Dorset Police response to sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen

Well it’s taken them long enough, but finally Dorset Police has managed to issue a statement about the conviction and sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen, who pleaded guilty to multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences whilst working on the Shaftesbury Estate in March 2021.

You’ll recall I was surprised when Dorset Police failed to mention anything about Allen’s forthcoming court appearance and subsequent conviction back in January, despite the force publishing statements about a wide variety of other criminal cases at various stages of progression through the criminal justice system (see here), but at last, they’ve got around to saying something. Although what they’ve chosen to exclude from this press statement is far more revealing than what they’ve chosen to include.

The following statement was published on the Dorset Police website last Thursday:

A man has been sentenced at court for wildlife and firearms offences in East Dorset following a multi-agency investigation led by rural crime officers.

Paul Scott Allen, aged 54, was sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 16 February 2023 after admitting a total of seven offences at a previous hearing.

The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a live or dead wild bird under schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and two charges of failing to comply with the conditions of a firearms certificate.

Allen also admitted the following offences:

Using a biocidal product in contravention of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Possessing an unlawful substance under the Plant Protection Products Regulations 2012

Possessing a regulated substance without a licence under the Poisons Act 1972.

Allen was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay fines and compensation totalling more than £2,900. 

The investigation was launched by Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team following reports of suspected bird poisonings on a rural estate in East Dorset.

Following work with partner agencies including Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a warrant was executed on Thursday 18 March 2021. During searches a number of dead birds of prey were located.

Officers also searched the address of Allen, a gamekeeper at the estate, and found a shotgun and ammunition, which were not covered by the defendant’s firearms certificate. Further enquiries uncovered a number of prohibited toxins at the premises.

Allen was interviewed by officers and – following detailed enquiries and liaison with experts from the Crown Prosecution Service – was charged with the various offences.

Chief Inspector David Parr, of Dorset Police, said: “We take all reports of wildlife crime and rural criminality very seriously. This case has seen us work with partners including Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit to compile evidence before liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service Specialist Wildlife Prosecutor who agreed to the charges against the defendant.

“Wildlife crime remains a key objective of the recently expanded Dorset Police Rural Crime Team and we will continue to work with our partners to investigate criminal offences and deal with offenders robustly.”

Stephanie Bird-Halton, National Delivery Director for Natural England, said following the hearing: “Natural England is determined to tackle the scourge of persecution of our birds of prey. We assisted Dorset Police in this prosecution, gathering evidence and providing specialist technical advice. We are pleased Allen has been held to account for his offences against our wildlife. 

“Without landowners and land managers complying with the law and reporting illegal activity, the impact on our wildlife will continue.

“If members of the public spot birds of prey they suspect may have been poisoned, we would ask them to contact the police, but not to touch the bird.”

Angharad Thomas, the CPS Wessex Wildlife Lead, said: “We work closely with the police on all wildlife related cases to make sure there is sufficient evidence to meet our legal test for prosecution.

“In this case, the review of extensive and complex evidence made it clear that Allen’s offending posed a significant threat to human and animal life, as well as having a negative impact on the countryside.

“Anyone acting otherwise than in accordance with firearms licences or in contravention of laws intended to protect our wildlife and countryside will be prosecuted.”


To a casual observer, this press statement is straightforward, detailed and complimentary about a number of partners involved in the investigation that led to a successful conviction. Hooray! Tea and medals all round! But for those of us who’ve taken more than a passing interest in this case, what this statement actually is is petty and vindictive.

Why do I think that? Well, look closely and you’ll see that one of the significant partners in this multi-agency investigation, the RSPB, has been erased completely from the narrative by Dorset Police.

The statement mentions other partners including the NWCU, Natural England and the CPS, but there’s no mention whatsoever of the RSPB or the specialist role it brought to the case, from initial liaison with the (now former) Dorset Police wildlife crime officer, Claire Dinsdale, to helping plan and then conduct the search under warrant of Allen’s premises, to providing expert guidance on what was found, organising the forensics testing on the exhibits, then having considerable input into the file preparation for submitting to the CPS and then considerable liaison with the CPS itself.

As you can see, the RSPB wasn’t just along for the ride, it made an important and weighty contribution to the case, so why has Dorset Police gone out of its way to exclude it? My guess would be that it’s because the RSPB has been extremely supportive of Claire Dinsdale as she continues to battle senior officers over the botched investigation into the poisoned white-tailed eagle (an on-going saga).

