Gamekeeper who killed birds of prey loses appeal

CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Covert images of Glenn Brown attending the illegal cage trap baited with live white pigeon. Photo contributed.
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Covert images of Glenn Brown attending the illegal cage trap baited with live white pigeon. Photo contributed.
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Peak District gamekeeper Glenn Brown who claimed he had been framed by an animal welfare charity when convicted last year for illegally trapping a bird of prey has been ordered to pay £7,000 court costs by a judge who threw out his appeal.

Now the charity – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) – is calling for landowners and grouse moor estate managers to become legally liable for criminal actions carried out by gamekeepers.

Brown, 40 of Derwent Valley, lost his appeal on Tuesday against his conviction and sentence on seven charges relating to the illegal use of a trap baited with a live pigeon in order to take birds of prey, the intentional taking of a sparrowhawk and a number of animal welfare offences.

He was originally sentenced to 100 hours community service and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

His defence accused the RSPB of planting evidence – but in dimissing the appeal, Judge Hilary Watson said that all the RSPB staff were credible witnesses and ordered him to pay a further £7,000 costs.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said after the case: “We are delighted, but not surprised that the integrity and honesty of our investigations officers has been found to be beyond reproach after coming under forensic examination in this case.”

The poor breeding success of birds of prey in the Dark Peak is causing serious concern. In 2006, the RSPB produced a report which graphically outlined its concerns in relation to goshawks and peregrines on the north-east Peak moors. When the breeding success of both species collapsed in the adjacent Derwent Valley, it prompted the undercover investigation leading to Brown’s court case.

Brown was arrested by Derbyshire Police in May 2010, following a covert surveillance operation by an RSPB investigations team who had filmed Brown using a cage trap baited with a live domestic pigeon. Although cage traps are legal when trying to trap some species, such as carrion crows, it is illegal both to use a pigeon as bait and to capture birds of prey.

Mark Thomas, an investigations officer with the RSPB, said: “We are stunned that his defence felt comfortable mounting an appeal suggesting the RSPB had framed him.

“Bird of prey persecution remains a top wildlife crime priority in the UK, and it is one that we are determined to help the police reduce.

“The problem remains particularly severe in upland areas dominated by grouse shooting, where crimes have a direct impact on the conservation of some of our rarest birds of prey.”

Mr Harper added: “Crimes such as these illustrate links between driven-grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey. We believe that land managers and owners should be held legally accountable for any wildlife crimes that are committed by their staff, as is the case in Scotland.”

A petition calling on The Law Commission to give serious consideration to this proposal can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23089