Game-shooting industry’s response to news that red kite was shot on grouse moor (Lochindorb Estate)

Further to yesterday’s news that a member of the public witnessed the shooting of a red kite on Lochindorb Estate on Monday morning (see here), I’ve been looking to see how the game-shooting industry has responded to Police Scotland’s appeal for information.

You’ll recall that this is the game-shooting industry whose organisations routinely state they have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards raptor persecution, in which case you’d think they’d be quick to condemn this latest crime and call on their members to assist the police in any way they can.

So far, I haven’t found any statements of condemnation on the websites of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, BASC, or the Countryside Alliance.

I did find a statement on the website of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the grouse moor owners’ lobby group, as follows:

It’s good to see a prompt response from SLE (their statement was published yesterday) and it’s also good to see SLE urging its members and readers to assist with the police investigation.

Although I couldn’t help but notice that Lochindorb Estate isn’t named, and nor is the fact that Police Scotland is particularly interested in receiving information relating to quad bikes and off-road vehicles seen in the area at the time of the shooting.

If anyone does have information, please contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 1760 of Monday, 27 March, or make a call anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Red kite shot on Lochindorb Estate: Police Scotland issue appeal for information

A member of the public witnessed the shooting of a red kite on the Lochindorb Estate yesterday morning. It was recovered by the Scottish SPCA but unfortunately its injuries were so severe it had to be euthanised.

Red kite. Photo: Robert Harvey, Natural World Photography

Police Scotland has issued the following appeal for information:


Officers are appealing for information after a protected bird of prey was shot near Grantown-on-Spey.

We received a report of a red kite being shot around 11.15am on Monday, 27 March, on the Lochindorb Estate, Grantown-on-Spey.

It was recovered with the assistance of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) but had to be euthanized as its injuries were not recoverable.

Community Police Inspector Craig Johnstone said: “The red kite is a protected species and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to kill them.

I am asking anyone in the local community who may be able to help with our enquiries to come forward. If you were walking in the area on Monday then please let us know if you saw anything.

In particular, if you saw quad bikes in the area or off road vehicles, then get in touch as even the smallest bit of information could assist with our investigation.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 1760 of Monday, 27 March, or make a call anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


I applaud this very fast public appeal for information by Police Scotland. It’s in stark contrast to their 19-month silence about a poisoned red kite that was found in the same region in 2021 (see here) and for which they received much deserved criticism.

All credit to them for responding so quickly this time and for naming the estate on which the shooting was witnessed. Bravo.

UPDATE 29th March 2023: Game-shooting industry’s response to news that red kite was shot on grouse moor (Lochindorb Estate) here

UPDATE 1st April 2023: Arrest made in relation to red kite shooting on Lochindorb Estate grouse moor (here)

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.

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.

Convicted Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen due to be sentenced today

Paul Allen, 54, the gamekeeper convicted last month of multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences committed on the Shaftesbury Estate, Dorset in March 2021 (here) is due to be sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates Court this afternoon.

Convicted gamekeeper Paul Allen leaving court in January 2023. Photo: BNPS

You may recall, following the discovery of a poisoned red kite on the estate in November 2020, a multi-agency raid led by Dorset Police’s (now former) wildlife crime officer Claire Dinsdale took place in March 2021 (see here) where the corpses of six dead buzzards were found by a pen behind his 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 ammunition was 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.

Four of the nine dead buzzards found. Photo: RSPB

At a hearing on 4th January 2023, Allen pleaded guilty to seven charges including two counts of possessing a live or dead bird, or parts thereof, one charge of failing to comply with the conditions of a shotgun certificate, one charge of failing to comply with the conditions of a firearms certificate, one count of possessing a regulated substance without a license, one count of failing to comply with  regulations in accordance with the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 and one charge of contravening a health and safety regulations.

A number of other charges were dropped minutes before the start of the hearing after some discussion between the defence and the CPS. I’ve annotated this court listing to demonstrate the changes. The court listing was provided by a court clerk at last month’s hearing (thanks to the blog reader who sent it to me).

The court deferred sentencing until today to allow reports to be complied on Allen, to help inform sentencing. In my view these crimes pass the custody threshold but the court will need to consider any mitigating factors. For example, it has been reported elsewhere that Allen is recently widowed and has two teenage children. If he is the sole carer for these children then that will likely impact on the type of sentence he receives, although I would argue that having unsecure, highly dangerous poisons and an unsecure loaded shotgun propped up behind his kitchen door is questionable behaviour for an apparently responsible parent.

Sentencing takes place this afternoon and a large amount of media coverage is anticipated. I’ll report back later.

