South Scotland

Gamekeeper sentenced over Duns wildlife killings

Illegal snare Image copyright Scottish SPCA
Image caption The Scottish SPCA said it would never be known how many animal deaths Wilson had caused

A Borders gamekeeper who killed a range of wildlife in what the Scottish SPCA described as a "despicable case" has been sentenced in court.

Alan Wilson, 61, of Duns, admitted nine charges including killing goshawks, buzzards, badgers and an otter.

The offences were committed on the Longformacus Estate in the Borders between March 2016 and June 2017.

He was ordered to carry out 225 hours unpaid work and given a restriction of liberty order.

Other charges against Wilson involved the setting of illegal snares and possessing illegal pesticides.

Image copyright Scottish SPCA

Sheriff Peter Paterson said the offences merited a jail term but he felt he was unable to impose one due to guidelines against short-term sentences.

"The sentencing options open to me at the moment do not reflect society's views," he added.

The court was told Wilson had pledged to no longer work as a gamekeeper and was now employed cutting trees.

Police welcomed the sentencing at Jedburgh Sheriff Court at the end of what they called a "complex inquiry" which had been a "large-scale" investigation.

"The illegal killing of birds of prey and protected species cannot, and will not, be tolerated, nor will the inhumane use of illegal traps and pesticides," said Det Con Andy Loughlin.

Image copyright Scottish SPCA
Image caption The League Against Cruel Sports called it "one of the worst wildlife crime incidents in recent years"

An undercover Scottish SPCA investigator described it as a "despicable case of serious and systematic crimes to indiscriminately remove wildlife from an estate".

"The sheer volume of dead wildlife discovered is truly shocking," the investigator added.

"We will never know the total number of animals which perished due to Mr Wilson, though had it not been for the robust intervention of Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and our other partner agencies, many more would have suffered and perished."

Sara Shaw, head of the Crown Office's wildlife and environmental crime unit, said Wilson's actions amounted to a "campaign of deliberate criminality".

Image copyright Scottish SPCA
Image caption The Crown Office said Wilson had shown "utter disregard" for wildlife laws

"He has shown an utter disregard for wildlife laws which serve to protect these species, she said.

Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland called it an "absolutely appalling incident involving the illegal killing of a range of protected wildlife."

Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture wildlife forensic scientist Dr Lucy Webster said the investigation had been an "excellent example" of partnership working to "bring a prolific wildlife criminal to justice".

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports, described it as "one of the worst wildlife crime incidents in recent years".

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said Wilson's actions were "unacceptable" and "entirely out of step" with conduct it expected from its members.

He said Wilson's SGA membership would be terminated immediately.

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