Timeline

Timeline

August 2012 George Mutch seen on a concealed camera placed by the RSPB killing Goshawk and committing other offences.

January 2013, written by DI Nevin Hunter NWCU
“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.”

June 2013 Stanley Gordon, a gamekeeper on the Cabrach estate appeared in a covert video where it appeared that he shot the female hen harrier as it left the nest. The police charged Mr Gordon, and there were 9 court appearances.

July 2013 Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said that he would be urging the Crown Office to consider the use of video footage in cases against those committing wildlife crime.

March 2014 Gamekeeper of Tillypronie Estate (TG) alleged to set trap near Goshawk nest on the estate. This was seen on a camera concealed by the RSPB.

January 2015 Sara Shaw of the Crown Office procurator fiscal service (COPFS) says  in relation to the custodial sentence after the conviction of George Mutch “COPFS will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”

July 2015 Craig Graham, a gamekeeper on the Brewlands estate was alleged to have been seen placing a bait on an illegal pole trap. Camera placed by RSPB. Many provisional trial dates set.

September 2015. A memorandum of understanding on the prevention, investigation and enforcement of Wildlife Crime between Natural England Natural Resources Body for Wales, The Crown Prosecution Service, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council was issued. It is not known if a similar document existed in Scotland, and cannot locate an earlier version. It contains 4.4 :“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.“ This gives CPS an opportunity to prevent charges being brought even where the police may believe they have sufficient evidence available to them, and may not be entirely innocent.

August 2016 Tillypronie Estate goes on sale, the property employing the gamekeeper alleged to set a trap in March 2014.

May 2017 COPFS drops the cases against Stanley Gordon and Craig Graham.

May 2017 David Harvie, Crown Agent writes to the Justice committee “I was heartened to read that the Committee concluded that the public can have confidence in an effective, rigorous, fair and independent COPFS.”

May 2017 The convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLRC)  wrote to the COPFS seeking clarity over the decision to drop the cases cases and admissibility of evidence on wildlife crime.  

Sept. 2017 General Licence restriction 02/2017 was issued to an individual for 3 years from 15 September 2017 which prohibits them from using General Licences during that period. This is likely to be the unknown individual  who in March 2014 was filmed setting illegal traps close to a goshawk nest on Tillypronie estate.

January 2018 The ECCLRC held a meeting on 16 January 2018 about the 2016 Wildlife crime report. This meeting was the basis of my request for 2 changes to Scottish Law. I had previously considered and distributed to the ECCLRC proposals for several other changes. I hope other changes may not be needed if these changes are enacted.

Feb. 2018 Issued a revised document to the ECCLRC members revising down the number of changes to the law.

March 2018 Petition submitted.

April 2018 Article  in the Guardian about the three-year restriction on unnamed keeper on Philip Astor’s Tillypronie estate after incident with baited trap.

16 August 2018 Petition goes live and is open for signatures until 26th September. Website at https://bit.ly/2KZxni9

20 December 2018 Started to look for a firm of solicitors to give me independent legal advice as recommended to me by COPFS. I already had a document that I wished them to review.

1 January 2019 I knew that my document that I wished to have reviewed was very weak, in that COPFS had said that the RSPB investigators were not granted a right to be on the land by virtue of the reason they were on the land. I searched for another law which gave then m a right, but could find nothing. However, when I looked again at the Land Reform Act 2003 with this specifically in mind, I found a suitable argument immediately. I was more confident in this approach, but still needed to find a firm of solicitors, preferably a major firm.

11 January 2019 A firm of solicitors gave an initial confirmation of interest.

22 January 2019 Agreement with firm of solicitors reached, involving civil and criminal lawyers.

22 February 2019 Final document agreed with solicitors. Sent immediately as a submission to the Public Petitions Committee to be ready for the second hearing of the petition PE1705, likely sometime in March. I also felt able to write again to COPFS asking 4 questions based upon my submission, which I requested COPFS either answer direct to me or, if preferred, direct to the convener of the ECCLRC. I copied the letter on this occasion to the convener of the ECCLRC.

6 March 2019. I wrote a submission which I had been preparing to the ECCLRC, with the suspicion that the discussion on the wildlife crime report might be considered as early as the next week. The submission was accepted that day, and was listed but not included in the public website papers for the meeting, which was to be held in the 12 March.

7 March 2019 The public papers for the ECCLRC meeting were published, and included the information that I had made a submission for the meeting. This was as much as could have hoped to achieve, but needed either the convener or a member of the committee to ask the COPFS representative to reply to the questions I posed in the submission either before or during the meeting.

8 March 2019 I received a letter from COPFS. I was not unduly disappointed that they confirmed that they did not consider it appropriate to comment, and did not intend to write to the convener. I replied immediately, copying my reply to the committee, as I had said on the 6th that I had not received a reply.

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