NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

RSPB Scotland calls for meeting over Moray hen harrier death case

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Media captionVideo shows alleged hen harrier shooting

RSPB Scotland has called for an urgent meeting with prosecutors after proceedings against a former gamekeeper charged with illegally killing a bird of prey in Moray were dropped.

The charity said their camera recorded evidence indicating the hen harrier was shot at Cabrach in June 2013.

Stanley Gordon denied illegally killing the bird of prey.

The Crown Office said it had been concluded that the evidence would not be admissible in court.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: "RSPB video evidence has been used in the successful prosecution of previous wildlife crime cases in Scotland.

"We are appalled and extremely frustrated that the court has not been given the opportunity to give a judgement based on this footage, and we are perplexed by the inconsistency in approach to these cases that seems to be taken by the Crown Office.

"We have written to the Lord Advocate and will be seeking urgent meetings with the Crown Office to consider the implications."

'Entirely appropriate'

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) spokesman said: "In accordance with the Crown's ongoing duty to keep prosecutions under review and after carrying out a detailed review of all of the relevant material, Crown counsel considered that the inevitable conclusion was that RSPB investigators entered the land in question and embarked upon evidence gathering for the purpose of prosecution.

"Discussions have taken place over a number of years between RSPB and COPFS about the admissibility of evidence obtained through the use of covert surveillance.

"The Crown has consistently made it clear that strict legal tests must be met before evidence which has been obtained irregularly, such as the evidence in this case, is admissible. We will continue to have further dialogue with RSPB.

"In the whole circumstances, Crown counsel concluded that the evidence would not be admissible in court.

"In light of that conclusion it was entirely appropriate that proceedings were brought to an end."

Image copyright RSPB images

Reacting to the Crown Office statement, Ian Thomson - RSPB Scotland's head of investigations - said: "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."

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "The SGA has no membership interest in this case. It is not our place to comment, therefore, on individuals involved in the alleged incident or to provide a critique of COPFS.

"That is a matter for the various different interests involved in wildlife crime investigations. We trust that, had the evidence gathered been considered satisfactory by the appropriate authority, due process would have followed."

He added: "The SGA has a clear message on wildlife crime. Any member convicted of a wildlife crime is removed from the organisation immediately. The SGA advocates solely legal methods for tackling species conflicts."

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