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:

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:–

Roseanna Cunningham claims government is committed to tackling wildlife crime

Labour MSP Elaine Murray asked the Scottish government on 25 March 2010 what action it is taking to tackle wildlife crime.

Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham

Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Environment Minister, claimed the government was committed to tackling wildlife crime and used four examples to support her assertion:

1. Strengthening and re-structuring the Partnership for Wildlife Crime (PAW) to improve its effectiveness. [Presumably this ‘strengthening’  includes supporting the words of Sheriff Kevin Drummond, Paw Chair, who recently told a wildlife crime investigator to “Get a life” after he dared to suggest that sentencing for wildlife crime was too lenient].

2. Establishing a fund aimed at supporting innovations in combating wildlife crime. [This is good – is there a report available to show what innovations have been funded?].

3. Taking action to reduce the single farm payments made to five claimants in cases connected with poisoned birds. [Excellent. Is there a report available to show which five claimants have had their subsidies withdrawn? We are only aware of two –

  • James McDougal (Blythe Farm near Lauder, Scottish Borders) who had £7,919 withdrawn in January 2008 after his gamekeeper, George Aitken, was convicted of wildlife crimes – see blog entry 6 March 2010.
  • John Dodd (Glenogil Estate, Angus) who had £107,000 withdrawn in September 2008 after poisoned baits were found strewn across his estate. Dodd is apparently contesting this decision – see blog entry 3 March 2010.

So who are the other three claimants who have had their subsidies withdrawn? The two we know of happened in 2008, during the tenure of the previous Environment Minister, Michael Russell. How many withdrawals happened in 2009 when Roseanna Cunningham took office?]

4. The recent appointment of a special lawyer to act as Crown Council for Wildlife Crime. [Excellent – we look forward to seeing an increase of successful prosecutions in the very near future].

Full report:

Sea eagle feared killed on Glenogil Estate, Angus

This is the missing sea eagle, known as 'Bird N'

A young white-tailed sea eagle, less than six months old, is feared to have been killed on Glenogil Estate, Angus in the autumn of 2007, according to an article published in The Scotsman. Tayside police apparently received an anonymous tip-off that suggested the eagle had allegedly been shot on the estate. The information correlates with radio tracking data from the bird, who was regularly tracked in the area but whose signal disappeared around the time of the alleged incident, although the signal could have failed as a result of a mechanical malfunction.The young eagle has never been seen again. No arrests have been made.

The sea eagle was one of 15 young birds that were donated by Norway for the East Scotland re-introduction project. The young birds were released in Fife in August 2007, fitted with radio transmitters and wing tags for identification.

Glenogil Estate is owned by multi-millionaire John Dodd, who is reported to take grouse moor management advice from Mark Osborne. Glenogil has been at the centre of previous investigations of alleged wildlife crime offences, and John Dodd was fined £107,000 in 2008 for the suspected use of illegal poisons on raptors.  Dodd is appealing the decision.

For further information about the missing sea eagle:

Record penalty for poison offence at Glenogil Estate, Angus

John Dodd at Glenogil Estate

In September 2008, John Dodd, the multi-millionaire owner of Glenogil shooting estate in Tayside, had his farming subsidy cut by £107,000 by the Scottish Executive because it was suspected that illegal substances found on the estate were being used to poison birds of prey. According to an article published in The Guardian, several raptors, including rare white-tailed sea eagles, have either been found dead on the estate or have mysteriously ‘disappeared’ on the estate, although to date, no successful prosecutions have occured. It is the largest ever civil penalty imposed under strict EU cross-compliance legislation, which makes protection of wildlife a condition of the subsidy. Dodd is reported to be contesting the decision.

According to The Guardian, the same illegal poisonous compound – which was withdrawn from sale as an insecticide in Ireland five years ago because of its toxicity – was also found on another grouse moor, the Leadhills estate, in southwest Scotland in the autumn of 2005. The estate, near Abingdon, was run at the time by Mark Osborne, one of the UK’s most successful managers of moor shoots. Osborne runs estates and advises shooting moor owners across Scotland and northern England, including Glenogil. Four of those estates – Leadhills, Glenogil, plus Glenlochy on Speyside and Snilesworth, north Yorkshire – have been raided in the past two years by police investigating claims of birds of prey persecution.

At the Snilesworth estate, near Northallerton, a head-keeper and two game keepers admitted illegally using traps baited with pigeons to catch protected birds of prey. The head-keeper was fined £1,250. A keeper at Leadhills was convicted of shooting a short-eared owl in 2004 and fined £500; Osborne refused to comment.

Further information:

Buzzard & sea eagle found poisoned nr Glenogil Estate, Angus

This is the young sea eagle 'White G' before he was illegally poisoned.
Here is ‘White G’ after his visit to a grouse moor.

A buzzard and a young white-tailed sea eagle known as ‘White G’ were found poisoned on 4 May 2008, along with 32 pieces of poisoned venison laid out on the nearby Glenogil Estate. The estate is owned by John Dodd, and Mark Osborne advises on grouse management issues.

The sea eagle had hatched on the Isle of Mull in 2007 and was fitted with wingtags, hence its name ‘White G’.

Further info:

1 year old sea eagle found poisoned on Glenogil Estate, Angus

White-tailed sea eagles were persecuted to extinction in Scotland in the early 1900s. An on-going reintroduction programme is helping their recovery in Scotland.

A one year old white-tailed sea eagle was found poisoned on Glenogil Estate in August 2009. The young bird, known as ‘Bird 89’, had been donated by Norway in 2008 as part of the East Coast Re-introduction Project. Glenogil Estate is owned by multi-millionaire businessman John Dodd, according to The Scotsman. Grouse management at Glenogil is undertaken in association with Mark Osborne, according to The Guardian:

Bird 89 was found in a ‘decomposed’ state in August 2009. It is thought the eagle died much earlier than this, as its radio tracking signal stopped working in March 2009. According to some sources, the RSPB tracking team could not locate the dead bird for many months until they hired an expert tracker in August.

The RSPB has accused Tayside Police of being incompetent, as the poisoning incident was not made public until January 2010, almost five months after the bird was found, and probably 10 months after the bird was actually killed. Further info:–

No arrests have been made.

According to The Scotsman, previous incidents of suspected wildlife crime on or close to Glenogil Estate include:

May 2006: Suspected rabbit poisoned bait found – tests by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture lab confirmed it had been laced with outlawed pesticide carbofuran.

June 2006: Bait found laced with carbofuran, also found on equipment and vehicles. Estate owner John Dodd subsequently had £107,000 withdrawn from his single farm payment subsidy by the Scottish Government. He is appealing against this. Further information available here:

November 2007: Tayside Police informed a white-tailed eagle had been shot by a Glenogil estate employee. No carcase was found, but the bird, fitted with a radio transmitter, is still missing.

May 2008: A white-tailed sea eagle known as ‘White G’ was found dead by a neighbouring landowner. It had been poisoned with carbofuran and other pesticides.

Three days later, Tayside Police and RSPB staff found the carcass of a buzzard lying next to the Glenogil Estate boundary fence. It had been poisoned. Carcass of a hare was found to have been laced with same chemicals that killed eagle.

October 2008: A meat bait is found on a fence post within Glenogil Estate, laced with an illegal chemical mix.

March 2009: Two dead buzzards found on the estate. Both birds had been poisoned.

August 2009: White-tailed sea eagle ‘Bird 89’ found poisoned on Glenogil Estate.