No prosecution for shot raptors found on Millden Estate, Angus Glens

On 8th October 2019, the Scottish SPCA executed a search warrant with Police Scotland on various properties on Millden Estate in the Angus Glens looking for evidence of animal cruelty and animal fighting, including badger baiting, after 58 gruesome photographs were reportedly sent to a printing shop in England by a Millden Estate employee.

Millden Estate is known for its grouse shooting (having been described in a sales brochure in 2011 as being ‘The Holy Grail‘ of grouse moors and ‘One of the finest sporting estates in Scotland‘) The estate also hosts pheasant and partridge-shooting on its low ground.

Millden Estate has also been described as a ‘savage, stripped, blasted land‘ by author and photographer Chris Townsend (here).

Millden Estate gamekeepers, along with others in the Angus Glens, have previously been feted by senior politicians, including former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Fergus Ewing MSP, former Minister Graeme Dey MSP, and by Prince Charles who was photographed with Millden keepers as he opened a tweed workshop in Beauly in 2019.

Millden Estate was also visited by Professor Werritty and his colleagues in 2018 during the review of grouse moor management; they visited the estate apparently to see an example of ‘best practice for managing grouse moors’.

The estate, one of a number in the Angus Glens, is also long- known amongst conservationists as a raptor persecution hotspot after the discovery of poisoned and shot buzzards in 2009 and 2011 (here), a poisoned golden eagle (Alma) in 2009 (here), and a satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in a spring trap and then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die (here). Nobody has ever been prosecuted for any of these alleged offences and Millden Estate has denied any responsibility.

In October 2019 during the morning raid at Millden Estate the SSPCA did find evidence of animal fighting and cruelty, including badger baiting, and after two and a half years of protracted legal process, in May this year 28 year old gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies was convicted of a number of animal cruelty, animal fighting, and firearms offences: (for previous blogs on this case see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Davies is due to be sentenced on Monday.

Other evidence of alleged wildlife crime was also uncovered during that search of Millden Estate back in October 2019, including the discovery of a number of dead raptors wrapped in bags at at least three separate locations, apparently including at the residences of two estate employees.

Whilst the SSPCA led on the investigation into animal cruelty/animal fighting, Police Scotland led on the investigation into the dead raptors (because the SSPCA don’t, yet, have the powers to investigate cases where a wild animal is already dead – bonkers, I know – see here for the background on this).

I have spent the last two and a half years chasing Police Scotland about these dead raptors and asking for status updates on the investigation. I have to say I’ve been summarily unimpressed. The investigation has been conducted at a snail’s pace and communication has been dire. I understand that the dead raptors all underwent post mortems and it was determined they’d been shot. No information has been provided about the number of species involved (although it’s been reported that some were buzzards), nor the number of individuals confirmed to have been shot, although I know of at least three.

Earlier this week I asked the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) about this case and whether it was progressing (i.e. has anyone been charged?). To its credit, the COPFS response was fast, but the case outcome familiarly frustrating:

The Procurator Fiscal received a report relating to a 28 year old male and incidents said to have occurred between 1 January 2019 and 8 October 2019. After careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the available admissible evidence, the Procurator Fiscal decided that there should be no proceedings taken at this time. The Crown reserves the right to proceed in the future should further evidence become available‘.

I doubt we’ll ever be informed about the extent of the raptor persecution uncovered (even now, nearly three years after the raptor corpses were found, Police Scotland has failed to issue any press statement) and we’ll certainly not learn any more detail about why charges weren’t brought because the COPFS is not obliged to inform the public about its decision-making process. Apparently transparency doesn’t apply.

To be fair, a prosecution would depend on an individual suspect being identified but there are multiple employees at Millden Estate (16 were listed in the estate’s sales brochure in 2011) and a recent photo on social media suggests there are multiple gamekeepers (there’s a photo online showing 13 men dressed as gamekeepers in Millden Estate tweed at the start of the 2020 grouse season).

I think it’s fair to say that any employee could have the motivation, means and opportunity to commit wildlife crime – we now know that at least one of them, Rhys Owen Davies, was doing exactly that, apparently right under the noses of his colleagues and bosses on Millden Estate – but just having the motivation, means and opportunity isn’t sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution. Having a carrier bag full of shot raptors at your house isn’t enough for a court of law to convict, although if there was a bag of dead raptors at my house I’m pretty sure I’d notice them and I’m pretty certain I’d have notified the police.