UPDATE 16.30hrs: Criminal Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen receives suspended custodial sentence despite committing multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences (here)

Red kite found poisoned on Swinton Estate – North Yorkshire Police refuses to investigate

Last November I was reading an online article on the Teeside Live website about the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in North Yorkshire being dubbed ‘the bird poisoning capital of the UK‘ (here).

The article was illustrated with various photographs, including this image of a poisoned red kite that was reportedly found dead at Roundhill Reservoir, near Masham in 2021:

The given location caught my eye as I understand the Roundhill Reservoir is surrounded by the Swinton Estate, a notorious grouse-shooting estate that has been at the centre of police investigations into confirmed and alleged raptor persecution for years.

For example, this is the estate where hen harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found dead in 2012, later confirmed to have been shot (here & here) although it has never been established whether she was shot on or off the estate. It’s also where a Swinton Estate gamekeeper was convicted for twice setting an illegal pole trap in 2013 (here) and where another hen harrier, ‘River’, was found shot dead in 2019 (here). Around the same time as River’s demise, an unidentified gunman had been filmed with two dogs walking through a hen harrier roost on the estate (here). There have also been reports from local raptor workers of the ‘mysterious disappearances’ of many raptors on this estate for over a decade.

The owner of Swinton Estate is Mark Cunliffe-Lister, Earl of Swinton, who in 2020 became the new Chairman of the grouse moor owners’ lobby group, the Moorland Association (here). This is a high profile position and in recent years Mr Cunliffe-Lister’s estate has become somewhat of a poster child for DEFRA’s ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling trial, where the estate has championed the removal of some hen harrier chicks in return for permitting others to remain and to be diversionary fed by estate staff, although this hasn’t been without controversy either after it emerged that Natural England had appeared to ‘bend the rules’ in favour of estate activities (e.g. see here). Controversially, in 2021 a Guardian journalist described Swinton Estate as the ‘hen harrier’s friend’ (here), supported by a statement from Stephen Murphy (Natural England) about the estate’s head gamekeeper, “What he’s done for harriers, word’s can’t describe“. Murphy also claimed that hen harrier Bowland Betty had definitely been shot elsewhere and merely flew on to the estate to die – an unevidenced claim that was later amended in the article. Last year the estate won what was described as ‘a prestigious conservation award’ for its involvement in the hen harrier brood meddling trial (here).

So, back to that article I was reading in November 2022. I didn’t recall hearing about a poisoned red kite being found on the Swinton Estate in 2021 and I’m pretty sure I would have remembered, given the location, so I did some digging to make sure the poisoning had been confirmed and the location verified, just in case the journalist had cocked up (she’d already mistakenly described Nidderdale as a ‘village’ instead of a region so I couldn’t rely on her account of the poisoned red kite to be accurate).

The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), North Yorkshire
Roundhill Reservoir in the Nidderdale AONB

I found details about this crime on the HSE’s Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme spreadsheet, which confirmed the kite had been found poisoned on a Right of Way footpath in November 2021. The poisons found in the kite’s stomach included Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Chloralose and Isofenphos – this highly toxic combination has become known as the ‘Nidderdale Cocktail’ as it’s so frequently used to kill birds of prey in this region, especially red kites (e.g. see here, here, here).

The red star denotes the approximate location of the poisoned red kite found in November 2021, close to Roundhill Reservoir and surrounded by the grouse moors of Swinton Estate

However, I couldn’t find any media coverage of this crime, nor any police appeals for information, nor any warnings to the public about the continued use of poisons so dangerous that some of them have been banned for years. Given that a year had already passed since the poisoned kite was discovered, I found this puzzling. So I contacted North Yorkshire Police’s rural crime team and asked them about the status of the investigation:

Here’s the astonishing response I received:

This North Yorkshire Police Inspector admitted that this poisoned red kite “unfortunately slipped through the net” but then went on to justify the police’s decision not to investigate by accusing the RSPB of failing to notify the police about this incident when the poisoned kite was first picked up. He claimed the police only found out about it five months later, in April 2022, whilst chasing the lab for the results of another investigation.

His allegations about the RSPB aside (and which I’ll come to, below), I was still stunned that he thought that launching an investigation, and issuing a public appeal for information, let alone issue a warning to the public about the use of poisons in the countryside, wasn’t worthwhile due to the ‘passage of time’ (five months), especially given the location where the poisoned kite had been found.

A couple of years ago a previous North Yorkshire Police Inspector had issued a public appeal/warning, ten months after the discovery of another poisoned red kite in Nidderdale (see here), so it seemed to me that there was no reason not to issue one after a five month delay.

