Fascinating new details emerge about investigation into raptor persecution on Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset

Earlier this year, criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen was sentenced for multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences committed on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset in 2021 (see here).

He first came to the attention of the police after a member of the public discovered a dead red kite on the estate in November 2020. Tests revealed it contained the poison Bendiocarb and this triggered a multi-agency raid in March 2021 led by Dorset Police’s (now former) wildlife crime officer Claire Dinsdale.

The poisoned red kite found on the Shaftesbury Estate by Dorset resident Johanna Dollerson

Officers found the corpses of six dead buzzards by a pen behind the gamekeeper’s house (tests later showed they had all been shot, including one that was was estimated to have been shot in the last 24hrs). Officers also found the remains (bones) of at least three more buzzards on a bonfire.

A loaded shotgun was found propped up behind a kitchen door (!) and 55 rounds of ammunition were found in a shed. Both the gun and the ammunition should have been inside a locked, specifically-designed gun cabinet, by law. The gun and the ammunition were not covered by Allen’s firearms certificate.

Officers also found a number of dangerous, and banned, chemicals, including two bottles of Strychnine, two containers of Cymag and a packet of Ficam W (Bendiocarb) in various locations, including in a vehicle used by Allen.

Some of you may also recall that Allen was initially charged with killing the red kite, but court records showed that this charge, along with two others, was subsequently dropped minutes before the hearing (see here), probably as some kind of bargaining agreement between the lawyers.

Allen was sentenced in February 2023 and escaped a custodial sentence due to his personal circumstances (see here).

If you recall, the Shaftesbury Estate was also where a young satellite-tagged poisoned white-tailed eagle was found dead, a year later, in January 2022. Tests revealed the eagle’s liver contained seven times the lethal dose of the rodenticide Brodifacoum but Dorset Police refused to conduct a search of the estate, despite already running an investigation into gamekeeper Paul Allen’s crimes on the same estate(!), and they still haven’t provided a credible explanation for that appalling decision (see here).

Now new details have emerged about what was found during the investigation into gamekeeper Allen, thanks to Guy Shorrock, a member of the PAW Forensics Working Group and a former Senior Investigator at RSPB. Guy has written a guest blog for Wild Justice to demonstrate how the Raptor Forensics Fund, initiated by Wild Justice in 2020, has been used to help bring a number of criminal gamekeepers to court.

In that guest blog, Guy discusses the forensic testing undertaken on a ‘cut open’ dead rat that had been found next to the red kite’s corpse. Tests revealed it, too, contained the poison Bendiocarb – in other words, it had been placed as a poisoned bait. Forensic testing also confirmed that the kite had consumed part of a brown rat. You don’t have to be Poirot to piece it all together but even though Allen’s vehicle contained multiple pots of Bendiocarb, this still isn’t sufficient evidence to demonstrate without reasonable doubt that he was responsible for placing the poisoned bait that killed that red kite. This is a very good example of just how high the criminal burden of proof is and why so many prosecutions against gamekeepers have failed.

What has also been revealed is that in addition to being poisoned by Bendiocarb, that red kite also contained NINE times the lethal level of the rodenticide Brodifacoum in its system!! Sound familiar? The dead white-tailed eagle, found on the same estate a year later, contained seven times the lethal dose. To me, this makes Dorset Police’s decision not to search the Shaftesbury Estate even more non-sensical than previously thought.

Wild Justice has asked its legal team to examine Dorset Police’s botched handling of the poisoned white-tailed eagle case and expects to have more news on that in due course.

Meanwhile, I’d really encourage you to read Guy’s guest blog on Wild Justice’s website (here), published this morning, for a fascinating insight into the pain-staking forensic work that goes in to prosecuting those who continue to kill raptors.

The Raptor Forensics Fund, initiated by Wild Justice and supported by donations from the Northern England Raptor Forum, Tayside & Fife Raptor Study Group, Devon Birds, and a number of generous individuals who wish to remain anonymous, is now running low (because it’s been used so often!). Wild Justice intends to top up the fund shortly. If you’d like to donate to Wild Justice’s work, please click here. Thank you.

Millden Estate says it will appeal General Licence restriction imposed after evidence of raptor persecution

Earlier this week, NatureScot announced it had imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, after three shot buzzards were found in bags outside gamekeepers’ cottages on the estate in 2019 (see here and here).

In an article subsequently published by The Courier this week (here), an unnamed spokesperson for Millden Estate said they would appeal the decision.