So where does that leave us? We await the sentencing of gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies on Monday but I don’t expect any of us have high hopes for a fitting sentence.

Millden Estate must surely now qualify for a General Licence restriction, a monumentally ineffective sanction but the only thing left on the table until the Scottish Government pulls its finger out and introduces the licensing scheme it promised to develop in November 2020.

But even if the authorities do decide to impose a General Licence restriction on Millden Estate, that won’t curtail the estate’s ability to continue to host grouse, pheasant and partridge shoots. The estate, which is run through a series of companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs), including one called Millden Sporting LLP, reported tangible assets in 2021 of £17.5 million.

That’s a lot of money, and with it comes a lot of influence.

UPDATE 30th August 2022: 3 shot buzzards found on Millden Estate – confirmation from Police Scotland (here)

Multi-agency searches in raptor poisoning hotspot in Derbyshire

Multi-agency searches were conducted last week at a raptor-poisoning hotspot in Derbyshire.

Since 2015, at least eight illegally poisoned birds of prey including buzzards and kestrels, as well as poisoned pheasant baits, have been uncovered on farmland in the Glapwell / Ault Hucknall / Rowthorne / Pleasley area of north east Derbyshire. Toxicology analysis has confirmed they were killed by the poisons Aldicarb and Alphachloralose (see here).

[A dead buzzard found in the area. Photo by Derbyshire Constabulary]

Last week police officers from Derbyshire Police’s Rural Crime Team were joined by staff from the RSPB Investigations Team, Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit to undertake a series of land searches. A number of follow-up investigations are now continuing as a result of those searches.

Derbyshire’s Rural Crime Team posted the following statement on Facebook yesterday:

Consider this post both an appeal for information and a public safety warning.

Over recent years there has been a concerning number of dead buzzards found to have died as a result of poisoning on land around the Glapwell / Ault Hucknall / Rowthorne / Pleasley area.

In response to this issue, last week Derbyshire Rural Crime Team, RSPB Birders , the NWCU and Natural England were involved in a day of action in the area. Land searches were conducted and other lines of enquiry pursued in what proved to be a very positive day.

Clearly these beautiful birds are being targeted. Killing birds of prey in any way is ILLEGAL but laying poison on land that can be easily accessed by the public poses a significant risk to public safety.

When out and about, should you find anything suspicious it is important that you contact the Police immediately. DO NOT touch or handle anything and do not let children or animals go near.

If you have any information that may aid this enquiry please contact Derbyshire Rural Crime Team’.

This is the latest in a surge of multi-agency investigations in response to raptor persecution crimes over the last 14 months, including a raid in Suffolk on 18th January 2021 (here), another raid in Nottinghamshire in January 2021 (here, resulting in a conviction of a gamekeeper in 2022 here), a raid in Lincolnshire on 15th March 2021 (see here), a raid in Dorset on 18th March 2021 (here), a raid in Devon on 26th March 2021 (see here), a raid in Teesdale on 21st April 2021 (here), a raid in Shropshire on 2nd August 2021 (here), a raid in Herefordshire on 12th August 2021 (here), a raid in Norfolk on 14th September 2021 (here), a raid in Wales in October 2021 (here), a raid in Humberside on 10th December 2021 (here) and a raid in North Wales on 8th February 2022 (here).

Buzzard & kestrel confirmed illegally poisoned in Derbyshire

In March 2020, just after the start of lockdown, Derbyshire Constabulary reported the suspected poisoning of a kestrel and a buzzard, both found dead next to the remains of a pigeon at Ault Hucknall near Chesterfield (see here).

[Photo via Derbyshire Constabulary]

Samples were sent for toxicology analysis and last week the police received the findings. Both birds had been illegally poisoned with the banned pesticide Aldicarb.

This news was published on the Rural Crime Team’s Facebook page (see below). We haven’t been able to find any further news reports, for e.g. on the Derbyshire Constabulary website or in the local press.

These latest illegal poisonings are not the first in this area. A total of six buzzards were also illegally poisoned in neighbouring Glapwell between 2015-2016 (2 x buzzards, March 2015; 1 x buzzard & pheasant bait, February 2016; 3 x buzzards & pheasant bait, March 2016). Alphachloralose was the poison used in those cases.

[Some of the poisoned buzzards and a pheasant bait found at Glapwell in 2016, photos via RSPB]

There is a record of those poisonings in the RSPB’s 2016 BirdCrime report (here) and a short video, here:

It is quite clear that somebody in this area has access to banned poisons and is not afraid to set out poisonous baits that could kill anyone unfortunate to come in to contact with them, let alone wildlife and domestic animals and pets.

