North West Hunt Saboteurs

Convicted Gamekeepers

Cliffard Larter, a gamekeeper, found guilty of assault on a Notts sab and causing ABH. The sab's nose was broken and more serious injury was only prevented by the intervention of two other saboteurs. Fined £200 and £75 costs.

Gamekeeper Antonio Cussato (35) of Herbert Avenue, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire was found guilty on 19/6/96 by Wrexham magistrates of four charges of setting traps and two charges of possessing them and was fined £400 and £100 costs. The traps were found by RSPB investigators on the Bryn-y-pys estate at Overton where Cussato worked. During a search of 13 pheasant pens on the estate evidence was found of illegal pole-traps in all but two, and in four of the pens the steel spring traps were set. On a search of Cussato's house five identical traps were found and restraining wires hanging from a hook. Cussato claimed a trespasser with a grievance had placed them there while he was on holiday. 

On 18/1/96 Norwich magistrates heard how a gamekeeper set pole traps to catch birds of prey, David Millican (42) of Kimberley Hall Estate, Norfolk, a trainee at the estate, was told by the head gamekeeper Sidney Carter (81) to set the traps. The traps which have been illegal since 1904 were rigged to trap such birds as sparrowhawks and tawny owls as they swooped down on pheasants which were being reared in pens on the estate. The traps were set on five 10ft poles at various places on the estate and steel jaws were triggered by a spring to snap shut when the birds land on the poles. An RSPB officer commented that any birds caught in a pole trap would die a very slow and painful death as they would just be hanging there with one or two broken legs until it either died from starvation or shock. Millican was fined £1,500 (£300 for each trap) and £30 costs, later said "I have been made a scapegoat, I did not know these traps were illegal, I was just told to do it and I did". He also told the court any fine would be paid by the landowner, Eton-educated Roland Buxton (72). Later he told reporters that he had to pack in his job and that nobody would employ him because of this case. Sidney Carter, the head gamekeeper, was said not to be prosecuted because of his old age and ill heath.

On 14/9/96 a former student who was studying to be a gamekeeper at Newton Rigg College, Cumbria admitted illegally removing a dead deer from land without the consent of the landowner. Penrith magistrates heard that Kevin Lloyd Dean (28) of Hylton House, Long Marton, Cumbria was stopped in a car and a dead roe deer was found in the back of the vehicle. When the police asked where it had come from they said it was found at the side of the road. On further examination of the deer it was found to have slash marks to the throat and wounds consistent with having been bitten by a dog. Magistrates also heard how Dean and others had been out rabbiting in the Cockermouth area when a dog with them had attacked the deer. They claimed deer had been killed with a knife to put it out of its misery and then they were taking it home for consumption. Dean, who has since left the college because of fear of recriminations was fined £150 with £50 costs. Two other defendants Paul Tony Wren (23) of South Street, Cockermouth, Cumbria and a youth from Lancashire pleaded not guilty to the incident.

Gamekeeper Dennis Stephenson (35) of Park End Estate, Wark, Northumbria was convicted of using a Larsen trap for the purpose of killing or taking a wild bird and fined £100 with £200 costs. During a hearing at Hexham magistrates on 18/10/96 the court heard how RSPB officers and police had kept watch on the trap, which had been baited with a live racing pigeon, and had been placed near a pheasant release pen.

Gamekeeper Michael Skelly (31) of Stanhope Estate, Tweedsmuir, Lanarkshire has been found guilty of having shotguns and rifles out of his cabinet and of illegal possession of 20 rounds of .275 ammunition and four slug cartridges. Following an anonymous complaint about poisoning police obtained a warrant to search Skelly's house. During the search they found Cymag gas, .275 ammunition and his guns were out of their cabinet. Following an appearance at Peebles Sheriff Court the police revoked his shotgun and firearms licence. However the court did not fine Skelly or make him pay any costs, he was just admonished (given advice) by the Sheriff.

On 31/12/96 a gamekeeper who shot dead a man he found trying to steal his car was jailed for four months and had his guns seized and certificates cancelled after he admitted keeping more guns than the firearms certificates permitted. Martin Wise (35) of Hildenborough, Kent admitted possessing a Webley revolver, a Spanish single-barrel shotgun and 253 rounds of ammunition not covered under the certificates. Earlier this year he was cleared of murder and manslaughter. Wise said that he did not deliberately fire an automatic pistol at Matthew Hodge (20), whom he caught trying to steal his car outside his home in August last year. He said the gun went off after he cocked it to warn Hodge. Sevenoaks magistrates were told that Wise faced financial ruin and that, by taking away his shotgun certificate, they would be taking away his livelihood. At the time of his arrest, police found 23 weapons at his home and at his mother's house. Both unlicensed weapons were found at his home after the shooting, although his licence stipulated that he should keep his weapons securely locked in a steel cabinet at his parents' home half a mile away. Ammunition was also found throughout his council house, where he lived with his wife, and three sons. Two rounds were found tucked inside a packet of cereal.