I was also amused to read in the press statement the quote from Chief Inspector David Parr of Dorset Police, who said: “We take all reports of wildlife crime and rural criminality very seriously….. Wildlife crime remains a key objective of the recently expanded Dorset Police Rural Crime Team and we will continue to work with our partners to investigate criminal offences and deal with offenders robustly.”

Yeah, right, as long as it doesn’t involve conducting a police search on a shooting estate to look for evidence about who might have poisoned a white-tailed eagle, especially if a gamekeeper on that estate just happens to already be under investigation for multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences, and especially if a local Conservative MP has been kicking off about ‘wasting police resources on investigating wildlife crime’. Yeah, apart from that, Dorset Police will ‘continue to work with our partners [apart from the RSPB] to investigate criminal offences and deal with offenders robustly‘.

19 thoughts on “Dorset Police response to sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen”

  1. And still no mention about whether they have taken away his guns and license. Seems like public safety is an afterthought down in Dorset.

    1. Should be an automatic removal of the weapons following a fire arms offence, that`s my understanding, and the certificates should be revoked, however it seems that there was`nt a shotgun certificate held, if so how were the shotgun cartridges obtained ?, a licence has to be produced at point of purchase, I am not aware if a firearms certificate covers shotgun ammunition. If anyone knows different please correct me.

  2. Dorset police and the organisations that pretend to be against Raptor persecution. THE USUAL OLD BOYS CLUB. Thoroughly disgraceful.

  3. it just stinks to high heaven. Why is there such a wide spectrum of police response on the issue of raptor persecution? Police involvement is largely a catalogue of failure. Meanwhile, the RSPB investigations are always robust, detailed, sensitive and consistent. This is why powers need to be taken from the police and given to the RSPCA / SSPCA.

  4. They don’t actually say what “rural estate” it was or that his job was as a gamekeeper! Trying not to ruffle the feathers of their friends in the shooting fraternity? Also no mention of what and how many the dead bird species were and how many and actual name of the “biocidal product”, “unlawful substance”, “regulated substance”, and “prohibited toxins”. Talk about using every alternative in the press office thesaurus! It’s hardly “taking all reports of crime seriously” and cracking down on illegal persecution with the full weight of the law, rather saying as little as possible and downplaying the offences. As others have said, what happened to the gun, ammo and his licence?

  5. Sounds like the conversation is just beginning so far as the White tail Eagle poisoning is concerned, this is as should be. Are the gamekeepers actions condemned by the employer, or the National Gamekeepers Organisation?

  6. Yes the police statement is a joke. So many unanswered questions. Gun licences? Sea Eagle investigation? If raptor persecution is a priority, why haven’t they investigated that one?
    Can you ask the police and crime commissioner or are they a shooter too?

  7. One interesting comment from Dorset Pol: the CPS have a specialist wildlife prosecutor. Is this a relatively new appointment?

  8. What is also telling is that the type of birds were omitted and the type of poison(s) was also omitted. Maybe thats standardised cop-speak in a statement like this.

  9. Quote: “Without landowners and land managers complying with the law and reporting illegal activity, the impact on our wildlife will continue.” Unquote.

    As if the landowners and land managers are going to report on any illegal activity – it’s like shooting themselves in the foot….. Wake up Dorset Police…..

    Quote: “If members of the public spot birds of prey they suspect may have been poisoned, we would ask them to contact the police, but not to touch the bird.” Unquote.

    No mention from Dorset Police of collecting evidence as long as your own personal safety is not at risk? Just not to touch any dead birds, which is at least wise advice if they might have been poisoned.

    My advice has always been to try and photograph or film what you observe, whether it be the culprits in the act, dead birds, traps etc. Preferably with GPS tagging to document the location. I know that some (covert) filming and photographing might get thrown out by some courts, but i would strongly encourage documenting what you find. After all, the culprit might remove the evidence before the police arrive.

  10. Wildlife crime aside, had he been an inner-city guy of non white-British heritage found guilty of those same offences I suspect the sentencing would have been much harsher and not suspended. Nothing like having rich landowners in your corner.

  11. If the police think a person is unsuitable to hold a shotgun or firearms certificate it can be revoked. That was the case in Hampshire Constabulary over 20 yrs ago in my experience. I can’t imagine that it’s changed. There should be no trouble with the oic doing this.

  12. The laws surrounding firearms and ammunition could be tightened following the shooting in Plymouth:

    This may have an impact on the shooting fraternity, hopefully. To respond to Philip Barley, it is necessary to have a licence to keep ammunition as well as a certificate for a firearm. What I would like to know is why the laws surrounding firearms are not being enforced here. It seems to be a serious failure on the part of the police and Misconduct in Public Office.

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