Let’s hope we see a continued publicity drive from Derbyshire Constabulary – these crimes warrant maximum awareness and exposure.

UPDATE 15th March 2022: Multi-agency searches in raptor poisoning hotspot in Derbyshire (here)

Yet another poisoned buzzard found dead on a grouse moor in North York Moors National Park

Joint press release from North Yorkshire Police and RSPB (24 July 2020)


Buzzard found dead on moorland near Swainby, North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a dead buzzard was found on Live Moor close to the village of Swainby.

The bird was discovered by a member of the public on 20 March 2020 and reported to the RSPB before being removed. North Yorkshire Police submitted the buzzard for a post mortem examination which revealed an extremely high concentration of  toxic chemical, Chloralose in the bird’s system. Given the buzzard was in good bodily condition and had no injuries, the analysis shows poisoning to be the cause of death.

[The poisoned buzzard. Photo by RSPB]

North Yorkshire Police Inspector, Matt Hagen, explains:

A low percentage of chloralose was commonly used in rodenticides to kill mice but is only currently permitted for use indoors and at a small dose. As such, there is no way this buzzard could have come into contact with such a high concentration of this poison by accident and we believe someone deliberately set out to kill this bird by poisoning.

Unfortunately, this is the latest in a number of similar cases where birds of prey have been subjected to cruel and illegal persecution here in North Yorkshire. We are doing everything we can to try and find those responsible but we really need the public’s help as they are acting as our eyes and ears around the county. Anyone with information about this or any other incident of bird of prey persecution should contact the police on 101, we all have a part to play in putting an end to these unacceptable crimes.

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said:

Buzzards are a protected species yet continue to be relentlessly shot, trapped and poisoned in North Yorkshire. RSPB data shows that North Yorkshire is consistently the county with the highest number of crimes against birds of prey.

Alphachloralose is a commonly abused product in the illegal killing of birds of prey. The amount of it found in this bird was enough to kill a human child. People, pets and other wildlife are at risk from this kind of illegal behaviour, which is why we urge anyone who may have information about this incident to do the right thing and come forward.”

Anyone who has information which could assist with this investigation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 or if you wish to remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Quote reference: 12200116641.


What this press release doesn’t say is that this illegally poisoned buzzard was found dead on a grouse moor inside the North York Moors National Park.

Nor does the press release explain the delay in publishing an appeal for information (corpse found 20 March, press release issued 24 July).

There are some individuals from the grouse shooting industry who are claiming on social media that this delayed reporting is a deliberate ploy to coincide with the run-up to the start of the grouse-shooting season on 12 August, and thus create bad publicity for the industry to ruin the ‘celebrations’. It’s a commonly-heard complaint and simply allows the persecution apologists to focus on anything other than the news that yet another bird of prey has been found illegally killed on yet another grouse moor.

Had they bothered to ask the police why there was such a long delay they might have understood that the toxicology labs were closed during lockdown and are now having to work through a significant backlog of cases, so confirmation of poisoning will take longer than usual.

It’s no surprise the grouse shooting industry wants to divert attention from this latest crime to be uncovered on a grouse moor inside this national park. It’s the third raptor persecution crime to be reported in the North York Moors National Park in recent months, following the discovery in April of five dead buzzards shoved in a hole on a grouse moor in Bransdale, four of which were later confirmed to have been shot (see here), and then last week’s news that three gamekeepers on the Queen’s grouse moor at Goathland had been suspended following a police investigation in to the trapping and alleged killing of a goshawk in May (see here).

The grouse shooting industry’s professed ‘zero tolerance for raptor persecution’ (see here) is as unconvincing now as it was when it was claimed last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that……etc.

Poisoned buzzard, next to poisoned bait: circumstances ‘inconclusive’ says Derbyshire Constabulary!

I don’t know what’s going on at Derbyshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team but someone needs to check that Amanda Anderson isn’t moonlighting.

You may recall a couple of weeks ago we blogged about an illegally poisoned buzzard that had been found dead in the Peak District National Park, next to an illegal poisoned bait (see here). The focus of the blog was the long delay from discovery (April 2019) to publicity (Jan 2020) and even then the publicity had come from the RSPB, not from the police.

[The illegally poisoned buzzard. Photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]

The story doesn’t end there.

On Friday (14th Feb), the following post appeared on Derbyshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team’s Facebook page:

Er….right oh.

The Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group has called out this nonsense with another blog and an open letter of complaint to the Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner – read it here.

Of particular note, this official toxicology report on the buzzard and the poisoned bait, written by Dr Ed Blane (National Coordinator for the independent Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, HM Inspector Health & Safety Executive) who writes:

“…..The evidence therefore suggests that the Buzzard died as the result of the deliberate and illegal use of a high concentration of chloralose on a partridge bait, rather than through secondary poisoning from a different legally applied source…..

And yet Derbyshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team claims “There are too many unknown variables to conclusively say that the buzzard has been poisoned deliberately“.

And guess who’ll be using that ‘official police statement’ to play down the ongoing problem of illegal raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park?

Supt Nick Lyall – you need to be looking at this with some urgency.

UPDATE 23 February 2020: Derbyshire Police respond to criticism over poisoned buzzard investigation (here)

Buzzard illegally poisoned in Peak District National Park

A buzzard has been found illegally poisoned in the Peak District National Park.

A poisoned bait (a red-legged partridge) was found close by.

Toxicology tests revealed both the buzzard and the partridge contained the pesticide Alphachloralose.

[The poisoned buzzard. Photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]

The thing is, this illegally poisoned buzzard wasn’t found in January, or December, or in any other recent month. It was discovered on 14th April 2019.

The police decided, for whatever reason, that it was best to keep quiet about this. There were no public appeals for information and no public warnings that a poisoner was actively placing baits containing dangerous, highly toxic chemicals out in the countryside. Baits that if touched by a child, adult or a dog could result in acute illness and even death.

Two weeks ago the RSPB issued a press statement about this poisoning crime that reads as follows:


22 January 2020

A protected bird of prey has been illegally poisoned in one of the UK’s worst raptor persecution blackspots.

In April 2019 a member of the public found a buzzard freshly dead in woodland near Tintwistle, just north of Valehouse Reservoir, in the Peak District National Park. Close by were the remains of a red-legged partridge.

A post-mortem and toxicology tests under taken by Natural England showed that the buzzard and partridge both contained the pesticide Alphachloralose.

Natural England concluded that ‘abuse of chloralose, using a bird bait, has occurred at this location and at least one buzzard has been poisoned’.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Derbyshire Police were made aware at the time of the discovery and informed of the toxicology result in August.

Alphachloralose is one of the most commonly abused pesticides for illegally targeting birds of prey.

The northern Dark Peak has been the scene of many crimes involving the poisoning, trapping and shooting of birds of prey, making it one of the UK’s worst blackspots, according to the RSPB’s recent Birdcrime report. A scientific article, Raptor Persecution in the Peak District National Park, cemented the link between raptor persecution and land managed for driven grouse shooting in the Peak District National Park.

[Confirmed raptor persecution crimes in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, 2007-2019. Map produced by RSPB]

Howard Jones, Investigations Officer at the RSPB, said: “The relentless destruction of birds of prey in the Dark Peak needs to stop. This area has become a black hole for birds of prey like buzzards though this is exactly the habitat where they should be thriving. Deliberately poisoning birds is not only illegal but incredibly dangerous to other wildlife, not to mention people and pets. What if a dog or a child had found this and touched it? It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Derbyshire Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.


When you’ve read more of these types of press release than you care to remember, you get a feel for style and content. It seems quite apparent that this is not a joint press release between the RSPB and the police, as so many of them often are. There’s no quote from an investigating police officer, there’s no incident number, and there’s a pointed sentence that Derbyshire Police were informed of the incident in April and updated with the toxicology results in August.

And then there’s this recent blog about the poisoning incident from the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, which is a bit difficult to follow because it references unsighted material and various unnamed email correspondents. However, what does seem clear is that someone from the shooting industry is claiming that a police officer said this poisoning incident was suspicious but ‘definitely not illegal persecution’.


Haven’t we been in this position before, where it looked like deliberate attempts were being made to suppress confirmed raptor crimes in the Peak District National Park?

Let’s hope that isn’t what’s going on here, but nevertheless, there is absolutely no excuse for the police not to have warned the public about the presence of potentially lethal poisonous baits, at the time they were discovered, especially inside one of the country’s most visited National Parks.

UPDATE 16 February 2020: Poisoned buzzard, next to poisoned bait: circumstances ‘inconclusive’ says Derbyshire Constabulary! (here)

UPDATE 23 February 2020: Derbyshire Police respond to criticism over poisoned buzzard investigation (here)

Two red kites confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire

Red Kite Mali HallsYesterday, North Yorkshire Police put out the following press release:


Police are appealing for information and warning about the dangers of illegal bird of prey poisoning.

