Red kite found shot on a Durham grouse moor is ‘fighting for its life’

The RSPB has just issued the following press release:


  • The protected bird of prey was found grounded on a grouse moor in County Durham, in March 2023
  • An X-ray revealed multiple pieces of shot within the bird’s body
  • Durham Police and the RSPB are appealing for information

A Red Kite – a species protected by UK law – was found in Edmundbyers, County Durham in a stricken condition, peppered with shot and is currently fighting for its life in a bird hospital.

A member of the public noticed the bird at the side of a public footpath along Burnhope Burn on 17 March 2023 and reported it to the RSPB. Arriving on the scene, RSPB Investigations Officers found the Red Kite hiding in bracken, alive but unable to fly.

It was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator and looked over by a vet. An X-ray revealed the bird’s entire body was peppered with shot including pieces that had broken its wing.

All birds of prey are legally protected, making it a criminal offence to intentionally kill or injure one, punishable by an unlimited fine or jail.

Red Kites were historically persecuted in the UK but are making a comeback thanks to official reintroduction programmes in recent decades supported by Government. However these birds take a long time to spread out, and illegal killing is preventing the species expanding and gaining a foothold in areas where they were formerly found before they were driven to extinction in England around the late nineteenth century.

This incident comes in the same week when news of another Red Kite was found shot in Grantown-on-Spey, [Ed: see here] in the Scottish Highlands, also in March 2023. Sadly, it had to be euthanised due to the extent of its injuries.

This area of County Durham inside the North Pennines AONB has a history of raptor persecution. In 2021, another red kite was found dead near Edmundbyers, Co Durham having been illegally poisoned. Police-led searches in the area followed last year, however no one was prosecuted.

And in 2020, two Red Kites fitted with satellite tags unexpectedly and inexplicably vanished in the same area: one tag sent its last fix from the Derwent Gorge, the other from a grouse moor near Derwent Reservoir. Neither the birds or their tags were found, and it is believed they were illegally killed.

The link between driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey has been well documented. The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that 71% of all confirmed incidents of raptor persecution were in connection to gamebird shooting.

Jack Ashton-Booth, RSPB Investigations Officer, said:

The kite is currently receiving the best care, and we understand it has been hopping up onto a perch and feeding itself. However it’s still not out of the woods. We are incredibly grateful to the diligent member of the community who noticed and reported the bird, and urge anyone else who finds a dead or injured bird of prey in suspicious circumstances to do the same. It could save a bird’s life and help us identify a raptor killer at large. We are also hugely grateful to Jean Thorpe, who is caring for the bird, as she has done so many others.

It’s unlikely this Red Kite will have flown far from where it was shot. If you have any information about who might have done this, or know of anyone shooting birds of prey in this area, please get in touch.”

Friends of Red Kites (FoRK), a voluntary monitoring and community engagement organisation based in the North East, commented:

We are sickened to hear that yet another Red Kite has been found on the moorlands of the North Pennines suffering from illegal persecution. Since the re-introduction of Red Kites to the North East of England in 2004, a number of birds have been found dead on or adjacent to these moorlands which are managed for grouse shooting. After nearly 20 years the population of breeding kites has barely advanced above 20 pairs. By comparison, populations of kites in other areas where they have been released, like the Chilterns, are booming. It is a sad indictment on parts of society that the people of the North East are denied seeing these beautiful birds gracing our skies more widely.” 

If you have any information, contact Durham Constabulary’s Wildlife Crime Officer, PC Dave Williamson, by emailing or calling in to Barnard Castle Police Station.

Alternatively, to share sensitive information in confidence, call the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.


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

Suffolk Police arrest a man in connection with five shot goshawks found in Kings Forest in January

Suffolk Police have arrested a man in connection with their ongoing investigation into the illegal shooting of five juvenile goshawks that were found dumped in a car park next to Kings Forest near Thetford in January.

The 70-year-old man from the Brandon area was arrested yesterday on suspicion of killing/taking a schedule 1 wild bird, possession of a schedule one wild bird and breach of firearms licence conditions.

He was taken to Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre for questioning and subsequently released under investigation, pending further enquiries.

Let’s hope the police investigation leads to someone being charged and convicted. There’s currently a £16K+ reward available to anyone who provides information leading to a successful prosecution. The reward fund comprises £5K from the RSPB (here), £5K from Wild Justice (here), and £6K+ from a crowd funder set up by Rare Bird Alert (here).

Here’s a press statement from Suffolk Police, published yesterday afternoon:

Man released in connection with bird shooting – Wordwell

A man arrested in connection with the shooting of five birds in Wordwell near to Bury St Edmunds has been released under investigation.

The male in his 70s and from the Brandon area was arrested yesterday (Monday 27 March) on suspicion of killing/taking a schedule 1 wild bird, possession of a schedule one wild bird and breach of firearms licence conditions.

The five birds of prey were found on Monday 16 January, having been left in a parking area just off from the B1106 in Kings Forest, near Wordwell. X-rays were undertaken which showed all five birds had suffered injuries from multiple pieces of shot.

Officers from Suffolk’s Rural and Wildlife Policing Team were assisted by Norfolk police colleagues, as well as officers from the RSPB Investigations team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.  

The man was taken to Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre for questioning and subsequently released under investigation, pending further enquiries.

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


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.

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‘.