The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)
Worries over wildlife after court cases axed
Organisations say public confidence in prosecuting illegal trappers is damaged
Wildlife organisations say public confidence in raptor crime prosecution is being “significantly undermined” after a decision to drop a case against a former gamekeeper accused of setting pheasant-baited traps on an Angus Glens estate.
RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have both raised concerns after the Crown Office confirmed proceedings against Craig Graham, which had been scheduled for trial at Forfar next week, will not now go ahead.
Mr Graham had been due to face trial on two charges of baiting a fenn trap with a pheasant carcase on land at Brewlands Estate, Glenisla in July 2015.
RSPB Scotland said it captured video footage of an illegal pole trap being set on the estate, on the Angus/Perthshire border.
However the Crown Office said the law places limitations on the admissibility of evidence which has been obtained irregularly.
It comes after charges against a former gamekeeper accused of illegally shooting a bird of prey in Moray were also dropped.
RSPB Scotland’s head of species and land management, Duncan Orr-Ewing said: “For one case, where there was excellent video evidence to support the prosecution, to be discontinued inexplicably by the Crown Office so close to the trial was baffling.
“For a second case to be discontinued, again with no explanation from the Crown Office and again without the opportunity for the evidence to be tested in court, is deeply concerning and significantly undermines our confidence in the ability of Scotland’s justice system to bear down on the criminals who continue to target our protected birds of prey.”
RSPB Scotland said after initially finding the trap, the team made it safe as they had no mobile phone signal to contact the police and deployed a video camera focused on the area to secure the evidence until police could attend.
A few days later, staff accompanied a police wildlife crime officer to the scene, where it was found the trap had been reset. Police seized the device as evidence and the camera was recovered.
Footage recorded by the camera showed the trap apparently twice being reset in the days after it was found, RSPB Scotland said.
Susan Davies, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s director of conservation, said: “The public will be disappointed that the prosecution of another alleged wildlife crime has been dropped due to inadmissible evidence.
“This footage demonstrates that raptor persecution continues to be a problem and that some land managers need to clean up their act.
“We urge the Scottish Government to toughen their resolve in tackling these unacceptable practices.”
For a second case to be discontinued again with no explanation... is deeply concerning