Quotes from Millden Estate cited in The Courier article include:

The estate does not condone or tolerate any illegal activity relating to the welfare of animals or wildlife“,


We are extremely disappointed by this decision and intend to appeal


The estate does not condone or tolerate any illegal activity relating to the welfare of animals or wildlife and it has robust and comprehensive systems in place to ensure compliance with the law.

We were shocked at the time to learn of all allegations of wildlife crime against an employee of the estate. He was subject to an extensive investigation by the police and the crown and dealt with.

The employee involved was suspended by the estate with immediate effect and resigned a few days later when the police investigation was still at an early stage.

At no stage was the estate itself the focus of the investigation. We consider that the estate is being unfairly penalised for events not within its control and for which it bore no responsibility.”

The last three sentences from the estate are mostly what I would describe as being a red herring because they relate to the conviction of Millden Estate gamekeeper Rhys Davies for badger-baiting and other sadistic animal welfare offences, which took place at locations away from Millden Estate (although he kept his mutilated and scarred fighting dogs kennelled at Millden; injuries that the Crown Office described as ‘obvious injuries’ but which apparently went unnoticed by Davies’ gamekeeper colleagues and bosses for months).

Two of gamekeeper Rhys Davies’ obviously mutilated dogs, tethered to what appears to be a work vehicle. Photo: SSPCA

Oh, and the estate WAS the focus of the investigation into gamekeeper Rhys Davies as the search warrant included a provision to search various sites on Millden Estate looking for evidence of badger sett disturbance (I’m not aware that any was found there). And Davies’ tied cottage and associated outbuildings on the estate were also searched, under warrant, where a number of serious firearms offences were uncovered, specifically, an unsecured Benelli shotgun was found propped up against a wall near the front door; two unsecured rifles were also found: a Tikka .243 rifle on the sofa and a CZ rifle in the hall cupboard next to the open gun cabinet;  and an assortment of unsecured ammunition was found including 23 bullets in a pot on the floor, five in a carrier bag behind the front door and one on top of a bed, according to a statement by the Crown Office.

So why do I think the latest remarks from Millden Estate to the journalist from The Courier are a red herring? Well, simply because the General Licence restriction hasn’t been imposed on Millden Estate for Davies’ depraved offences – it has absolutely nothing to do with him or his crimes. The General Licence restriction has been imposed after the discovery of three shot buzzards shoved inside bags outside two gamekeepers’ houses (found during the SSPCA/Police raid at Millden when they were investigating Davies) as well as ‘incidents relating to trapping offences’, for which Davies, nor anybody else, has been prosecuted.

Tellingly, the Millden Estate spokesperson fails to mention any of this detail, but instead focuses on how Davies has been ‘dealt with’ [convicted] and is no longer employed at Millden. Irrelevant, mate.

Of course, Millden Estate is entitled to appeal NatureScot’s decision to impose a General Licence restriction, as laid out in the framework for restrictions on NatureScot’s website (here). Although to be honest it’s all a bit absurd as the estate has already had one opportunity to appeal, when NatureScot first notified Millden of its intention to restrict the General Licence. Now it gets another bite of the cherry.

But so be it. Other estates with a restriction have also previously appealed, and all have failed. For example, Raeshaw Estate lost a judicial review in 2017 here; Leadhills Estate lost an appeal in 2019 here (and this is really worth reading- it’s hilariously inept); and Leadhills Estate lost another appeal in 2021 after a second GL restriction was imposed here; Lochan Estate in Strathbraan lost its appeal in 2022 here; Invercauld Estate lost its appeal in 2022 here; and Moy Estate also lost its appeal in 2022 here).

Millden Estate must lodge its appeal in writing within 14 days of receiving its General Licence restriction notice from NatureScot. That will trigger a suspension of the restriction notice (ridiculous, I know!) until such time as NatureScot has undertaken the appeal process, which it tries to complete within four weeks.

Two poisoned buzzards found dead next to poisoned bait in Wales – appeal for information comes 7 months later

Two dead buzzards have been found next to a dead pigeon in a south Wales wood – all three have tested positive for Bendiocarb, a restricted poison that is currently the most widely-used substance for illegally poisoning birds of prey.

The two dead buzzards and the poisoned bait were found in woodland near HM Prison Parc in Bridgend in August 2022.

One of the poisoned buzzards next to the poisoned bait (a pigeon)

It’s not clear why it’s taken seven months for an appeal for information to emerge but it’s noticeable that the appeal (see below) has been led by the RSPB and not by South Wales Police.

