Gamekeeper given 225 hours unpaid work for wildlife crime spree

Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court.

A Borders gamekeeper convicted of “despicable” crimes against wildlife, including illegally killing protected species, has been given a 225 hour community payback order.

Alan Wilson was sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court this morning, after pleading guilty to nine offences last month including shooting dead badgers, an otter, goshawks and buzzards.

Henlaw Wood at the Longformacus Estate near Duns.

Henlaw Wood at the Longformacus Estate near Duns.

The 61-year-old also admitted using 23 illegal snares in Henlaw Wood on the Longformacus Estate in Berwickshire where he worked.

Describing Wilson’s crimes as “despicable”, an undercover investigator for the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said: “This is 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.”

Wilson was the subject of a two-year, multi-agency police led operation after officers received information from a member of the public that a dead goshawk had been found on the Longformacus Estate near Duns in May 2017.

A subsequent search of a nearby woodland led to the recovery of further dead birds of prey, as well as three badgers and an otter.

A 'stink pit' to attract wild animals to snare traps, found at the Longformacus Estate. Photograph: League Against Cruel Sports.

A 'stink pit' to attract wild animals to snare traps, found at the Longformacus Estate. Photograph: League Against Cruel Sports.

Wilson was arrested and charged in July 2018 and pled guilty to nine offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on July 22 this year.

His offences also included being in possession of two bottles of carbofuran, one of the most toxic pesticides, which is illegal in the UK.

Detective Constable Andy Loughlin who led the police inquiries said: “This has been a complex inquiry that has amounted to a large-scale police investigation spanning the past couple of years.

“We have worked with experts in the field to secure Wilson’s conviction and I would like to thank our colleagues from the Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, veterinary pathologists at the Scottish Agricultural College, government specialists at SASA, and independent experts, for all their assistance.

Remains of an otter found at the Longformacus Estate. Photo: Crown Office.

Remains of an otter found at the Longformacus Estate. Photo: Crown Office.

“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. Whenever such offences are reported to us we will work closely with partners to identify those responsible and ensure they are brought before the courts.”

The investigator for the Scottish SPCA said: “Some of the equipment in Mr Wilson’s possession has been unlawful for decades yet it was evident it had been recently used to trap wild animals.

“The illegally set snares across the estate he was managing would have trapped wild animals indiscriminately and the remains discovered were proof of that. This amounted to large-scale eradication of wildlife.

“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.”

Remains of a bird of prey recovered from the Longformacus Estate. Photograph: Crown Office.

Remains of a bird of prey recovered from the Longformacus Estate. Photograph: Crown Office.

Duncan Orr-Ewing from RSPB Scotland added: “This was an absolutely appalling incident involving the illegal killing of a range of protected wildlife. We thank the Police, Scottish SPCA, and other public agencies for their hard work in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Scottish Government wildlife forensic scientist, Dr Lucy Webster, said the investigation had made good use of forensic evidence to fully illustrate the range of offences committed.

“It is an excellent example of the benefits of partnership working to bring a prolific wildlife criminal to justice,” she said.

The League Against Cruel Sports said that the case illustrated the scale on which wildlife was being persecuted to “prop up” the commercial shooting industry.

Its Scotland director, Robbie Marsland, said: “This is an appalling case, involving the systematic illegal slaughter of wildlife so that more grouse can be shot for entertainment, and in our view is one of the worst wildlife crime incidents in recent years.

“While we are pleased Alan Wilson has been brought to justice for his crimes we are disappointed the law didn’t allow for a custodial sentence.”

A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The actions, in this case, are a gross breach of our organisation’s wildlife crime policy. They reflect negatively on the reputation of the entire profession, are unacceptable and entirely out of step with what we expect of our members’ conduct.

“We will be terminating the individual’s membership of the SGA with immediate effect.”

Anyone with concerns regarding this type of criminal activity is encouraged to report it to Police Scotland on 101.