I wrote back to North Yorkshire Police asking for an explanation:

Apparently, it wasn’t up for debate. Here’s the response I received:

Meanwhile, I contacted the RSPB and put to them the allegations this Inspector had made, that the RSPB hadn’t notified the police about the discovery of this red kite. It turns out those allegations were utterly unfounded/untrue. The RSPB DID contact North Yorkshire Police, on the day the poisoned kite was discovered, and took instruction from the police about submitting the corpse for toxicology analysis. Furthermore, they had the email correspondence to prove it:

So what are we to make of North Yorkshire Police’s refusal to investigate a confirmed poisoning incident (a so-called national wildlife crime priority), on an estate with a long history of alleged wildlife crime, that has enjoyed recent adulation from Natural England staff and the media, that has played a significant role in the hen harrier brood meddling trial, and whose owner is a high profile representative of the grouse-shooting industry?

Does Mr Cunliffe-Lister even know about this poisoned kite being found on his estate? Given the Moorland Association’s claimed ‘zero tolerance’ of raptor persecution, and Mr Cunliffe-Lister’s widely-reported apparent welcoming of birds of prey on his estate, I’d have expected him to speak out and condemn this disgraceful poisoning incident, as any decent landowner would. It’d be interesting to know whether North Yorkshire Police have informed him, or not.

Whatever, North Yorkshire Police’s refusal to investigate this crime is wholly unacceptable. In the first instance, I’ll be writing a letter of complaint to the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Zoe Metcalfe.

In her Police and Crime Plan 2022-2025 (here), she details an objective of ‘an improved [police] response to crime in rural areas, especially wildlife crime...’ as this had been identified as a major concern for North Yorkshire residents in the recent PCC consultation.

I would urge blog readers who reside in North Yorkshire to also submit a complaint and to request she conducts an inquiry into why North Yorkshire Police refused to investigate this serious crime.

Please send your (polite and respectful) emails to:

I’ll provide an update on this blog when a response has been received.

UPDATE 23.30hrs: Natural England’s senior management team has a lovely day out…on Swinton Estate!! (see here).

Shot red kite found injured in Greenwich Park, London

A shot red kite has been found injured after ‘falling from the sky’ at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park, south east London.

It is currently being treated at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital where x-rays revealed multiple shotgun pellets lodged in its body. It’s not clear where or when this kite was shot.

Staff at the wildlife hospital posted the following details and photos on social media yesterday evening:

UPDATE 13th February 2023, 10am: The person who found this injured kite has provided some more background to the circumstances:

Police Scotland confirm red kite found poisoned on grouse moor had been killed with banned pesticide

Last month I blogged about a poisoned red kite that had been found dead, laying close to a poisoned bait (a Lapwing, of all things) on Dava Moor, a grouse moor in the Scottish Highlands, just outside the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

The poisoned red kite laying dead next to poisoned bait (a lapwing)

The poisoned red kite and the poisoned bait had been found after the kite’s satellite tag indicated the bird was dead on 21st May 2021 and Police Scotland launched an investigation. They collected the kite and the bait and sent them off to a specialist lab for toxicology analysis and they conducted a search of the grouse moor the following week. Toxicology tests confirmed the presence of poison in both the kite and the lapwing.

Sixteen months later in September 2022, Police Scotland notified the finder that ‘enquiries are complete, nobody has been charged and the case is now closed‘.

However, the police withheld the name of the poison, failed to issue an appeal for information, and failed to warn the public that dangerous poisons were in use in the area. The crime was only made public after a tip off to this blog. If I hadn’t been told about it, none of us would be any the wiser.

After writing the blog and criticising Police Scotland’s decision to keep this crime a secret, a journalist from The Strathy decided to submit a Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland to ask for more details. Last week they received a response:

The poison used to kill the red kite was Bendiocarb, a dangerously toxic substance so lethal that it has been an offence to even possess it in Scotland, let alone use it, since 2005.

The police also revealed that, “One individual was arrested, interviewed and released without charge due to insufficient evidence.

No charges were ever brought because one of the main responsibilities of Police in Scotland is to investigate crimes and criminal offences and where there is a sufficiency of evidence, report the circumstances to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Investigation of this particular incident did not provide sufficient evidence to charge any individual.

To clarify, corroborative evidence is required to liable any charge in relation to the poisoning of birds of prey. The decision not to issue a press release was an operational one, balancing risk versus reward.

To explain, the locus was remote, the bait and bird had been removed and no longer posed a risk.

Given there was no nearby path it was deemed highly unlikely that any members of the public would have been able to provide useful or relevant witness evidence.

From the main road nearest the locus any persons on the land would not have been able to identify any suspect given the distance involved. Further consideration was given in regards to the requirement not to alert the accused to the investigation at this time to aid further investigative strategies.

Any intelligence identifying the methodology or focus of this activity could have been used to the advantage of the perpetrator to frustrate such investigations and/or seek support other individuals to do so.