So yet again, another police force has failed to warn the public about the use of a highly dangerous poison in a public area, that’s already killed at least two protected species.

I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for police forces to get this right – we see them cocking this up time and time and time again. Even if there’s a delay getting results back from the lab (as there so often is), it’s pretty obvious from the circumstances in this case that poisoning was the likely cause of death and therefore the public should have been alerted/warned immediately, not seven months after the event. Seriously, how hard can it be? It doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?


Poisoned buzzards prompt police warning to public

*Two Buzzards – a species protected by law – were found poisoned in Bridgend, posing a risk to public safety.

*Police and RSPB Cymru are asking anyone with information to come forward.

South Wales Police and RSPB Cymru are appealing to the public for information after two Buzzards were found illegally poisoned near HM Prison Parc in Bridgend.

The bodies were found by a member of the public alongside a dead feral pigeon in woodland near the prison in August 2022, and South Wales Police launched an investigation.

All three birds tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb, a fast-acting poison. This is now banned in most forms but is frequently used to target birds of prey.

It has not been possible to identify a suspect.

Niall Owen, RSPB Raptor Officer, said: “It’s clear that these Buzzards were killed after feeding on the pigeon, which was laced with poison in a deliberate act to target birds of prey. This is not only illegal and dangerous to wildlife but represents a serious risk to any person or pet that may have come across it. If you have any information relating to this incident, please contact South Wales Police on 101.”

All birds of prey are protected by law, and to kill or injure one could result in jail and/or an unlimited fine.

If you find a dead or injured bird of prey which you suspect may have been poisoned or illegally killed in some way, call 101 and contact the RSPB via this online reporting form.

You can also get in touch anonymously by calling the RPSB’s Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.


Millden is yet another grouse-shooting estate to be sanctioned after police find evidence of raptor persecution

Further to this morning’s news that Millden Estate in the Angus Glens has been slapped with a three-year General Licence restriction after evidence was found of raptor persecution crimes (see here), it’s worth examining the background to this case.

Millden is one of a number of grouse-shooting estates situated in the Angus Glens that has featured many, many times on this blog (see here for all Millden posts).

Location of Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. Estate boundaries sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website

Millden Estate first came to my attention in July 2009 when a young satellite-tagged golden eagle called Alma was found dead on the moor – she’d ingested the deadly poison Carbofuran (here). It wasn’t clear where she’d been poisoned and the estate denied responsibility.

Then in 2012 there was the case of another satellite-tagged golden eagle, believed to have been caught in a spring trap on Millden Estate before moving, mysteriously, several km north during the night-time only to be found dead in a layby with two broken legs a few days later (here and here). The estate denied responsibility and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association conducted an ‘analysis’ (cough) and deduced it was all just a terrible accident (here).

There have been other incidents – former Tayside Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart describes ‘a horrendous catalogue of criminality’ recorded on Millden Estate during his time (see here). However, despite this history, nobody has ever been prosecuted for raptor persecution crimes on Millden Estate.

Today’s announcement from NatureScot that a General Licence restriction has been imposed on Millden Estate is the first sanction I’m aware of at this location. It has been imposed after three shot buzzards were found in bags outside two gamekeeper’s cottages during an SSPCA-led investigation into badger-baiting and other animal-fighting offences in 2019.

That investigation led to the successful conviction in May 2022 of depraved Millden Estate gamekeeper Rhys Davies for his involvement in some sickening animal cruelty crimes (see here). Despite his conviction, Millden Estate denied all knowledge of this employee’s criminal activities (here).

There hasn’t been a prosecution for the shooting (or possession) of those three shot buzzards, nor for the six other shot raptors found in a bag just a short distance from the Millden Estate boundary (here), and nor will there be, according to a statement provided to me by the Crown Office (here).

With this long history of un-attributable wildlife crime on and close to Millden Estate, the imposition of a General Licence restriction is welcome news, although in real terms it’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience to the estate. It doesn’t stop their legal killing of so-called pest species (e.g. crows) because all they have to do is apply for an Individual licence, which NatureScot will have to grant (although it can revoke an Individual licence if more evidence of crime emerges – as happened on Raeshaw Estate in 2017 – see here), and nor does it stop the legal killing of red grouse, pheasants or red-legged partridge by paying guests.

This photograph appeared on social media in 2017 titled ‘Team Millden’ and shows a bunch of blokes dressed in Millden tweed grinning inside the estate’s larder after a day’s grouse shooting.

