Howden Moor sporting tenant is a Purdey Award winner

Following the conviction this week of gamekeeper Glenn Brown on the National Trust’s Howden Moor in the Upper Derwent Valley, Derbyshire, the sporting tenant has been named on the Birdguides website as Geoff Eyre (scroll to the comments section under the article).

According to The Moorland Association website, Geoff Eyre won the 2005 Purdey Award for Game and Conservation, for his Howden Regeneration Project. (As an aside, scroll down the page to see another 2005 Purdey Award winner, head gamekeeper Jimmy Shuttlewood from the Snilesworth Estate North Yorkshire – who was later convicted in 2008 with two underkeepers for the use of cage traps to capture birds of prey – story here).

Geoff Eyre has had a lot written about his pioneering work to restore Howden Moor to its former glory as a viable grouse moor. Here in 2006 he spoke about the ‘beneficial’ work of his gamekeeper. Also in 2006, this article was written in The Telegraph about the return and then subsequent loss of a pair of hen harriers on Howden Moor. In 2007, he hosted a visit by a DEFRA Minister for Landscape and Rural Affairs, reported here in The Shooting Times, accompanied by gamekeeper Glenn Brown (see photo). The Minister was impressed with what he saw, calling the project an ‘inspiration’ and a good use of public money.

One can only assume that Geoff Eyre was completely unaware of the criminal activities of his gamekeeper. You can ask him about it, and whether Brown has been sacked, at National Trust activity days in September 2011 – details here.

More on convicted Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown’s case

It was good to see so much media coverage following the conviction of criminal gamekeeper Glenn Brown on Monday. It made local, regional, national and international news, probably because he committed his crimes on National Trust property – which isn’t somewhere you’d normally expect to hear about wildlife crime taking place. Let’s hope that the National Trust are reviewing the lease of their land to the ‘un-named third party’ as we speak.

Despite the broad media coverage, very few articles mentioned the dead sparrowhawk that was found close to one of the traps that criminal gamekeeper Glenn Brown was operating.  Also found close by was the body of a white pigeon. Mark Thomas, one of the RSPB investigators involved with catching Brown at it, has written an excellent little piece about the investigation here, alluding to what might have happened to the dead sparrowhawk and dead pigeon.

Thomas also writes that since 2006, goshawk and peregrine productivity in the Derwent Valley has collapsed. By coincidence, gamekeeper Brown is reported to have been employed as a gamekeeper since 2006. Amazing.

Thomas and his colleagues from the RSPB Investigations team deserve a great deal of credit, especially for the innovative techniques they used to catch Brown. So too does Derbyshire Constabulary and the CPS. The resulting punishment for Brown, convicted of seven offences – 100 hours community service – delivered by District Judge Caroline Goulborn (famed for the recent cat-in-the-bin-case) is pathetic, especially when you consider the sentencing options available, which include fines up to £5,000 and a six month prison term for each offence. Had Brown not been ordered to pay £10,000 costs, some might have concluded that he had got off very lightly. Depending on who pays for these costs, and whether he keeps his job as a gamekeeper, some may be certain he got off lightly.

Derbyshire gamekeeper guilty of using illegal trap

The long-running trial that began over two months ago against Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown concluded today, and he was found guilty of using an illegal trap to try and catch birds of prey on the National Trust’s Howden Moor in the Peak District. The court heard that he was interested in protecting the grouse where he worked. The trial began on 11 April 2011 at Chesterfield Magistrates Court.

Brown was caught after RSPB investigators installed covert cameras overlooking a trap and filmed him over a period of time visiting the trap. He was unlawfully using a pigeon as a lure bird – this is illegal and is an indication that birds of prey were the target species he was trying to catch. He operated traps on land in the Upper Derwent Valley owned by the National Trust but leased by another party between 14 April and 25 May 2010.

Brown was found guilty of seven offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Animal Welfare Act 2010.

He was given 100 hours community service and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

BBC news story here including video

More on this story later. Congratulations to the RSPB investigators for catching another criminal gamekeeper at it, and to Derbyshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for seeing the case through to trial. In the BBC news video, it is reported that Brown is the 100th gamekeeper to be convicted of crimes against birds of prey. So, Alex Hogg, Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association, still think it’s “unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime“?

Derbyshire gamekeeper trial: adjourned until June

The trial of gamekeeper Glenn Brown, accused of seven offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act & the Animal Welfare Act, came to a temporary close on 13 May 2011. The charges relate to his alleged activities on Howden Moor in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. The trial has now been adjourned until 13 June 2011, when a verdict is expected at Chesterfield Magistrate’s Court.

For background info see blog posts 11 April 2011, 27 April 2011, 28 April 2011 and 9 May 2011.

Derbyshire gamekeeper trial extended

The trial of Glenn Brown, the Derbyshire gamekeeper facing 7 charges under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Animal Welfare Act, will continue this week at Chesterfield Magistrates Court.

Amongst other things, Brown is accused of using a crow trap to illegally trap raptors on Howden Moor in the Derwent Valley. See blog posts 11 April 2011, 27 April 2011 and 28 April 2011 for background info to this case.

Another update on trial of Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown

Following blog posts 11 & 27 April 2011…

The trial of Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown, accused of using a crow cage trap to capture birds of prey, has not finished today as expected. The trial will continue into next week…

Update on trial of Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown

Further to the blog post 11 April 2011….

A few of our readers have e-mailed to ask for an update on the trial of Derbyshire gamekeeper Glenn Brown. The trial started 11 April 2011 and was anticipated to last for 8 working days. We are reliably informed that the trial is now expected to conclude tomorrow (28 April 2011).