Two red kites were found poisoned in the Nidderdale area of North Yorkshire in 2016.

One was found near Pateley Bridge on 12 March 2016. Tests have attributed its death to alphachloralose. Traces of aldicarb and three rodenticides (difenacoum, bromadiolone and brodifacoum) were also identified.

The second was found near Bouthwaite on 18 May 2016. Shockingly, tests have shown the presence of eight different poisons – alphachloralose, aldicarb, bendiocarb, carbofuran and isofenphos, together with three rodenticides.

Officers are appealing for information about the two incidents, and warning members of the public about the dangers of this illegal practice. Hard-hitting posters urging people to report suspected wildlife poisoning are being distributed across the county.

Inspector Jon Grainge, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “The use of poisons in the two Nidderdale cases is particularly shocking. The practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife is cruel and illegal. It is also a serious risk to members of the public and their children or pets if they come into contact with them.

If you find a mammal or bird that you believe has been poisoned, please do not touch it, as poisons can transfer through skin contact. Also keep youngsters and pets well away. Make a note of the location, including GPS co-ordinates if possible, and anything else that is around or near the animal, and contact the police immediately”.

Anyone with information about the poisoning of the red kites found in Nidderdale should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12160043415, or email


Have a look at this map. The poisoned red kite at Bouthwaite was found just to the north of the Gouthwaite Reservoir, and the poisoned red kite near Pateley Bridge was found just to south. Look at the land use on either side of the reservoir: this is driven grouse shooting country.


Presumably these two poisoned red kites were part of the ten suspicious red kite deaths investigated in North Yorkshire in 2016. Most of those were confirmed shot but there were a number of suspected poisonings too.

It seems strange that North Yorkshire Police is only now appealing for information about two poisoned red kites that were found nine and eleven months ago respectively. The delay may be due to issues at the toxicology lab (it wouldn’t be the first time) and therefore beyond North Yorkshire Police’s control. The delay is certainly at odds with the commendable speed with which North Yorks Police announced some of last year’s shot red kites (e.g. see here – shot kite found on Sunday, press release out by Monday). They were also incredibly quick off the mark to go out and investigate the three illegal pole traps found on the Mossdale Estate grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park last year, and although senior officers ballsed up what should have been a straight forward prosecution, at least they were honest and transparent, admitted the mistake and amended their policies as a result.

The long delay aside, it is very good to see North Yorkshire Police provide detailed information about the type of poisons used in these two crimes (take note, Police Scotland). It’s also very good to see them proactively warning the public of the danger of these highly toxic substances (again, take note Police Scotland), especially as we head towards spring, which is typically the time when illegal raptor persecution really hots up.

North Yorkshire Police have certainly got their work cut out fighting wildlife crime, and particularly raptor persecution. North Yorkshire is consistently rated the worst county in the UK for the number of reported crimes against raptors, and a lot of it takes place in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park. We were only talking about this region two days ago in relation to the ongoing persecution of hen harriers.


Photo of red kite by Mali Halls

Subsidy penalty for East Arkengarthdale Estate?

Ten days ago we blogged about the RSPB’s Investigations Team finding a buried poisons cache on the East Arkengarthdale Estate in North Yorkshire in 2014 (see here).


Incredibly, nobody was prosecuted for this illegal stash and, despite the best efforts of North Yorkshire Police, the gamekeeper who had admitted using the poisons cache had his firearms certificates returned.

We asked several organisations within the grouse shooting industry a number of questions about this case (see here) but so far, none of them have said a word about it (in public, at least). We’ll come back to this.

What we’re interested in now is whether the East Arkengarthdale Estate will be the focus of an investigation by DEFRA’s Rural Payments Agency. Did this estate receive any agricultural subsidies in 2014, if so under what scheme(s), and does having confirmation that an estate gamekeeper was using the poisons cache constitute a cross-compliance breach of any of these subsidy schemes, and if so, will the estate receive a subsidy penalty?

According to records at Companies House, East Arkengarthdale Ltd has two Directors: Eric Axel Lennart Torstenson and Mrs Anita Ingrid Linnea Torstenson.

A search of the CAP Payments website shows that EAL Torstenson received the following subsidies in 2014 and 2015:



These documents show that EAL Torstenson received agricultural subsidies (trading as) Shaw Farm.

