RSPB’s response to sentencing of criminal Dorset gamekeeper, Paul Allen

Further to yesterday’s news that criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen had escaped a custodial sentence despite committing multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences whilst employed on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset (here), the RSPB has issued the following press release:

Gamekeeper fined as dead birds of prey and poisons found on Dorset estate

Gamekeeper Paul Allen (54, of Baileys Hill, Wimborne St Giles) appeared at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court today (16 February 2023) following a guilty plea last month relating to multiple raptor persecution offences.

He was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months for the possession of the buzzards, a £674 fine for failing to comply with firearm regulations, £1,348 for the chemical storage and usage offences, and told to pay £884 compensation [Ed: to Wild Justice’s Raptor Forensics Fund] to cover the cost of the x-rays and post-mortems for the bird carcasses.

The bodies of six shot Buzzards and the remains of three more were discovered in Allen’s yard on the estate in 2021, after a poisoned Red Kite was reported to Dorset Police by a member of the public. The kite contained high levels of brodifacoum, the deadliest rat poison on the market, which also shockingly killed a White-tailed Eagle in the vicinity 10 months later.

The poisoned red kite that triggered a multi-agency search on the Shaftesbury Estate in March 2021, which uncovered gamekeeper Paul Allen’s widespread criminal activities. Photo: RSPB

The search of Allen’s land also uncovered stashes of deadly poisons, including the pesticide bendiocarb – which has been abused for deliberately killing of birds of prey for years – two bottles of the banned substance strychnine, two tins of the banned poison Cymag and the toxic rodenticide brodifacoum. There was also a loaded gun left propped behind a door in Allen’s home.

Allen pleaded guilty to the possession of the dead Buzzards and the poisons.

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. In November, the RSPB published the Birdcrime report 2021, which revealed 108 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution in the UK. 71% of these occurred in relation to land managed for gamebird shooting.

A satelite-tagged White-tailed Eagle, poisoned with seven times the lethal dose of brodifacoum, was found dead 10 months later on the same estate, although it is unknown exactly where it picked up the poison. However, in a disappointing turn of events, the investigation was unexpectedly and prematurely shut down by Dorset Police before a full follow-up search could take place, despite police knowledge that the same substance had been found on the same estate during the investigation at court today.

Mark Thomas, UK Head of Investigations at the RSPB, said: “It is clear that the use of the lethal rat poison brodifacoum needs much tighter regulation and controls over use, as it is clearly being both misused and abused to kill birds of prey. At the very least this product should be restricted to indoor use only, as it was before the Government relaxed its use in 2016. We also suggest that only accredited pest controllers should be able to use it in specific circumstances. If not, then the unnecessary increase in bird of prey deaths, including White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites, will continue.”


In addition to this press release, RSPB investigations officer Tom Grose has written an excellent blog about the investigation on Shaftesbury Estate into Allen’s criminal activities, and has also provided some information about the poisoned white-tailed eagle that was found on the same estate 10 months later, the investigation that was prematurely cancelled by Dorset Police, despite them knowing all about Allen’s crimes on the same estate. To read Tom’s blog click here.

The RSPB’s investigation team has also produced a short video about both cases, which can be watched via their Twitter account here:

43 thoughts on “RSPB’s response to sentencing of criminal Dorset gamekeeper, Paul Allen”

  1. Just ban the stuff and anyone found with it in their possession should face a mandatory prison sentence. So long as a substance so deadly is deemed appropriate in any circumstances, then dangerous and cruel people like this man will manage to acquire the stuff for their abhorrent purposes.

    1. Completely agree with you. Different rules for certain people, which is so wrong. They must be told Do not do this, and punishments reflect a strong attitude to enforce the Law.

      1. This has to be stopped a new raptor protection bill should be brought out. Making it a manditory prison sentance of 6 years for the perpitrators. And withdrawal of licences to shot on any managed estate for all agents and owners.
        Magistrates should be given the powers to sentance up to ten years , on second offences and suspened all licenses from any agency or owner. For ten years.
        A further offence conviscation of estate .

        1. In America its a prison sentence to have in your possession just one eagle’s feather even if you pick it up from the ground!
          But all the time so called gentrified landowners can wriggle out of prosecution this will continue!