Further details to follow…

estate owner gets apology after being called an “arrogant old bastard” by wildlife crime officer

The Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland, John McNeill, has told Tayside Police that they must deliver an ‘unreserved apology’ for derogatory comments made about an estate owner during an alleged wildlife crime incident.

The investigation centred around allegations from two former gamekeepers that their employer had instructed them to kill any buzzards that were caught in crow traps on the estate. During the investigation, the estate owner became aware that Tayside Police’s civilian wildlife crime officer had referred to the estate owner as an “arrogant old bastard”. The estate owner made a formal complaint to the Police Complaints Commissioner, and also complained about his arrest, which he said caused “unneccesary distress” to his family.

Alan Stewart

The civilian wildlife crime officer in question might be Alan Stewart, a high-profile former police inspector who has been investigating wildlife crime in Tayside for a number of years and is the only one listed on the Tayside Police website: http://www.tayside.police.uk/wildlife/officers.php

To read the Police Complaints Commissioner’s report in full: PCCS_-_1004-2010-00491-PF-TP_-_Final_report

Of course, while all this name-calling and crying to the police has been going on, the real issue of importance (the alleged illegal killing of buzzards on this estate) has been conveniently buried.

This is not the first time that Tayside Police’s effectiveness has been called into question. Earlier in 2010, the RSPB launched a stinging attack on Tayside Police for its apparent ‘lack of follow up’ on several alleged wildlife crimes in the region. The most prominent of these was the incident involving a poisoned white-tailed sea eagle that had been found dead on Glenogil Estate in August 2009. Tayside Police did not make an appeal for information until 6 months later, and only then because a local newspaper began to ask questions: http://news.scotsman.com/birdsofprey/RSPB-claims-police–less.6012566.jp

Mark Osborne – another amazing coincidence

(John) Mark Osborne must be the victim of an amazing series of coincidences, according to shooting journalist James Marchington: http://jamesmarchington.blogspot.com/2009/07/poisoned-eagles-and-osborne-connection.html. What else could explain his connection to a number of shooting estates where wildlife crimes have allegedly been committed? Here’s the latest coincidence –

In 1991, Osborne apparently set up the West Wycombe Shooting Ground on the Dashwood Estate near High Wycombe, Bucks, along with Sir Edward John Francis Dashwood. The estate incorporated the Bradenham Hill Shooting Syndicate.

On 15 July 1998,  a 29 year old gamekeeper (Gamekeeper A) for the Bradenham Hill Shooting Syndicate, appeared before High Wycombe magistrates accused of an appalling litany of alleged wildlife crimes between 1996-1997. A journal found at his house documented the alleged massacre of 127 badgers, several cats and dogs, 3 owls, 2 sparrowhawks and a buzzard on the Dashwood Estate. An underkeeper on the estate told the court that Gamekeeper A had admitted killing badgers and feeding live fox cubs to his dogs. Gamekeeper A was cleared of the wildlife crime offences because of ‘insufficient evidence’ and was fined £150 with £50 costs, for keeping ammunition unsecured.

On 21 April 2005, Gamekeeper A was back in court, this time as head keeper on the Dashwood Estate. He and his co-accused, Gamekeeper B, both of West Wycombe, were charged with clubbing a buzzard to death on the Dashwood Estate on 23 February 2004. The buzzard had been caught inside a crow trap, and Gamekeeper B was videoed by RSPB undercover investigators as he clubbed the buzzard to death with a piece of wood while Gamekeeper A looked on. Both men were found guilty and fined £2,000 each, with an additional £500 costs. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/22523459/232-0574-04-05_legal-eagle-45

Eton-educated Sir Dashwood (45), chairman of the Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Shooting, appears to have further links with Osborne. According to Companies House records, both became Directors of West Wycombe Corporate Entertainment Ltd in 1991. They were also both allegedly involved with the lease of the notorious Leadhills Estate (owned by Hopetoun Estate) in South Lanarkshire in 2003. However, in 2008, the shooting rights were put up for sale after a series of police raids in relation to alleged raptor persecution incidents. The Estate’s owner, the Marquess of Linlithgow, had apparently leased the estate to Dashwood & Osborne in 2003 on the condition that they complied with the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Dashwood claimed the sale of the shooting rights was ‘entirely unconnected’ with the police raids.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/apr/18/wildlife.conservation

Gamekeeper guilty of wildlife & welfare offences at Culter Allers, Lanarkshire

Whitefield is a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association

David Alexander Whitefield, a 41 year old gamekeeper (and a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) at Birthwood Farm, Culter Allers nr Biggar, Lanarkshire, has been fined £300 for the illegal use of a crow trap.

On 4 March 2008, a hillwalker discovered a buzzard caught inside a crow trap. No food, water or shelter was available in the trap, and there was no door to allow the release of non-target species (all requirements of the law). Four inches of snow covered the ground, and no footprints or vehicle tracks were in evidence around the trap, indicating that it hadn’t been checked for at least 48 hours (it is a legal requirement that traps are checked every 24 hours).

On 1 October 2008 at Lanark Sheriff Court, Whitefield pleaded guilty to charges of failing to ensure the welfare of the bird and of recklessly taking a buzzard. In addition to his £300 fine, Whitefield was also banned from using his Scottish Open General Licence for 5 years. http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/le57_tcm9-212748.pdf

News story here

According to the RSPB report, “The illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland in 2009”, the following were found at Culter Allers during 2009 –

October 2009: 1 x dead buzzard, 1 x rabbit bait containing alpha-chloralose

November 2009: 2 x dead buzzards, 1 x rabbit bait containing alpha-chloralose

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