In 2014/15 George Mutch was convicted and imprisoned for killing a Goshawk and other offences whilst employed as a gamekeeper on the Kildrummy estate in Aberdeenshire. There was no vicarious liability conviction associated with this crime, most likely due to a possible inability to determine whom to charge. During the trial, the COPFS prosecutor argued strongly the the video evidence should be accepted in court, and it was accepted. The present head of COPFS, Sara Shaw, said “COPFS will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”
In this case a concealed camera had been placed by RSPB which was trained upon the location(s) where possible crimes may have occurred. The law has not changed since that time in respect of the cases considered here.
In June 2013, Stanley Gordon, a gamekeeper on the Cabrach estate in Aberdeenshire was alleged to have appeared in a covert video where it appeared that he shot the female hen harrier as it left the nest. The RSPB said they were trying to find out why hen harrier nests failed. The police charged Mr Gordon, but after 9 court appearances, all charges were dropped by COPFS in May 2017.
In 2015 Craig Graham, a gamekeeper on the Brewlands estate is alleged to have set a pole trap to catch raptors. RSPB employees passed the location of the trap, use of which has been banned for many years. They unset the trap, set a concealed camera, and informed the police. Some days later, the police and RSPB returned and removed the trap. The video on the concealed camera allowed the police to charge Mr Graham. The case was first called in March 2016 and after several trial dates were abandoned, COPFS discontinued the case in May 2017.
In March 2014 a gamekeeper of Tillypronie Estate was alleged to set a trap near Goshawk nest on the estate. This was seen on a camera concealed by the RSPB. This case is considered here because, although no details have been officially made public, it has several similarities to the abandoned cases. It is therefore not known whether the gamekeeper was charged, or whether a report was made to COPFS. The gamekeeper was probably the person who received a personal restriction on the General Licence preventing him from carrying out a lot of activities normal for a position as a gamekeeper. This restriction was not applied until September 2017, more than 3 years after the possible offence. It is not unreasonable to believe, therefore, that his case was considered by the Crown Office at the same time as the other 2 cases above, and the same determination made. This case is considered more fully in another post.
There may yet be other cases of which the public is not aware.