I’ve written about the monumental ineffectiveness of General Licence restrictions many times (e.g. see hereherehereherehere) and my view hasn’t changed. The only weight that a General Licence restriction carries is a reputational hit for the estate on which it is imposed, which was the Environment Minister’s aim when GL restrictions were first mooted (here).

This is useful from a campaigner’s perspective because it allows us to demonstrate that raptor persecution continues on Scottish grouse moors, despite the absurd denials of senior industry representatives (e.g. see here).

But it doesn’t stop the estate’s business activities. You might think that others in the industry, or even elected politicians, would shun a restricted estate but that simply doesn’t happen (e.g. see here and here).

And nor is it an effective deterrent – Leadhills Estate, a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire, was slapped with a second General Licence restriction after ‘clear evidence’ of wildlife crime was uncovered whilst the estate was still serving its first restriction notice (see here)!

Given the current number of grouse-shooting estates serving General Licence restrictions after ‘clear evidence’ of wildlife crime was provided by Police Scotland: Leadhills Estate (here), Lochan Estate (here), Leadhills Estate [again] (here), Invercauld Estate (here), Moy Estate (here) and now Millden Estate (here), it’s clear that the Scottish Government’s proposed grouse-shoot licensing scheme can’t come soon enough.

There are strong rumours that the Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill will be presented to the Scottish Parliament before Easter and many of us are eagerly awaiting its publication to see the details of what is proposed and, importantly, how it will be enforced.

One thing’s for sure, it will need to be a lot more robust than the General Licence restriction and any sanctions, which should hopefully include terminating an estate’s ability to continue gamebird shooting during a determined-sanction period, will need to be deployed a lot quicker than the time it takes for a General Licence restriction to be imposed (it’s taken four years for the GL restriction to be placed on Millden Estate).

UPDATE 10th March 2023: Millden Estate says it will appeal General Licence restriction imposed after evidence of raptor persecution (here)

General Licence restriction imposed on Millden, a grouse-shooting estate in the Angus Glens, after evidence of raptor persecution

Press release from NatureScot (8th March 2023):



The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

This evidence included three shot buzzards found on the estate in 2019, and incidents relating to trapping offences.

Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, said: “The discovery of three shot buzzards on Millden estate, two of which were found within a bag at an estate house, as well as trapping offences and ongoing concerns relating to general licence compliance, have resulted in the suspension of the use of general licences on this property for three years until March 2026.

NatureScot is committed to using all the tools we have available to tackle wildlife crime. This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place.

We believe this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime. We will continue to work closely with Police Scotland and consider information they provide on cases which may warrant restricting general licences.

The estate may still apply for individual licences; however, these will be subject to enhanced record-keeping and reporting requirements and will be closely monitored to ensure adherence with licence conditions.”

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out control of common species of wild birds, such as crows and magpies, to protect crops or livestock, without the need to apply for an individual licence.

In addition to this restriction, there are currently four other restrictions in place in Scotland: on Moy Estate in Highland, Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, Lochan Estate in Perthshire and Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.


I’ll be writing more about this later today….

UPDATE 16.20hrs: Millden is yet another grouse-shooting estate to be sanctioned after police find evidence of raptor persecution (here).

UPDATE 10th March 2023: Millden Estate says it will appeal General Licence restriction imposed after evidence of raptor persecution (here)

Natural England’s response to sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen

Following the sentencing last week of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen in Dorset (here), I’ve been reviewing the responses from various organisations including the RSPB (here), the game-shooting industry (here) and Dorset Police (here).

Today I’m reviewing Natural England’s response.

Natural England (NE) published the following blog (reproduced below) on the day Allen was sentenced (16th Feb 2023):

By Stephanie Bird-Halton, National Delivery Director.

Today, Paul Allen, a gamekeeper working on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset, was sentenced for offences of possession of dead buzzards, keeping of banned pesticides and failing to comply with conditions of shotgun and firearms certificates.

Natural England is determined to tackle the scourge of raptor persecution. One of our roles involves investigating incidents where wildlife has been poisoned and we assisted Dorset Police in in this prosecution, gathering evidence and providing specialist technical advice. We are extremely pleased that he has been held to account for his appalling offences against wildlife.

This case, and the death in Dorset of one of the stunning White-tailed Eagles reintroduced to the Isle of Wight, are clear examples of a wider problem: the widespread misuse and abuse of poisons in the countryside which is killing birds of prey, and poses ongoing risks to the public.

