A part-time gamekeeper has been given a community order and ordered to pay £200 costs, having previously pleaded guilty to six charges in relation to pesticide and firearms offences.

Police searching Leech's property

Shane Leech, 33, of Maids Cross Hill, Lakenheath, Suffolk was sentenced today (8 November) at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, following the report of an illegally poisoned buzzard. Leech was given a Community Order of 80 hours unpaid work, ordered to pay £105 costs and a £95 Victim Surcharge.

In September 2020 a dead buzzard and wood pigeon carcass were found on farmland near Lakenheath, Suffolk. Mr Leech runs a pheasant shoot nearby. Toxicology tests later confirmed the buzzard had been illegally poisoned by the pesticide bendiocarb, having fed on the pigeon which had been laced with the same toxic substance.

Following the toxicology results, on 18 January 2021 Suffolk Constabulary assisted by officers from Natural England and RSPB Investigations undertook a search at Leech’s home in Lakenheath. In an unlocked outbuilding, they discovered two tubs of the pesticide Ficam D, the active ingredient of which is bendiocarb. Bendiocarb is one of the most commonly-abused substances in cases of bird of prey poisoning. A number of firearms were also seized.

The police search continued on nearby farmland where Leech operated his pheasant shoot.  A number of agricultural pesticides were found in inappropriate storage conditions, including slug pellets (metaldehyde) which had been decanted into another container.

Leech was originally charged with additional offences relating to the poisoning of the buzzard, but these matters were later discontinued after pleas had been entered to six other charges.

Sgt Brian Calver from Suffolk Constabulary’s Rural Crime and Wildlife Team said: “Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. I hope today’s result will serve as a warning to others and urge anybody who finds a suspected poisoned bird of prey to come forward to police or anonymously to Crimestoppers.

“Whilst the identity of the poisoner in this case has not been confirmed, the police enquiry did uncover a number of pesticide storage and firearms offences. Firearms and pesticides both have inherent risks if not stored and used correctly. As a firearms holder and professional pest controller Leech fell well short of the required standards.”

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations at the RSPB, added: "Yet again, a gamekeeper has been convicted of pesticide storage offences as a result of an inquiry centred on an illegally poisoned bird of prey. Despite the best efforts of a range of enforcement agencies, no-one has been prosecuted for the killing of the buzzard in this case due to insufficient evidence. But cases like this raise public awareness, and that is at least an import deterrent. The illegal laying of poison baits in the open continues to cause the death of many birds of prey every year and also poses risks to people, pets and other animals. We would particularly like to thank the diligent work of Suffolk Constabulary and the CPS in this case.”

The charges were:

  • Two breaches of Section 1 firearms certificate re improper storing of .22 rifle ammunition
  • Two breaches of shotgun certificate
  • Two HSWA offences re unsafe storage 4.5 kilos Ficam D (bendiocarb) plus slug pellets (metaldehyde).

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx