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RSPB Reinforces Challenge to Shooting Community

Following Norfolk Gamekeeper Sentence

An RSPB challenge to leaders in the shooting community to acknowledge and take action against illegal bird of prey persecution has been reinforced after a Norfolk gamekeeper was today, 6 November, handed a 10-week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs in Norwich Magistrates Court after being found guilty on two counts and pleading guilty to five charges relating to illegal bird of prey persecution in October.

Allen Lambert, 65, formerly a gamekeeper on the estate, was found guilty on the 1 October 2014, at Norwich Magistrates Court of two charges relating to the killing of 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk and possession of pesticides and other items to prepare poisoned baits. He had earlier pleaded guilty to five charges relating to the possession of nine dead buzzards, possession and use of banned pesticides (Mevinphos and Aldicarb) and breach of a firearms certificate.

On 4 April 2013, RSPB Investigations followed up a report of several dead birds of prey in a wood on the estate. The birds were recovered and subsequent analysis by a government laboratory confirmed at least one buzzard and one sparrowhawk had been poisoned by the pesticide mevinphos. This was a former agricultural pesticide but banned from use in 1993.

Later that day, officers from Norfolk Constabulary, supported by Natural England and RSPB visited the home address of Lambert. A search of his vehicle and unlocked storeroom found two containers of the pesticide mevinphos and a further container with the pesticide aldicarb, a substance also banned from use in 2007. Both of these highly toxic products have a long history of abuse for wildlife poisoning. There was also a syringe and needles believed to be intended for applying the pesticides to illegal poison baits.

However, the most shocking find was a bag holding the bodies of nine buzzards. Analysis confirmed all nine had also been poisoned by mevinphos.

Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: “This is the worst case of bird of prey poisoning we are aware of in England, and one of the worst in the UK. Finding the carcases of nine poisoned buzzards in a bag at Lambert’s home was truly dreadful. Unfortunately this is a part of a wider national problem."

In sentencing, the District Judge Peter Veits criticised the running of shooting estates. He said, “Those who employ gamekeepers have a strict duty to know what is being done in their name and on their property. They also have a duty to ensure that their gamekeepers are properly trained and capable of keeping abreast of the complex laws relating to the use of poisons.

“In other industries, employers as well as the employee could be facing prosecution in such cases and I hope therefore that this case can serve as a wakeup call to all who run estates as to their duties.” He added, “It is clear that the buzzard population in Norfolk is increasing and this is something to be applauded and not seen an inconvenience by those who choose to run shoots.”

The sentencing comes only a week after the RSPB issued a challenge to leaders among the shooting community to step up and acknowledge the problem of illegal persecution in the UK, and start to take action to put a stop to the killing.

The RSPB’s recently published ‘Birdcrime 2013’ report revealed 48 confirmed pesticide abuse incidents across the UK resulting in the poisoning of at least 76 individual birds or other animals. Victims included 30 buzzards, 20 red kites, a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle. These figures are believed to represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution in the UK, with many incidents thoughts to be going undetected or unreported.

Bob Elliot continued: “This is only one example that the senseless killing of birds of prey takes place and it will continue to happen unless there is a change of attitude in the shooting industry in order to make a serious and effective effort to end illegal bird of prey persecution.”

“We are now calling on the UK government to show their commitment to the protection of birds of prey by introducing stronger legislation. This includes vicarious liability to make employers and managers more accountable for the actions of their staff and stronger controls on possession of certain pesticides. This could be vital in the fight against illegal persecution.”

The introduction of the provision of vicarious liability would make employers legally responsible for the wildlife crimes committed by their employees.


6th November 2014