In case you missed it, RSPB have just published film footage of a former gamekeeper allegedly shooting a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate, Morayshire, in June 2013, retrieving the body, and cleaning up the feathers after himself. After almost four years of waiting, court proceedings were dropped two weeks ago by the Crown Office, who indicated that after considering all of the relevant material, they couldn't use RSPB Scotland video evidence to support the prosecution in court. However, it's only today that the Crown Office has explained the rationale behind this decision.
Here' s the official response from RSPB Scotland:
We do not agree with the opinion from the Crown Office that we were attempting to gather evidence for a prosecution. We installed a camera to monitor a protected breeding bird’s nest site, core business for a conservation organisation. We did not share the information about the nest site with anyone, as would be the case with any rare and vulnerable breeding bird species. The fact that an individual came and allegedly shot the female harrier, and that this was captured on film, was an incidental consequence of the camera’s deployment, in the same way that it could easily have captured footage of the nest being naturally predated or failing due to bad weather. It is very disappointing that the opportunity for the court to consider the issue of the admissibility or otherwise of this evidence, as has happened in previous cases, has been removed. Until today, we have received no rationale for the decision to drop the case despite the fact that a number of our staff have provided significant time and expertise in supporting the authorities with the prosecution case.
Watch the footage for yourself here.
Full details in the original press release here.
We have now written to the Lord Advocate and are seeking urgent meetings with the Crown Office to consider the implications. Clearly the laws that protect our wildlife are only as good as our ability to uphold them.
If video footage of this quality isn't sufficient to secure a prosecution, then the question remains... what is?
Follow the fortunes of our satellite tagged hen harriers and find out what we’re doing on the ground to secure a future for these spectacular skydancers across England and Scotland by visiting our Hen Harrier LIFE Project webpage: www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife
Follow us on twitter @RSPB_Skydancer
I am absolutely appalled at this decision. Someone in the criminal justice system has decided that the RSPB may not monitor raptor nest sites in Scotland, but if they do and detect criminality, that even viewing of a criminal act that this evidence can not be used in court. I have written to all my MSPs and although I was not able to be reasonable in my screed, I shall persist and if necessary meet each one to get a face to face response. The organised criminal activity of driven grouse shooting has people in many places prepared to assist those who break the law, and the law needs to be changed to make this loophole closed to the organised criminals and their supporters.
I shall draft a proposed change to the law to show how simple this would be. I believe that the RSPB should do the same.
I would urge RSPB members in Scotland to contact their MSPs
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