In November 1996 Darren Pratt of Salle Park Estate, Norfolk pleaded guilty to illegally poisoning foxes. Swaffham magistrates were told that Pratt, who is a gamekeeper on the estate, admitted to laying sodium cyanide (Cymag) at a fox earth which was located near to a public footpath. Police went to the estate after a pair of passing walkers found the body of a dead vixen. They found the earth had been blocked with bags and sodium cyanide could be seen around the earth. The court also heard how the Cymag canister had not been disposed of properly and two garages used to store lethal chemicals were left unlocked. Pratt was fined £550 and ordered to pay costs of £350.

Gamekeeper Adrian Littler from Essex was found guilty of 'asphyxiating three fox cubs with intent to cause suffering'. The offence took place at Coggeshall around the end of May 1996, the foxes were gassed with cyanide, Littler claimed he did not know the gassing of foxes was illegal. On 23/1/97 Witham magistrates fined him £350 and they ordered him to pay costs of £150.

Gamekeepers Alfred Evans (62) of Tyn-y-Clwt Nanttyr, near Llangollen, North Wales and his nephew Eifion Evans (28) of The Lodge Nanttyr, Glynceiriog, North Wales appeared before Llangollen magistrates on 27/6/97. Both were charged with three counts of using a trap to take a wild bird, possessing traps to take wild birds, having control of part of a wild bird and keeping a pheasant in an under sized cage. Magistrates heard how an RSPB employee found two Larsen traps near a pheasant release pen, one contained a crippled pheasant. When the police interviewed the pair they said one of the traps was to catch fox cubs. The prosecution alleged the traps were really a decoy to destroy birds of prey. The incident was alleged to have happened on the Nanttyr Estate near Llangollen where many birds of prey breed. 

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At Llangollen magistrates on 21/6/97 Patrick Sarsfield (49) head keeper of Vivoid Estate, Llangollen was cleared of seven charges involving the illegal use of traps and poisoned bait.

A gamekeeper appeared at a court in Dumfries accused of using a funnel trap for the killing of wild birds. William Richards (33) of Harelawgate, Canonbie, Scotland pleaded not guilty to the charge, he also denied possession of a funnel trap and two pigeons capable of being used to catch wild birds. The court heard how an SSPCA investigating officer found a trap baited with pigeons. The sheriff found the case not proven.

Leslie Morris (29) of Golf Link Cottages, Downley Common, Bucks was cleared of killing badgers, sparrowhawks and a buzzard on the Dashwood Estate in Buckinghamshire. High Wycombe magistrates heard on 15/7/98 how Morris a gamekeeper for the Bradenham Hill shooting syndicate had recorded his killings in a sportsman's journal. During the trial Jason Runciman, an underkeeper, told the court that Morris had admitted killing badgers and feeding live foxcubs to his dogs. Morris was fined £150 with £50 costs for keeping ammunition unsecured.

Gamekeeper of 30 years James Davidson (46) of Tynabaich Cottage, Craithe, Invercauld Estate, Scotland appeared before Stonehaven Sheriff Court charged with using an illegal spring trap. The court was told how Davidson had used the traps after finding birds were eating the rabbits he caught in small traps before selling them. When the police questioned Davidson he admitted responsibility for placing traps and knew it was illegal to set one uncovered above ground. He was fined £120.

A gamekeeper has been charged with three animal cruelty offences, after an incident in which a fox was caught in a snare. Jason Dakin (26) of the Kennels, Whitfield, Northumberland, faces two charges of killing wild animals by prohibited means and one charge of cruelty and neglect.

On 24/5/99 Leonard White a gamekeeper from Dorchester, Dorset appeared before magistrates. They found him guilty of possessing a kit that could be used to poison wild birds keeping, possessing various firearms and keeping poisons. He was fined a total of £4,500.

