RSPB press release:
*Multiple illegally killed birds of prey, six of which were confirmed shot and one poisoned, were uncovered by Dorset Police and the RSPB on the Shaftesbury Estate near Wimborne St Giles
*The recently published RSPB Birdcrime report identified Dorset as the second worst county in the UK for confirmed bird of prey incidents in 2021
*The conservation charity is calling for greater regulation of larger scale pheasant shoots in order to help address the climate and nature crises and to reduce these appalling crimes against birds of prey
At Weymouth Magistrates’ Court today (4 January 2023), Paul Allen, 64, of Brockington Down, Wimborne St Giles, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of raptor persecution and related offences.
The Dorset gamekeeper will be sentenced on 16 February.
Dorset Police were first alerted in November 2020 when a member of the public found a dead red kite lying close to a dead rat on a private pheasant shoot on the Shaftesbury Estate, near Wimborne St Giles. Toxicology examinations confirmed the presence of the highly toxic pesticide bendiocarb in both species. Bendiocarb, which in some forms has now been banned, has been persistently abused for the illegal poisoning of birds of prey and other animals for years. It is believed the rat was laced with the poison and deliberately placed as a poisoned bait.
A multi-agency search of Allen’s home and surrounding land was undertaken in March 2021, led by Dorset Police and assisted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Natural England and RSPB Investigations. Officers discovered six dead buzzards (which, following official post-mortem, were confirmed to have been shot) near the remains of a bonfire, including one that was suspected as having been shot within the preceding 24 hours. Tragically, this bird also contained shot from two previous shooting incidents, which it had survived.
An avian specialist at the Natural History Museum examined the remains of the fire, which was collected by investigators and confirmed the presence of at least three further buzzards.
A banned product containing the pesticide bendiocarb was found in Allen’s vehicle and in an insecure outbuilding, along with two bottles of strychnine: another deadly poison banned in 2006. Two full tins of Cymag – a lethal fumigant pesticide banned since 2004 – were also found outside under an upturned pond liner.
All birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and killing them is against the law, punishable by an unlimited fine and/or jail.
Thomas Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Finding so many illegally killed buzzards was truly shocking. This is yet another example of a gamekeeper being prosecuted in connection with raptor persecution offences on land managed for gamebird shooting.
“In addition to all the agencies involved in this case, we would particularly like to thank Claire Dinsdale, formerly of Dorset Police, and currently with the NWCU, an exemplary officer who has devoted her career to tackling wildlife crime.”
Nationally, the RSPB’s recently published Birdcrime report for 2021 found that over two-thirds of confirmed raptor persecution incidents were in relation to land managed for gamebird shooting and identified Dorset as the county with the second-highest number of confirmed raptor persecution incidents in the UK that year.
Mark Thomas, UK Head of Investigations at the RSPB, said: “Tragically, only days into the New Year, we already have yet another highly significant bird of prey persecution case before a court. This is a national problem which requires urgent Government attention and solutions, as identified in their own report published in December 2021.
“In the time of a climate and nature emergency there can be no place for raptor persecution. We are therefore calling on Government to better enforce existing regulations relating to pheasant shoots, and to consider the introduction of new sanctions to act as a meaningful deterrent to such appalling crimes.”
The guilty pleas were –
· Two charges of possession of six dead common buzzards and remains of three more in March 2021
· Three charges of the keeping of banned pesticides (strychnine, bendiocarb and Cymag) in March 2021
· Two charges of failing to comply with conditions of shotgun and firearms certificates in March 2021
Charges relating to the killing of a red kite were dropped.
The RSPB has also released a few minutes of video footage from the search – well worth viewing. You can find it on the ITV News website here