Court case updates

The ridiculously lengthy legal proceedings against Keith Liddell continue. First reported on this blog in July 2011 (here) and subsequently in February 2012 (here), May 2012 (here) and June 2012 (here), Liddell’s case will have another intermediary diet at Inverness Sheriff Court tomorrow (9th October). Liddell is accused of various offences including the alleged trading of raptor eggs.

Another lengthy case has also been continued at Inverness Sheriff Court. The so-called ‘hare-snare’ case, which began back in 2009 (!!) was heard at Inverness last Thursday and Friday. It is now set to continue on 16th November. Two gamekeepers from the Lochindorb Estate originally faced trial but now the charges are only being heard against one of them, David Taylor. Previous posts on this case here, here, here, here, here, here.

Lochindorb hare snare trial to continue in October

The long-running Lochindorb Estate hare-snaring trial is set to drag on until October (see here, here and here for background to this case).

An important point of law was established during deliberations at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday – whether a snare could be considered to be a trap. Although this question might sound ridiculous to us (of course a snare is a type of trap – they’re used for the sole purpose of trapping animals, aren’t they?), it was important to establish the legal definition of a snare in this particular case because if a snare wasn’t considered to be a trap, then there would be no case for gamekeeper David Taylor to answer. Anyway, the Sheriff apparently decided that a snare is a trap, and that there was sufficient evidence for the case to be continued in October (the defence had argued that there was insufficient evidence against Taylor).

Northern Times article reporting on yesterday’s court hearing here

Lochindorb hare snare trial: latest

Quelle surprise! The Lochindorb Estate hare snare trial was adjourned yesterday for deliberations. It will continue in mid-August (coincidentally, after the opening of the grouse shooting season).

Conveniently, the timing of the latest adjournment also coincides with the opening of the game fair at Moy Estate today. Anybody remember the Moy Estate? See here for a reminder. How surprising to see prominent members of the game-shooting lobby attending an event at this venue, along with SNH Chairman Andrew Thin (see here and here). Actually, it’s not a surprise at all. Carry on regardless.

Lochindorb hare snare trial: charges dropped against one of the accused gamekeepers

The trial against two gamekeepers from the Lochindorb Estate, accused of setting snares to trap mountain hares (see here and here for background) has had a dramatic turn today, according to the Forres Gazette.

It is reported that one of the accused gamekeepers, Kevin Begg, had the charge against him dropped. The reason for this has not yet been reported. The Gazette claims that the fiscal, Ian Smith (more about Mr Smith after the trial) says he now intends to call Begg as a witness against Lochindorb head gamekeeper David Taylor. Both Taylor and Begg had denied the charges.

A report on today’s events in court can be read in the Forres Gazette here.

The trial continues tomorrow.

Court case updates

Two court case updates for you:

David Campbell, head gamekeeper at Edradynate Estate, Perthshire: an intermediate diet took place yesterday at Perth Sheriff Court at which the trial date was set for 31 August. See here and here for previous posts on this case.

David Taylor and Kevin Begg, gamekeepers at Lochindorb Estate, Morayshire: their trial, which began in March, continues at Inverness Sheriff Court next Tuesday (31 July). See here and here for previous posts on this case. This is one to watch for several reasons, which will become apparent in due course.

21 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions

Ever since that poisoned golden eagle was found in Glen Orchy in June 2009, we’ve been assured by the authorities (including in an email from a spokeswoman of the former Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham) that, despite our concerns to the contrary, the alleged wildlife crime uncovered that day was being ‘dealt with’.

We’ve had to wait for almost three years to find out that, according to a statement in The Herald attributed to RSPB investigator Ian Thomson, nobody has been charged with poisoning that golden eagle (see Herald article here).

It’s just the latest in a long line (21 eagles in six years!) of both confirmed and suspected eagle deaths for which nobody has ever been prosecuted.

In fairness, some of the 21 examples shown below may not be a result of criminal behaviour (i.e. the bodies of seven of the eagles listed have never been recovered so foul play, whilst suspected, cannot be verified, but neither can it be ruled out). However, there have been 14 confirmed eagle deaths (13 poisoned and one shot), that we know about, for which nobody has been charged. There are probably more confirmed deaths that we don’t know about because for some reason, some confirmed deaths are not being publicly reported. And without a shadow of a doubt, there are other deaths that are attributable to criminal behaviour that never see the light of day.

Here’s the list of the ones we do know about:

MAY 2006: A dead adult golden eagle was found on the Dinnet & Kinord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation. Five years and 11 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


JUNE 2006: A dead golden eagle was found on Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launched an investigation. Five years and ten months later, nobody has been prosecuted.




AUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found on an estate near Peebles in the Borders. She was half of the last known breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Lothian & Borders Police launched an investigation. Four years and eight months later, nobody has been prosecuted.




AUTUMN 2007: Tayside Police received a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) had allegedly been shot on an estate in Angus. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. Four and a half years later, the bird has not been seen again. With no body, an investigation isn’t possible.


MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle hatched on Mull in 2007 and known as ‘White G’ was found dead on the Glenquoich Estate, Angus. Tests revealed he had been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that included Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also revealed a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fenceposts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests revealed the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contained the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. Three years and 11 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


JUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle was found dead at Glen Orchy, Argyll, close to the West Highland Way. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launched a multi-agency investigation. Two years and ten months later (April 2012), Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of Carbofuran stored in premises at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy. Nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the golden eagle.


JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle known as ‘Alma’ was found dead on the Millden Estate, Angus. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Alma was a well-known eagle  – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements followed by the general public on the internet. Tayside Police launched an investigation. Two years and nine months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


AUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle was found dead on Glenogil Estate, Angus. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Tayside Police were criticized in the national press for not releasing a press statement about this incident until January 2010. Two years and 8 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


MAY 2010: Three dead golden eagles were found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. One year and 11 months later, nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the three golden eagles.


JUNE 2010: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: A golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle were found dead on an estate near Farr, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed they had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. One year and ten months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


DECEMBER 2010: A decomposing carcass of a white-tailed eagle was found and photographed on Logie (Lochindorb) Estate, Morayshire. It was reported to Northern Constabulary. By the time the police arrived to collect it, the carcass had disappeared. The police said they couldn’t investigate further without the body.


MARCH 2011: The body of a young golden eagle was discovered on North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation and raided the property in May 2011. One year and one month later, we are not aware of any pending prosecutions.


APRIL 2011: The body of a white-tailed eagle was found at the base of cliffs on Skye. The person who discovered it (a professional medic) considered it to have been freshly shot with a rifle, decapitated with a sharp implement and thrown from the cliff top. He took photographs and alerted Northern Constabulary and RSPB. There was a delay of two weeks before the now probably decomposed carcass was collected. A post-mortem was inconclusive. This incident was not made public until one year later after a tip off to this blog. We are not aware of any pending prosecutions.


NOVEMBER 2011: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (hatched in 2010) stopped functioning when she was at a location in the Monadhliaths, a well-known raptor persecution black spot in the Highlands. Her last known location was checked by researchers but there was no sign of the bird. Another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances or a technical malfunction of the satellite transmitter?

Lochindorb Estate hare-snare trial begins

The trial began today against Lochindorb Estate gamekeepers, David Taylor (64) and Kevin Begg (45), who are alleged to have set illegal snares to trap mountain hares in April last year (see here for previous blog on this case).

Inverness Sheriff Court heard today from a police officer who got caught in one of the snares (see here for STV report).

This case is extremely interesting on a number of levels. One point of interest can’t be discussed until after the trial has concluded. The other main point will depend on whether the court rules that snaring mountain hares is lawful or unlawful; either way there will be wider implications for the methods available for predator ‘control’ in the uplands.

The four-day trial will resume later in July.

Alleged snaring offence on award-winning Lochindorb Estate

Two men have been charged with laying snares to trap mountain hares on the Purdey Award-winning Lochindorb Estate, according to the BBC (see here) and STV (see here) websites. David Taylor and Kevin Begg are alleged to have used 24 snares on April 19th but both deny setting the traps, according to the website reports, and their three day trial will begin on 28th March 2012 at Inverness Sheriff Court.

It is not illegal to kill mountain hares by shooting them, but it may be illegal to use an indiscriminate trap (e.g. a snare) to kill them unless the snare operator has a specific SNH licence to do so (see SNH wildlife law leaflet here, and SGA Snaring Practioners Guide 2010 here). The new Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, once commenced, also introduces a new closed season for mountain hares (1 March – 31 July inclusive).

Lochindorb Estate was the joint winner of the 2008 Purdey Gold Award for game and conservation management (see here). The industry’s top honour was awarded for imaginative conservation to improve habitat for both reared and wild game birds (Purdey Awards website here).

Lochindorb was in the news earlier this year when it was reported that a dead white-tailed eagle had been discovered on the estate. By the time the police arrived to investigate, the dead eagle had ‘disappeared’. The police were unable to determine how the bird died as they did not have a body to examine (see here and here).

According to the STV report, Lochindorb was owned by Alasdair Laing (GWCT’s Scottish Committee Chairman) at the time of the alleged snaring offence but has since ‘sold the estate on’.