This post has no bearing on my petition, which can stand on it’s own feet. The Guardian article about an illegal spring trap on the Tillypronie estate had not even been written when I submitted the petition. It helps me give a possible explanation, however, as to why the COPFS made a decision not to proceed with 2 cases before the courts. It is therefore relevant to the petition.
I have always had a difficulty understanding the reasoning in the letter to the EECLRC from COPFS. This theory suggests that the case against Stanley Gordon was not proceeded with was just lucky for him. The explanation given for his case had a little merit. This could not be said for the case against Craig Graham. Had it gone to trial it would almost certainly have succeeded. This theory gives a reason why this was not allowed to happen.
It suggests that it is possible that COPFS had decided to prevent the police charging a gamekeeper on the Tillypronie estate who was seen on a recording by the RSPB setting or attending to an illegal spring trap. Had Craig Graham been convicted it would have revealed that COPFS had little reason to prevent the police from charging the keeper on the Tillypronie estate. There are undoubted similarities in the cases, but I know nothing about the Tillypronie case except that revealed in the Guardian article. Even that may not be true, but I suspect that it is.
This tale shows how it may have transpired that the decision was taken not to charge a keeper on the Tillypronie estate, and how the decision not to proceed in the other two cases relates to that.
It all starts with Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter, the then head of the police National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) (from Feb 2012 to July 2014), about whom the excellent blog RPUK revealed some interesting information. In a FOI he is revealed to have said in a memo dated 30/1/2013.
“The concerns I have about several recent and ongoing cases of raptor persecution go beyond issues of deliberate poisoning/pesticide abuse and into such areas as illegal shooting and trapping. My concerns and those of my team centre on the role that the RSPB Investigations Team has/is playing in all of these cases. I will not go into the specific issues of each case, but there is a pattern whereby neither the NWCU nor Natural England are being made aware by PWCO’s and other Police officers of developing cases until enforcement actions such as warrants have already been taken or are imminent.”
“Over the next few months I will be working on developing the SOP for the Police. I will involve you all directly in this to ensure the document reflects the need for a close working relationship between us. In developing the SOP I would expect that any case that comes to light would be reported to the NWCU and that we set up a formal meeting process with NE to consider actions. I would also consider a formal meeting structure would need to be set up with NE and hopefully CRD to consider and review ongoing/possible cases (I think we suggested this at our meeting).”
The same FOI revels this correspondence from Elaine Kendall of DEFRA on the same day
“Sadly when the conduct of an NGO begins to prejudice the integrity of investigations action needs to be taken. I think what disappoints me most is that there are people within the RSPB investigations team who I understand are ex-police which makes the way they have secured their involvement with investigations particularly inexcusable. They know full well the impact they are having. In the Marsh Harrier case is a prime example of holding back important info for what appears to be no other reason than to get a media
splash. It’s very calculated.
And who loses out? Everytime it’s the birds.”
Due to an article on Dr Mark Avery’s blog I became aware of this SOP. It is the Memorandum of understanding: enforcing wildlife crime (MOU). The MOU is dated September 2015. This states: “Police forces will identify wildlife crimes when they are submitted to the CPS for decision and that all cases within the National Wildlife Crime Priorities (save for poaching which will be dealt with by local arrangement) should be referred to the CPS for a charging decision. This will ensure that the CPS regional Wildlife Coordinator will be aware of ongoing investigations and cases. ” It will do that, but it may not be as innocent as it appears. It allows the CPS to prevent police forces who believe that they have sufficient evidence to charge a suspect from doing so even in and especially in cases of established police crime priority. It may even be that the feelings of DI Nevin Hunter may have been shared by others, lessening the chances of a police force being allowed to make charges where they believed they had excellent reasons for charging a suspect. The FOI also reveals that it is very likely that the MOU had input from Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter.
The MOU is a document intended for England and Wales. The Scottish COPFS may however have used the same protocol (I can’t find one directly applicable) or other powers to make a decision not to allow the charging of a keeper on the Tillypronie estate by the police, who may have believed that they had sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.
The offence was stated in the Guardian article to be in March 2014. In the meantime another illegal spring trap was discovered and the police in Scotland charged Craig Graham who was accused of setting and re-setting a pole trap on the Brewlands Estate in July 2015. The case had been scheduled for a trial on 15 May 2017. This conspiracy theory suggests that why a case so strong was abandoned was not due to it being certain that it would not succeed but a concern that it might well succeed. It may well have revealed that the actions of the COPFS in whatever action they took in the Tillypronie estate case, (and it does not really matter whether my suggestion that they prevented someone from being charged is correct or not) might then be seen to be a gross error, due to the obvious similarity between the cases.
Conspiracy theory revealed. Instruction to self. Please all levels of sarcasm, scepticism etc. to normal levels, if you possibly can.
I need to look to the future. I now need to concentrate on the petition, which has the potential to overrule any such bias, and hopefully ensure that wildlife crimes of this nature reach court where it may be properly and correctly dealt with according only to the law.