As such, any press release would have been detrimental to planned further enquiry and police activity.”

That’s just not acceptable. Yes of course, withhold details during the early stages of the investigation so as not to alert the offender, but not saying anything about it for 19 months after the offence was committed? That plays straight into the hands of the grouse-shooting industry whose representatives will (and have been) quite happily writing letters to national newspapers claiming that raptor persecution on grouse moors is an ‘historical issue’ and no longer a problem.

And even more importantly, it puts members of the public, and their pets, at risk of coming into contact with deadly poisons where they’d be least expecting it. Somebody had deliberately placed a deadly poisoned bait out in the open on that moor, with the intention to kill. Police Scotland stated, “the bait and bird had been removed and no longer posed a risk” but who knows how many more baits have been placed there? Where’s the duty of care from Police Scotland, to warn the public of this danger?

Police Scotland’s silence also misses an important opportunity to raise awareness amongst the public that these crimes ARE still being committed, and to encourage them to report anything suspicious that they may stumble across whilst out on the hills, as well as eroding public confidence and trust in the police’s interest in dealing with wildlife crime.

To be clear, I’m not criticising the initial police response to the report of the poisoned kite and the poisoned bait. By all accounts it was a rapid reaction and a thorough investigation by officers on the ground. This isn’t like Dorset Police’s botched response to a confirmed poisoning – where they refused to conduct a follow-up search to look for evidence after the discovery of a poisoned white-tailed eagle (see here). That the Dava Moor poisoning didn’t lead to a prosecution is not a reflection on the investigating officers at Police Scotland – everyone knows how difficult it is to get these despicable offenders into court.

But the decision, presumably made by senior officers, to keep quiet about it for so long? That sounds like a deliberate cover up to me.

I await with interest NatureScot’s decision about whether a General Licence restriction will be imposed on this grouse moor (see here).

This case exemplifies the importance of the Government’s forthcoming Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill, where there is a proposal to utilise the civil burden of proof (the balance of probability) to determine whether a sanction should be imposed (i.e. the estate’s grouse shooting licence removed), rather than relying upon the criminal burden of proof (beyond reasonable doubt). Police Scotland has admitted, in its FoI response, that in this case corroborative evidence was required to progress any sanction. Had a grouse-shooting licence scheme been in place, the licence would probably, and in my opinion justifiably, have been revoked.

“I honestly think that one day we are going to have a human fatality” – Lincolnshire Police warn of danger of bird of prey poisonings

A wildlife crime officer from Lincolnshire Police is warning of the risk to humans, dogs and cats from the dangerous substances used to illegally kill birds of prey.

Detective Constable Aaron Flint, from the Lincolnshire Police Rural Crime Action Team, is quoted in an article published two days ago on the BBC News website (here), where he says he is currently investigating four cases of bird poisonings (some examples here and here).

Detective Constable Aaron Flint from Lincolnshire Police’s Rural Crime Action Team

“It’s too many and it’s only a small proportion of the number of birds killed,” he said.

The wildlife officer said the substances used posed a real danger to dogs and cats, as well as people.

“I honestly think that one day we are going to have a human fatality.”

“Often the offenders will get a pigeon or a pheasant – cut it open and rip out the flesh so the meat is exposed and sprinkle on some poison.

“The poisons are often blue or green – or some other bright colour a child may be attracted to, and I really fear that one day a child is going to come across this, [touch it] and put their fingers in their mouth.”

He said those involved often used poison in an attempt to protect game birds, pigeons and chickens and wild fowl, with offending often fuelled by money.

The BBC article also quotes Howard Jones, an investigator from the RSPB, after the RSPB identified Lincolnshire as a ‘national hotspot’ for bird of prey persecution and reiterated that incidents are often linked to the raptors being targeted to protect pheasants and partridges raised for organised shoots.

“The danger with poisons is that they are completely indiscriminate,” said Howard.

The investigations officer said they had seen a record number of incidents across the UK in recent years, including in Norfolk, Dorset and Yorkshire, with a significant number of reports currently being investigated in Lincolnshire.

According to Mr Jones, the “vast majority” of cases being dealt with by the courts involved gamekeepers.

He said the motivation to kill birds of prey was driven by the fact they were viewed as a predator of game birds, but the sentences handed out were often too lenient to act as a deterrent.

Cases involving poisons or illegal shooting should result in a jail sentence, he said.

“If there is someone out there placing poison baits in the open countryside anything that can come into contact with the poison is at risk,” he said.

“It is highly dangerous – some of the substances being used would be fatal to humans,” he added.

Well done to DC Aaron Flint and his colleagues at Lincolnshire Police. This is exactly the sort of proactive police messaging, and strong partnership-working, that should be routine rather than the exception.