    2. These criminals should automatically be sent to prison for a couple of years ,and their employers should always be fined heavily,their estate shooting licences withdrawn ,and the keeper,s should never be allowed back into their jobs ,until the law bears its teeth and comes down heavily on these sort of people ,the destruction will continue .

    3. I totally agree 100% And the estate owners should take some responsibility for their game keepers actions [Ed: gamekeeper Paul Allen was not an estate employee when he committed the offences]

    4. Ban all of these shocking pesticides and give that wicked criminal a life sentence….he should be made to suffer like these beautiful birds havd had to. Until a really tough penalty is introduced this will continue.

  2. It is totally unacceptable that this gamekeeper has not received a custodial sentence & that the owners of the estate have not been sent for trial xxxxx xxxxx In addition, the estate should have its license withdrawn for at least one year. Definitely shows that xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx their staff are beyond the law. The Minister responsible for these matters need to intervene immediately.

  3. The fines will be short change to his boss. No mention of withdrawal of his firearms license? Free to do it all again (in his line of duty) and his boss gets away scot free.
    Taking the piss as usual, with police, court and government help.

    1. These people are filth, and will continue to ply their obnoxious trade until there is a consequence that fits!!!!!!

    2. I believe the decision about any firearms licence is made by the Chief Constable. I don’t know whether it will be made public.

      1. Scot free has nothing to do with Scotland or being Scottish. It comes from Skat meaning a tax. Scandinavian probably.

      2. That’s a new one on me. I looked up its etymology.

        scot-free (or scott free, skot free, scotchfree) from the Middle English scotfre, from Old English scotfreo (exempt from royal tax or imposts), equivalent to scot (payment, contribution, fine)

        Also, originates from the Scandinavian word ‘Skat’, which means tax or payment. The word mutated into ‘scot’ as the name of redistributive taxation meant to provide relief to the poor during the 10th century. Someone who did not have to pay the tax for some reason was referred to as ‘scot-free.’

        You will find the word used extensively in Hansard…

        Nothing, whatsoever, to do with Scotland. Or its people. Unless it was brought there from Scandinavia/Iceland.

  4. Fining individual gamekeepers is pointless. This fine could be covered by one or two guns fees on a shoot. Shoots should require a license to function, and be closed down if they persecute wild birds on their estates. They won’t take this seriously unless they risk being shut down.

  5. “..the investigation was unexpectedly and prematurely shut down by Dorset Police before a full follow-up search could take place..”

    Why isn’t there an inquiry into why the investigation was ‘unexpectedly and prematurely shut down?’

    We see this pattern time and time again like when the Crown Office suddenly dropped the Cabrach hen harrier case when she was shot in 2013. It will be 10 years in June since her death and no justice for her :(

    Good that RPUK is recording and cataloging the number of times the police and the courts fail our raptors.

  6. Wise words by the RSPB.
    It really is time that ALL poisons were restricted in use to licenced professionals.
    Purchase, possession and use would require a licence, and this wouldn’t be something that members of the public could simply apply for.
    It should be a criminal offence to break these rules.
    How many non target species die each year as a result of the careless use of poison?
    At a time when nature is in such massive decline, should we really be allowing unlicensed people who are incapable of following guidelines or careless in their activities, to scatter poison about the countryside?
    The fact that so many raptors are dying each year and testing positive for poisons just adds further weight to this argument.
    Sadly I would suggest it will take the death of a child before something is done.
    And before the inundation of protests to such an idea, just reflect that if agriculture really requires a high use of these poisons to control so called pest species, then by requiring such use is carried out by professionals, then this could create employment opportunities in the countryside at a time when many rural areas are seeing a decline in a job opportunities.

  7. Absolutely pathetic sentence and fine. With all those poisons and dead birds xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx possibly all his working life.
    This is no deterrent whatsoever.

  8. I am pretty certain that Chris Loder mp, Conservative for West Dorset, was instrumental for having Dorset police wild life unit disbanded, on the grounds that police resources were needed to fight crime?
    Talk about bowing to his tory masters!