The South Lakes Badger Protection group called in the RSPCA when he found dead badger carcasses and illegal locking snares on the Holker Hall estate of Lord Cavendish, near Cark-in-Cartmel. A covert operation was set up by the RSPB in response finding a cage trap. It ultimately led to the discovery of two dead badgers though fifteen were believed to have been killed in the preliminary investigation in 1998. One was found hanging over the edge of a limestone outcrop where it had asphyxiated after dragging a snare for 30 yards. Badger bones and skulls were scattered around the area and a dead buzzard was found hidden in a hole. On 11/6/99 John Drummond (32) of Old Park Farmhouse, Grange-Over-Sands who is the Head Gamekeeper for the estate was found guilty on 46 out of 65 charges under the Protection of Badgers Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Acts. Drummond was found guilty of wilfully killing two badgers, wilfully taking one badger and cruelly mistreating all three. On 12/7/99 Drummond was jailed for three months.

Two gamekeepers from the Worksop Manor Estate, Nottinghamshire pleaded guilty at Newark magistrates to the use of a cage trap baited with a live pigeon in order to take birds of prey. The head keeper Michael Mather was fined £440 with £560 costs while the underkeeper. Mark Wardle a recently retired Nottinghamshire Police Wildlife Liaison Officer was fined £600 with £840 costs.

Haydn Williams a gamekeeper on the Kentchurch Estate in Herefordshire and also a falconer, was fined £500 for illegal possession and non-registration of two goshawks, and illegal possession of two barn owls. He was also fined £210 for driving while disqualified and obstructing the police and £40 costs. A visit to his pheasant pens suggested that illegal trapping had been taking place and during a search warrant Williams ran up the garden and released two goshawks. Two barn owls were also seized which Williams claimed he had rescued, although neither bird had any injury. At court Williams admitted he had illegally trapped the goshawks to reduce predation at his pheasant release pens.

A gamekeeper who beat his pregnant girlfriend was jailed on 01/03/00 by Newcastle Crown Court. Kevin Bright (42) of Low Briarside Farm, Burnopfield, near Consett, attacked his girlfriend claiming the baby was not his. He used a walking stick and a hosepipe to inflict bruising described by a doctor as horrific. Bright had denied causing grievous bodily harm with intent and a further charge of assaulting but was convicted on both accounts. He was jailed for three and a half years.

A gamekeeper has been fined for the killing of three kestrels on Holkham Estate in Norfolk. Martin Joyce admitted to shooting two birds and poisoning a third because he blamed them for attacking young partridges.

Viscount Coke (34) son of the Earl of Leicester, threatened to sue the police and Crown Prosecution Service after being cleared of allowing a gamekeeper to illegally use poison on the family's Norfolk estate. The heir to the Holkham estate near Wells-next-the-Sea, had faced 12 charges following the conviction in March this year of one of the estate's gamekeepers, who admitted killing a kestrel with a poisoned pheasant carcass. However, on 15/6/00 magistrates at Fakenham, said Viscount Coke had no case to answer. Land agent Richard Gledson (37) and head gamekeeper John King (62) had all denied charges relating to food and environment protection legislation, and pesticide regulations. Gledson and King were each convicted of three charges of allowing a gamekeeper on the 25,000-acre estate illegally to store poison and were fined £1,200 and £750 respectively. In March Martin Joyce, a gamekeeper was fined £850 for the killing of three kestrels on Holkham Estate in Norfolk. He admitted to shooting two birds and poisoning a third because he blamed them for attacking young partridges

Gamekeeper Charles Arnold of Shipton Bellinger, Hampshire was fined £500 with £40 costs after pleading guilty to setting four pole-traps on the fence posts of a pheasant release pen near Snoddington Farm, Cholderton.

Raymond Holden a keeper at Hi-Fly Game Hatchery in Pilling, was fined £2,000 for using a live mallard as a decoy in a fox trap and fined £2,000. He was also fined £500 plus £500 costs, for maiming a jackdaw, which he used as a decoy in a cage trap (he actually maimed 10 jackdaws, one for each of 10 traps, but he was only summonsed once). Holden was found not guilty of killing a moorhen, keeping a mallard in a cage in which it could not stretch its wings and using a funnel trap to catch wild birds.

A gamekeeper was cleared of killing a golden eagle on 20/12/00 after prosecutors dropped the case. David Campbell had been accused of using illegal poison to lace a red grouse as bait for birds of prey. But the fiscal dropped the charge at Perth Sheriff Court, saying a key witness in the case lacked credibility. Following an investigation into the death of the golden eagle and a buzzard on West Glenalmond Estate in Perthshire it was discovered that the eagle had been poisoned with the outlawed pesticide Yaltox. The buzzard was found dead next to a grouse which had been set up with poison to act as bait for birds of prey.  

