Highlands & Islands

Inverness prison officer who kept birds eggs sentenced

Keith Liddell
Image caption Keith Liddell has worked as a prison officer for 10 years

A prison officer who admitted illegally possessing and trading in birds eggs has been ordered to carry out 220 hours unpaid community work.

Keith Liddell, 53, of Inverness, pleaded guilty last month to 11 of 13 charges relating to being involved in the illegal trade of eggs.

He also admitted two of three charges relating to unlawful possession of eggs.

He will now be subject to a Scottish Prison Service disciplinary inquiry.

Liddell was ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community as an alternative to a prison sentence.

Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood said Liddell would have been well aware that his activities were criminal given the number of eggs he had amassed, and the lengths he went to to conceal them.

The sheriff told the prison officer of 10 years: "But I must balance with that your previous good character, your employment may be terminated and the fact you held a responsible job for a long period.

"Your trading also took the form of exchanging eggs rather than any commercial activity, and there is no evidence that you personally collected any eggs of protected species.

Image caption Liddell unlawfully possessed hundreds of birds eggs

"To a limited extent, some of the eggs you possessed were collected when such activity was lawful."

Sheriff Fleetwood added: "The instruction given to me by parliament is that I should only impose a sentence of imprisonment on a person who has not previously been imprisoned if there is no other alterative open to me."

The birds involved in illegal trading included hobby, red and black kites, peregrine falcons, Egyptian vultures and sparrowhawks.

Liddell pleaded guilty to two charges of unlawful possession of 338 eggs including a number of Scottish rare breeding birds.

They included Slavonian grebes, black-throated divers and ospreys.

The offences took place between August 2004 to June 2009.

The RSPB worked with police in the investigation of the case.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said Liddell was "very fortunate" to have escaped a jail sentence.

Mr Thomson added: "Although he has not been convicted of taking birds eggs from the wild, the trading activity in which Mr Liddell was engaged obviously perpetuates such crimes, posing a significant threat to rare breeding birds not just in Scotland, but further afield."

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