  9. I wonder whether the existence and use of these banned chemical poisons would breach Health and Safety laws? Is it possible the Health and Safety Executive could advise on the situation here? It could be the same for the breaches of the Firearms Act as these weapons are being used in a work setting.

    When I belonged to a gun club (target shooting) anyone who owned a rifle would lose their licence for not keeping this in a locked, safe, cabinet. Police used to check on this too.

  10. We have to commend all those involved in bringing this case, and to the excellent blogs…

    But… I think people who take the trouble to inform themselves about the effect shooting has on our environment, are heartily fed-up with the constant ‘wringing of hands’.

    What I notice is plenty of outrage, and plenty of evidence… I’d like to see the organisations with the weight of membership propose ways forward.

    I would like to see official campaigns, on several fronts. What is so hard about launching Parliamentary e-campaigns, for organisations with mass online memberships?

    Use of pesticides… Unduly Lenient Sentences scheme… Firearms offences… (how many people are aware that illegally killing any bird/mammal with a firearm does NOT constitute a ‘firearms offence’ in our legal system? The numbers are not included in official stats… which, in turn, effects official policing policy. Contrast with ‘poaching’!)

    The single thread running through all such anomalies is… where crime involves wildlife, the seriousness is played right down (bad it is here, it is even worse in Ireland… )

    More letters to Wildlife and Countryside Link, RSPB, WWT, Wildlife Trusts etc…

  11. I think it’s about time the RSPB band or forms of shooting of any form of birds go to Australia. Get caught shooting an indigenous species over there even crows and magpies are protected and it’s 92 000 dollar fine on the spot. Repeat offenders will end up in jail. The whole structure of the shooting industry in this country is for the few bun or forms of shooting?

  12. It was still a pathetically inadequate sentence. Every one of the crimes he admitted to carried a maximum 6 month jail sentence: he should have got the lot. Why should it matter if he was recently widowed or of his children end up in care? He is clearly not fit to have control over them. What is he teaching them? What morality will they be sent out into the world with, with him as a father?

  13. This is ridiculous this stoft approach he should have gone to jail for each bird he xxxxx [Ed: had in his possession] 10 year’s sounds about right to me.. I hate this slap on the rist suspended sentence what a joke somebody needs to get a grip on the likes of him and the estate should be fined massively somthing needs to be done to these people.

    1. There is licenced officers to control vermin so no need for gamekeepers or estate owners to have these chemicals at hand so prosecution made easy no excuses do the crime do the time

  14. Its obvious that the birds and other animals are not protected from these scumbags. Suspended sentence means that they got away with it!!! What a pathetic impotent justice system we have .So sad

  15. I wonder when passing sentence how much consideration was given to the fact that raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority, and that by continually handing out what are in effect very lenient sentences which have very little real impact on the offender, the courts are in effect undermining the gravity of these crimes.

    I would also suggest that such lenient sentences also fail to reflect the recent Animal Welfare Sentience Act 2022 which recognises all vertebrate animals and some invertebrate animals as sentient beings. This piece of legislation effectively means that parliament recognises that animals know what is happening to them, and suffer pain, fear, and other emotions.
    Wildlife legislation is there to protect our wild animals, animals which the law now recognises are sentient.
    Therefore when someone is convicted of wildlife crimes, shouldn’t any sentence also take account any suffering those animals may have suffered during the commission of that crime?
    Courts are required to take into account a victim impact statement when dealing with crimes which effect humans.
    Animals can’t write victim impact statements, so shouldn’t it be the responsibility of a court to consider this for them?

    I would suggest Keith’s comments sum up the way forward, and maybe peoples anger and frustration could be put to use by asking those organisations and charities which support wildlife and animals, to organise a concerted e petition to parliament regarding unduly lenient sentences for wildlife crimes, misuse of poisons and making the use of firearms in wildlife crimes a specific offence?

    I know I will be contacting those charities I support.

