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Misguided RSPB-instigated case and police lies force a keeper to wait 2 1/2 years to clear his name

Last week, it was reported in the Scottish press that a gamekeeper was cleared by the Sheriff after "police lied during the course of the investigation”.

Reading further into the story, it emerges that the RSPB had reported to the police the fact that a sparrowhawk had been spotted “beside” a legally-set Larsen trap on an estate which runs a shoot.

The police duly followed up the RSPB report with a visit. But instead of telling the estate why they were visiting, officers instead chose to twice tell the lie (to a keeper and to the landowner) that they were searching for a missing person.

When the keeper went to check his trap – something which is done several times a day – he found the police in attendance, and a sparrowhawk in the trap. The trap was a legal Larsen trap, and the bird was released unharmed by police.

Sheriff McDonald found almost immediately that the case had no basis, due to the police officers’ lies. But the real point here is that the trap was a legal one, licensed and tagged, as they must be in Scotland. A spokesman from the estate pointed out that “a meat bait return form is completed as per Nature Scot guidelines showing the release of non-target species caught. The beauty of this type of trap is that they are checked several times a day and birds can be released unharmed.”

This case – one which was triggered by the RSPB investigations team – has taken two and half years to reach its conclusion. All of this has been pursued and instigated by the RSPB, but there was never a case of substance in the first place.

Why did the police lie? Why not tell the landowner what they were really looking for, unless there were other, more sinister factors, at play?

The keeper has been left waiting two and a half years to clear his name, causing great personal stress. He has essentially been persecuted by the bird charity simply for being a gamekeeper and for using the tools which the Scottish Government allow him to use. But the RSPB – in particular Ian Thomson, their head of investigations – don’t seem to consider the personal consequences and mental health implications on individual gamekeepers and their families from their campaign of hostility against them.

It is yet another example of the RSPB attacking law-abiding people who are simply trying to do their job, yet doing a very good job of damaging their lives and livelihoods at the same time.

Interestingly, another article in today’s Telegraph highlights the fact that the RSPB are searching for contractors to work on a Curlew-protection project in Upper Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. The job role includes the duty to “provide and to run Larsen traps, away from public view, to remove territorial crows that have learned behaviours to target curlew eggs and chicks”.

The RSPB, which says Larsen traps are the most effective way of controlling crows, sets out rules for their use including that they are checked twice a day and live bait birds are provided with food and shelter.

This is exactly what was being practised in the Scottish case, as is demonstrated by the fact that the keeper found the police present when they went to check on the trap. In fact, the rules in Scotland are tighter than elsewhere in the UK, with each trap licenced and tagged with the details of the person who set it.

So how, then, can the RSPB justify sending the police out to monitor a legally-set Larsen trap in Scotland and to pursue this case through the courts to the detriment of a keeper’s life, while employing people to do the same job in Northern Ireland? The hypocrisy of it stinks.


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