing what is right “without fear or favour.”
    Sadly the ethos revealed here seems to be prominent amongst the area where Government and Land Owner Associated Private Authorities overlap and/or co-operate in regards to Wildlife Crime. My insight is not deep enough to claim that every area is similarly compromised in my eyes, but certainly more than one with a number of them in Scotland.
    I might ask where, in an area involving behaviour and statements as questionable as these highlighted in this post, is New Labour in all this? One might think that if probity is their new watchword promoted in contrast to the Conservative Party, this would be a gift of great value to them. Difficult as it might be for Keir Starmer personally, in legal terms he would know his way around as well as Boris Spasky on a chessboard and he could destroy them, Loader and his allies, politically at any time of his choosing. Now might well be the time to ask him why.

  10. From what I have read, it would appear that PC Claire Dinsdale has been the victim of bullying from within Dorset Police, simply because she wanted to conduct a thorough and professional investigation into a potential wildlife crime involving the death of a white tailed eagle.

    If this is the case then such behaviour is totally unacceptable, especially from the police service.

    Perhaps the senior leader team within Dorset police need to remind themselves of the College of Policing’s national decision making model (NDM), which at it’s centre places the police code of ethics. This code of ethics includes, accountability, fairness, honesty, integrity, leadership, objectivity, openness, respect, and selflessness. It applies to all serving police officers regardless of rank.

    I really hope HM Inspectorate of Constabulary have picked up on what has happened as to regard the investigation into the white tailed eagle, and at their next inspection of Dorset Police ask some really searching questions of the senior leadership team, its relationship with the Police and Crime commissioner and Mr Loder.

    If a highly respected police wildlife officer is forced out of her role, because she wanted to conduct professional and impartial investigations into suspected wildlife crimes, then something is seriously wrong.

    It should also be of great concern to the public of Dorset, if there is even the merest hint of suspicion that their police officers are not able to go about their police duties in a fair, open, unbiased, honest and impartial way without interference from either within or outside the police service.

    There is something positive in this whole sorry saga, in that Claire is now working for the NWCU, and hopefully she will be able to share all her professionalism and experience of wildlife crime investigations with other police forces across the country. Hopefully this will make a positive impact on what up until now has often been a postcode lottery in how wildlife crimes are investigated.

  11. goodness, shocked, (not surprised), & I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but a conspiracy? it seems the link for the press release re the meeting with C Loder about sewage, is no longer available…not on my browser anyway.

  12. Just in case the archived copy of the press release is also removed, here is a copy and paste of its contents:

    Press release:
    Two women who raised questions about sewage pollution with West Dorset MP Chris Loder have had police visits to their homes.
    Fran Swan, of Fishpond, and Beverley Glock, of Lyme Regis, had registered for a public meeting for Chideock residents which was held on Friday November 25. They had to give their questions in advance in which both raised their concerns about sewage pollution.
    Mr Loder contacted them by email to say the meeting was specifically for Chideock residents but, “let me know which villager has invited you and I will come back to you to see what we can do”.
    Then on the evening of November 24, Fran Swan received an after dark visit from a Lyme Regis police constable. The police officer said they had received an email from Mr Loder’s office and that she had been directed to find out Ms Swan’s intentions in wishing to attend the meeting.
    Ms Swan said:
    “This was alarming as the visit took place in the evening – we live in a remote location and we were concerned to see torchlight outside, and surprised to find a police officer on the doorstep. My application to attend the meeting was above board and obviously I had to put my address down. I received an email directly from Chris Loder and responded to that. This indicated I was not just going to turn up if I wasn’t given an invitation. There was absolutely no reason for the police to visit – it appeared to me that this was an attempt to intimidate, even though the officer was very polite about it.”
    The officer said she had already visited Beverley Glock, who was out for dinner at the time.
    Ms Swan has since written to Mr Loder to ask why he involved the police:
    “My actions in applying for a place to attend the meeting and giving forward notice of the question that I would have wanted to ask are wholly appropriate for any constituent. I can see no possible legitimate reason that my approach should have initiated the response that it did, either from you and/or your office, or from the police”.
    Ms Glock and Ms Swan are involved in the Bluetits swimming group and the River Lim Action group, both of which campaign to clean up the River Lim and the beaches in the town. The Bluetits had previously asked to meet Mr Loder but he had failed to appear at two organised meetings, giving as reasons that his computer had a flat battery, and then, that an urgent meeting intervened on the date he had suggested.
    “This is a legitimate cause of public concern”, said Ms Glock. “We are desperately worried about the quality of our swimming water and urgently need it to get back on track as we have thousands of people swimming all year round. We would expect Mr Loder to be 100 per cent behind that and not sending the police round to people who ask questions about it”.
    Neither attended the meeting when they were told in a final email from Chris Loder, after the police visit, that
    “As we’ve attracted a large number of Chideock Parishioners, the bookings are already oversubscribed”.
    Ms Swan and Ms Glock both live in the constituency within five miles of the village and have not been offered an alternative opportunity to meet their MP.
    Press release ends.

  13. This should come as no surprise given the UK’s tendency to have become a fascist state in 2023 (and earlier). I hope the two ladies complained about the conduct of Dorset Police as this amounted to harassment and intimidation. I doubt that Dorset Police will uphold any complaint against them given their general cowboy attitude. You can hear their spurs jangling as they walk down the street. This should then be referred to the IOPC. They are less than independent as well. This whole episode becomes more murky by the week. What are they trying to conceal and who is pulling the strings?

    1. I am one of those !threatening! women who had a visit from the police to find out “my intentions” to attend the public meeting with my MP Chris Loder!
      Currently waiting for a Subject Access Request response from CL and Dorset police to view any correspondence they had with each other about me prior and after the police visit.
      He’s said I’ll get a response by 6 Jan which is exactly the 30 days he’s allowed before I could make a complaint to the IOC.
      Haven’t heard from the police about their SAR!
      This was the question I submitted to attend the meeting:
      “At a time when sewage contamination in the rivers and seas is dire and Dorset has been revealed to be one of the worst counties for bird of prey illegal killings, why did you resign as a trustee of the Jurassic Coast Trust in July 2022?”
      Update in West Country Voices:

  14. Superb summary of the events.
    I am one of those !threatening! women who had a visit from the police to find out “my intentions” to attend the public meeting with my MP Chris Loder!
    Currently waiting for a Subject Access Request response from CL and Dorset police to view any correspondence they had with each other about me prior and after the police visit.

    This was the question I submitted to attend the meeting:
    “At a time when sewage contamination in the rivers and seas is dire and Dorset has been revealed to be one of the worst counties for bird of prey illegal killings, why did you resign as a trustee of the Jurassic Coast Trust in July 2022?”

    Update in West Country Voices:
    (Although they’ve had some trouble with their website apparently)

    1. Superb Fran! Well done!! And well done West Country Voices!

      [Ed: Thanks, Keith. I’ve deleted the rest of your comment as although interesting, it is off topic for this blog piece which is focused on Dorset Police, it’s mishandling of the poisoned white-tailed eagle investigation and its relationship with Chris Loder MP]

  15. Ruth, have you seen this?

    [Ed: when I click the link it says ‘not available at this time’. If you’re able to screenshot the page and email it to me, that’d work. Thanks]

  16. This is utterly disgusting. Thank you so very, very much for your competence and doggedness in pursuing this Ruth – it stinks to high heaven.

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