During the coronavirus lockdown period, there was a spike in the number of poisoning cases reported with 230 accepted into the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) in 2020/21 as compared with 124 in 2019/20 and the problem has not gone away. In 2021/22, Natural England accepted 133 incidents of animal deaths suspected to be poisonings into WIIS. Cases remain unevenly spread throughout England with the highest number of incidents consistently being found in North Yorkshire (28 in 2019/20 and 54 in 2020/21).

When we investigate an incident and confirm it is a poisoning, we assess the evidence gathered, post-mortem results and tissue analysis to find out if the poisoning was as a result of a misuse or abuse of pesticides. Misuse is not following the legal requirements of use, whereas abuse is deliberate use in an illegal manner to poison animals. Where the evidence is unclear, cases are classified as “unspecified”. Not all cases accepted into investigation reach the assessment process, particularly where it becomes clear that pesticides have not been involved in the death of the animal.

In 2020/21, 37 cases of animal poisoning were assessed as being the result of abuse. There were six cases of misuse and 140 unspecified. 21 of the abuse cases related to the poisoning of raptors and these cases were passed on to the Police for further investigation.

The RSPB’s Bird crime 2021 report, published last November tells the same story of raptor persecution, with 80 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in England, mainly through shooting, trapping or poisoning.

Based on data from WIIS, from 2016 onward, Natural England has observed a particular increase in frequency of Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARS) being linked to the cause of death in animals or being found in relatively high concentrations in those animals.

Rodent control is essential to public health and users of rodenticides, including SGARS, span many industries including pest controllers, farmers and food producers. Other users of rodenticides include the game shooting industry. The use of anticoagulant rodenticides by professional users must follow the requirements of the industry led rodenticide stewardship regime Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use UK set up in 2016, as well as complying with the product label requirements.

It is imperative that anyone dealing with a rodent problem keeps within the law, follows the best practice guidelines, only using rodenticides after alternatives have been explored and doing so in a graduated, careful and responsible way, ensuring that rodent carcasses are disposed of promptly. However, cases of raptors dying with high levels of rodenticides in their system suggest there is a problem with the use of rodenticides – whether this be from deliberate abuse or misuse.

NE will continue to play its part, investigating poisoning incidents and working with the police and other partners to prosecute offences. Anyone can help – reports from the public can play an essential part in identifying cases of raptor persecution. However, without all landowners, land managers and gamekeepers complying with the law and reporting illegal activity, the impact on our wildlife will continue.


It’s a bit all over the place to be honest, mostly focusing on the mis-use of rodenticides, which, whilst important in the wider scheme of things, had nothing whatsoever to do with gamekeeper Paul Allen’s conviction.

It’s interesting though that they mention the poisoned white-tailed eagle that was found dead on the same estate ten months after Allen’s crimes were discovered (and for which nobody has been held responsible because Dorset Police botched the investigation). Natural England had a role to play in the follow-up to that botched investigation, along with the Health & Safety Executive, and I’ll return to this once NE has responded to some pending Freedom of Information requests.

The last sentence in NE’s statement is just laughable:

However, without all landowners, land managers and gamekeepers complying with the law and reporting illegal activity, the impact on our wildlife will continue‘.

You don’t say!

But at least NE has explicitly laid the blame of raptor persecution at the door of the game-shooting industry. That is helpful from a campaigning perspective.

In addition to this blog, NE’s Chief Executive Marian Spain tweeted about the case:

She came in for some criticism from others on Twitter for failing to mention the other partners involved with this successful prosecution, notably the RSPB, just as Dorset Police had failed to acknowledge their involvement. Although in Marian’s case I doubt this was a deliberate, petty and vindictive move, unlike Dorset Police’s probable motivation.

But what struck me most about her tweet was her claim that one of the ways NE works to tackle raptor persecution is by ‘working with shooting bodies to change attitudes‘ and by ‘prosecuting offenders‘.

How’s that going then, Marian? How many attitudes has NE changed? Given that 2020 saw the highest level of reported raptor persecution crimes in 30 years (here) and the most recent report from 2021 had the second highest number on record (here), I’d argue that attitudes haven’t changed one bit.

She might point to DEFRA’s ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling sham as ‘evidence of changed attitudes’ (because a handful of grouse moor owners are now ‘allowing’ hen harriers to breed) but I’d point out that since hen harrier brood meddling began in 2018, at least 77 hen harriers are known to have been illegally killed or have gone ‘missing’, mostly on or close to grouse moors (here). That’s not a change in attitude. That’s evidence of on-going law breaking by an industry that NE has jumped into bed with, switched on the electric blanket and pulled up the duvet.

