RSPB anger after hen harrier killing charges are dropped

Hen harrier cropped

Charity demands meeting with Crown Office over evidence decision

Graham Martin's photo

5th May 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

RSPB Scotland has reacted with fury after charges against a gamekeeper charged with killing a rare bird of prey were dropped.

The charity said it had video evidence (see below) which indicated that the hen harrier was shot in Carbrach, Moray, in 2013.

However, the Crown Office ruled this inadmissible as evidence and charges against Stanley Gordon, who denied any wrongdoing, were dropped.

Now RSPB Scotland is demanding an urgent meeting with prosecutors over the case.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management, said: "RSPB video evidence has been used in the successful prosecution of previous wildlife crime cases in Scotland.

"We are appalled and extremely frustrated that the court has not been given the opportunity to give a judgement based on this footage, and we are perplexed by the inconsistency in approach to these cases that seems to be taken by the Crown Office.

"We have written to the Lord Advocate and will be seeking urgent meetings with the Crown Office to consider the implications."

Susan Davies, director of conservation at Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “This footage clearly shows a hen harrier being shot. It's extremely disappointing that the Crown Office has stated it is inadmissible.

“Wildlife crime continues to be a serious problem on some grouse moors across Scotland. We urge the Scottish Government to toughen their resolve in tackling unacceptable practices in the sector by introducing a licensing system to regulate grouse moor management.

“Such a system would encourage more sustainable management practices, benefit law-abiding landowners, and help to safeguard Scotland's natural environment for the future."

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) spokesman said: "In accordance with the Crown's ongoing duty to keep prosecutions under review and after carrying out a detailed review of all of the relevant material, Crown counsel considered that the inevitable conclusion was that RSPB investigators entered the land in question and embarked upon evidence gathering for the purpose of prosecution.

"Discussions have taken place over a number of years between RSPB and COPFS about the admissibility of evidence obtained through the use of covert surveillance.

"The Crown has consistently made it clear that strict legal tests must be met before evidence which has been obtained irregularly, such as the evidence in this case, is admissible. We will continue to have further dialogue with RSPB.

"In the whole circumstances, Crown counsel concluded that the evidence would not be admissible in court.

"In light of that conclusion it was entirely appropriate that proceedings were brought to an end."

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "The SGA has no membership interest in this case. It is not our place to comment, therefore, on individuals involved in the alleged incident or to provide a critique of COPFS.

"That is a matter for the various different interests involved in wildlife crime investigations. We trust that, had the evidence gathered been considered satisfactory by the appropriate authority, due process would have followed."

He added: "The SGA has a clear message on wildlife crime. Any member convicted of a wildlife crime is removed from the organisation immediately. The SGA advocates solely legal methods for tackling species conflicts."

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