  16. Absolute disgrace how this is still being aloud to go on ,
    These so called humans should be chastised properly and serve proper time away from living Nature

  17. The gamekeeper should be banned from doing that job for life after a term in jail.
    The land owner should be banned on first offence from holding a shoot and a further 3 years for a second offence and permanent ban for a further offence.
    The amount of birds a raptor takes is negligible compared to the amount of birds shot in one of these shoots. A raptor only takes enough food to feed its young and itself, how many of those birds that have been shot will ever make it to the table ?
    If that had been you or I , not working for a big estate [Ed: Allen was not employed by Shaftesbury Estate when the offences were committed] we would have been treated so leniently or the police told to close down the inquiry. We would probably be languishing in one of HRM prisons

    1. Ed: In your 1st paragraph you said gamekeeper employed ON the estate but edited my comment to say not employed BY the estate, is this a [Ed: it’s an important distinction to make & is why I’ve had to delete the rest of your comment, as it’s libellous]

  18. Another example of our failed system and absolutely useless police forces. Its them we should be complaining about. The police are a total waste of money….

    1. I think your comments are totally unfair to the police, and the thousands of very hard working and dedicated officers who work, often in very difficult conditions, and will often put their own safety at risk to make our society a safe place to live.
      Yes, the police are not perfect, and there are some bad individuals in the police. But since the police are drawn from society, and represent society, those bad officers are just a reflection of our society.
      Don’t also base your opinion of the police on a media, which seems to take great delight in exposing and slurring the police at every opportunity.
      If you think the police are a waste of money, then perhaps you should spend a day in crown court, to see some of the very evil and dangerous people the police have taken off our streets and brought to justice.
      The main issue with raptor crime, along with most crimes committed against wildlife, is a justice system hindered by ineffective laws, which are incredibly difficult to enforce, and sentencing guidelines which don’t reflect the suffering these sentient wild animals have suffered, even when an offender is put before a court.
      It is this system which needs to change.
      Maybe you could direct your anger at those politicians, who instead of working to create a better world, use their political office to ensure that the lavish and privileged lifestyles they and their friends enjoy is never diminished?

      1. Hi John, I agree with you in general terms. There is a spectrum of policing effort on raptor persecution and it seems the officers that start getting results get pushed out sooner or later, usually sooner. I do think people are totally justified in being angry at Dorset PCC David Sidwick though. Something very peculiar happened down there between him and the MP Chris Loder, regards the poisoned Sea Eagle investigation (in the same locality) which their wildlife crime officer and the RSPB were making progress with, but were seemingly made to stop. I am sure this blog, a few journalists and many individuals, etc* won’t have forgotten about that and will likely revisit it to ask some awkward questions (*and as an aside I think the the RSPB top brass should be making more noise about it too). But in the meantime, I personally don’t have much faith in the commitment of Dorset Police (among others) to fully investigate “the next case”, be it another eagle or another heap of burnt buzzards. And I am quite angry myself (or “motivated” shall we say) about why that should be the case with any of our police forces in this day and age (which actually feels like the Establishment having another generational tango with abusing democratic power and reinvigorating feudalism.) The keeper in this case as in many others, should have gone to clink for sure, but I am not especially angry at him as a person. The life of cap-doffing and fake big-man-of-the-wild bullshit that he and all the others who are “at it” create for themselves is just sad and downright pathetic on many different levels.

  19. We all know what should be done to protect our precious wild life but the big problem is beating the Royals and the establishment who are in government. These people make the rules and own the the shooting estates.
    The only way forward it seems is to follow the example of League Against Cruel Sports and publicly shame the perpetrators with excellent film evidence.
    Taking the offender’s to court is obviously no deterrent as the game keeper takes the blame and the estate owners are Teflon coated.

  20. And what about xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx master Harry and titled friends you are all clutching at straws. persicution of raptors will continue while royal opinion agrees it should

  21. The land owner has to be held responsible these crimes,
    After all he employs the gamekeeper.

    [Ed: In this case, the land owner (Earl Shaftesbury) was not the gamekeeper’s employer when these crimes were committed]

  22. How many more horrific examples will we “need” before ALL our Conservation Organisations, incl. both RSPB & Wildlife Trusts take an unequivocal stance AGAINST ALL bird shooting bloodsports?
    Bird shooters & their #KillerKeepers rely upon Tory subsidies & organised crime.
    They treat our environment, laws, communities & wildlife with abject contempt & callous cruelty.
    We must demand a complete BAN on all bird shooting bloodsports NOW. No more #KillingForKicks.

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