According to this 2003 newsletter about a Black Grouse Recovery Project, “Shaw Farm in North Yorkshire is part of the East Arkengarthdale Sporting Estate“.

Here’s a map of Shaw Farm, to the west of Hurst Moor where the poisons cache was found:


We’d like to draw the Rural Payments Agency’s attention to this case (because they have a duty to investigate anything that is drawn to their attention so by telling them about it they can’t later claim they didn’t know anything about it) and we’d like them to answer the following questions:

  1. Did the CAP subsidies received by Shaw Farm in 2014 cover the land where the poisons cache was discovered?
  2. If so, does having a poisons cache, administered by a gamekeeper, qualify as a cross-compliance breach?
  3. If so, will the Rural Payments Agency be applying a subsidy penalty?

Emails to:

More raptor poisonings in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

Peregrine GlenwherryLast month we blogged about a dead peregrine that had been found at a well known persecution hotspot on 11th April 2016 (see here). Laboratory tests have now confirmed this peregrine was poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran.

A further two poisoned raptors have now been reported in Co Antrim: a buzzard found in woodland in Glenarm on 15th March 2016 (lab results confirm Carbofuran poisoning) and a second buzzard, also found near Glenarm on 29th March 2016 (lab tests confirm Alphachloralose poisoning).

Media coverage here, here, here.

Well done to PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer Emma Meredith, who pressed for a quick turnaround on these lab results. This is a major step forward in the fight against raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, where previous lab results and subsequent police appeals have taken far, far too long (e.g. see here).

A further step forward in tackling raptor persecution in NI was announced in March (here) with the launch of a multi-agency initiative, Operation Raptor. With the news of these latest three poisoning victims, they’ve got their work cut out.

Crown Office drops prosecution against Glenogil Estate gamekeeper

Snared fox dead alt, Glenogil Estate, Credit OneKindRegular blog readers will know we’ve been following the case of Scottish gamekeeper William Curr, who had been charged last year with alleged snaring offences on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens, said to have occurred in September 2014 (see here, here, here and here).

The charges related to allegations that several snares had not been checked (as they are required to be) within a 24-hour period of being set, after a field officer from the charity OneKind had discovered a dead snared deer, a dead snared fox and another snared fox that was still alive but had to be euthanised at the scene due to the extent of its horrific injuries (see OneKind photo).

For a harrowing description of what was found on Glenogil Estate, including a confrontation with the Head Gamekeeper, read this blog on the OneKind website.

Curr’s trial was due to start on 9th May but last week (10 March) the Crown Office informed the court that it was not going to proceed. OneKind has not yet been able to ascertain the reason for this decision, and in fact may never find out because the Crown Office is under no obligation to explain.

Accountability and transparency, anybody?

To quote from the OneKind blog:

OneKind is mystified by the dropping of this case, given the eye witness evidence, the horrific video footage and the detailed follow-up investigation carried out by the Scottish SPCA. This was a shocking incident where at least six people, including gamekeepers, witnessed the terror and pain of a live fox as the wire noose of a snare sliced into its abdomen. Had our research officer not been on the estate on that particular day, who knows how much longer the fox would have continued to suffer?

To put this dreadful story in the wider context: snares are still legal in Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is simply intolerable that the suffering this fox endured should be considered legally acceptable. The video footage is utterly harrowing and illustrates an animal which is clearly distressed, both physically and mentally. OneKind has long called for an outright ban on all snares and sadly we feel these calls have been justified by this case.

OneKind will seek an explanation for the failure of the Scottish justice system to bring this animal welfare case to court“.

The reason we’ve been so interested in this case is because the alleged offences occurred on the Glenogil Estate, one of several grouse shooting estates in the Angus Glens where wildlife crime incidents keep cropping up but have never resulted in a successful prosecution. For example, here are some incidents reported from in and around Glenogil over the last ten years:

2006 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2006 April: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2006 April: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2006 June: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2006 June: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. Not listed in 2006 RSPB annual report but reported here. (Now former) estate owner John Dodd had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments as a result. This was being appealed but it is not known how this was resolved. Also a write up in RSPB 2007 annual report. No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird. Not listed in RSPB annual report but reported here. No prosecution.

2008 May: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2008 May: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2008 May: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2008 May: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2008 October: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2009 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2009 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2009 August: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2010 May: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2010 September: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2010 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2010 October: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2010 October: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2012 April: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Listed as ‘Nr Noranside’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.

2014 June: shot buzzard. Listed as ‘Glenogil’ in RSPB annual report. No prosecution.