And as for ‘prosecuting offenders‘, I think Guy Shorrock’s tweet says it all (Guy, a now-retired RSPB Investigator, worked for 30 years in this field so I think he’s well placed to ask the question):

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‘.

Game-shooting industry’s response to sentencing of Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen

Further to last week’s blog about criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen’s sentencing for committing multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset (here), here is a round-up of responses from the organisations within the game-shooting industry who also serve on the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), whose main objective is to raise awareness amongst the organisations’ members about illegal raptor persecution and prevent these crimes from happening:

Convicted gamekeeper Paul Allen. Photo: BNPS

National Gamekeepers Association: The previous statement published by the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO), after Allen had pleaded guilty at a hearing in January, was so cryptic that the casual visitor to the NGO website wouldn’t have known it related to Allen and his crimes (see here).

So it’s pleasing to see that this time the NGO has published a statement acknowledging that criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen is an NGO member and that he has now been expelled. The following statement has prominent billing on the NGO’s website:

Expulsion from membership is good, and I applaud the NGO for publicising this action, although in reality it has no bearing whatsoever on Allen’s ability to continue working as a gamekeeper. Although often described by the shooting industry as a ‘profession’, gamekeeping isn’t regulated in the same way as I what I understand to be an actual ‘profession’.

For example, in many other (actual) professions, you’d be disbarred/struck off from practicing if convicted of an offence, especially an offence commissioned whilst undertaking your ‘professional’ duties. Not so for gamekeeping – you can be chucked out of one of the membership clubs but you can still ‘practice’/be employed as a gamekeeper even with a criminal conviction. We’ve seen this happen on many occasions, where a convicted gamekeeper has simply moved to another estate and carried on as though nothing has happened.

I note that the NGO’s statement on Allen has not been publicised on the NGO’s Twitter or Facebook accounts, only on its website.

British Association for Shooting & Conservation: BASC didn’t bother to publish any statement after Allen’s criminal conviction back in January, but it has done now he’s been sentenced, which is progress. The following statement has prominent billing on the BASC website:

As with the NGO’s statement, it’s good to see that BASC also hasn’t tried to be cryptic as its statement is clearly linked to Paul Allen’s crimes, conviction and sentencing.

Predictably, there’s a considerable amount of damage limitation included in the statement, talking about the so-called ‘minority who engage in this criminal behaviour‘ and maintaining that the shooting industry ‘works hard to support sustainable shooting‘ (er, the importation & release of 60+ million non-native gamebirds every year cannot possibly be described as ‘sustainable’!) but at least it’s published something in recognition of Allen’s crimes. Although, as with the NGO, I note that BASC’s statement on Allen has not been publicised on the BASC Twitter or Facebook accounts, only on its website.

COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE: Remains silent on Allen’s crimes, conviction and sentencing. No surprise.

COUNTRY LAND & BUSINESS ASSOCIATION (CLA): Remains silent on Allen’s crimes, conviction and sentencing.

I’ll blog shortly about responses to Allen’s sentencing from Dorset Police and Natural England.

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:

Criminal Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen receives suspended custodial sentence, despite multiple wildlife, poisons & firearms offences


Further to this morning’s blog (here), criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen, 54, of Baileys Hill, in Brockington, near Wimborne, has been given a suspended custodial sentence and a small fine after he pleaded guilty to multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences whilst working on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset in March 2021.

For possessing the dead birds (nine buzzards, six confirmed to have been shot), Allen received a total of 15 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

He also received fines totalling £2,022 and compensation to the value of £844.70.

He avoided an immediate custodial sentence on the basis of ‘strong personal mitigation’, which basically means he was saved from jail because of the impact it would have on the care of his two teenagers.

More to follow….

UPDATE 10pm: There’s a really good article on the Dorset Live website about what happened in court this afternoon – well worth a read (here)

UPDATE 17th February 2023: RSPB’s response to sentencing of criminal Dorset gamekeeper, Paul Allen (here)

UPDATE 20th February 2023: Game-shooting industry’s response to sentencing of Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen (here)

UPDATE 20th February 2023: Dorset Police response to sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen (here)

UPDATE 24th February 2023: Natural England’s response to sentencing of criminal gamekeeper Paul Allen (here)