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Keith Lynch (44) of Dumbreeze Lodge, Knowsley Park, Merseyside was banned from driving for 18 months after pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol. Lynch is a gamekeeper on a shooting estate in Knowsley owned by Lord Derby. On 31/1/01 as well as the ban South Sefton magistrates fined him £300 and ordered to pay costs of £50. He know faces the prospect of legal proceeding to revoke his firearms licence.  

A gamekeeper admitted a firearms offence near the scene of the Dunblane primary school massacre. Police found 20 live bullets lying unguarded in William Kirk's cottage in the town, Stirling Sheriff Court were told on 16/3/01. The prosecution said Kirk did not have a firearms certificate to cover the ammunition. His defence said Kirk had formerly possessed a .270 rifle, but had surrendered his certificate upon selling the weapon. Mistakenly, he held on to the ammunition. He said Kirk had already paid dearly for his error by losing his job and tied cottage. Sheriff Wylie Robertson fined him £250, saying he took into account Kirk's reduced circumstances and the fact that the prosecution had accepted his not guilty pleas to three further charges.

A gamekeeper was fined on 25/5/01 after admitting shooting a hen harrier, one of Britain's rarest birds. It is the first conviction for killing the bird. Douglas Ross (33) gamekeeper of Tigh na Mara, Main Street, Dallas, is filmed carrying the rare hen harrier was fined £2,000 at Elgin sheriff court for shooting the bird. Ross, who works on the Craigmill Estate which is owned by Catharine Wills, was convicted on video evidence compiled by two members of the RSPB. The Crown accepted his not guilty pleas to shooting a second bird on the same date, having the birds in his possession and carrying a shotgun for the purpose of killing a wild bird.

A gamekeeper was fined £2,400 for illegally poisoning five Buzzards and storing and possessing a banned agricultural pesticide. Malcolm Kempson of Cardenden, Fife went before Perth Sheriff Court after the offences in March 2000.

On 1/5/02 a gamekeeper was spared a jail sentence after admitting keeping a trap and pesticides capable of being used illegally to kill wildlife. Peter Frost (63) who worked at Snailspit Farm, Swaffham, was the first gamekeeper to appear before the courts, now anyone possessing items capable of being used illegally to kill wildlife can be jailed. Frost admitted possessing a Fenn trap with a dummy wooden egg and three syringes that could have been used for such purposes. But magistrates at Swaffham decided against imprisoning Frost and instead fined him £200. Frost also admitted five breaches of the Food and Environment Protection Act by keeping potentially lethal poisons, including cyanide, for which he was fined £150 with costs of £200. Frost had been a gamekeeper for 40 years.

An unemployed gamekeeper was given a 6 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs at Corby Magistrates court on 3/5/02 after he pleaded guilty to smashing a hunt saboteur's CB radio. Mr W. Playford was arrested at a meet of the Woodland Pytchley hunt at Stoke Albany where he was acting as a hunt steward. A hunt saboteur had been trying to stop the hunt chasing a fox when he was punched to the ground by another man, dropping the CB. It was then that Playford deliberately smashed the radio. Whilst hunt saboteurs welcomed the guilty plea, they were disappointed to receive no compensation for the radio, which will cost around £100 to replace. They were also concerned at the light sentence and the fact that no action has been taken over the assault that took place that day. Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson, Nathan Brown said, "Yet again hunting has shown its true nature. Non-violent tactics of hunt saboteurs save animals' lives and are frequently met with attacks and aggression from the bullies in the hunting fraternity. This hunt has a reputation for the violence meted out to protesters. David Reynolds, Master of the Woodland Pytchley hunt, is a prominent member of the Countryside Alliance, who have now threatened a 'summer of discontent' showing total disregard for the democratic process. I fear we will see more attacks on peaceful opponents of hunting."

At Bishop Auckland magistrates on 13/5/03 the court was told how David Dixon (50) of Keepers Cottage, Stanhope - head gamekeeper on the 7,000-acre Croglin Estate grouse moor - and underkeeper Ian Smith (39) of Hope Level Cottages, Stanhope used a 4ft-high moss-covered pole trap, which was banned 99 years ago, to the trap to try and catch hen harriers. Dixon and Smith admitted setting the trap and possessing a short-eared owl, they said they had been trying to catch crows. Dixon was fined £100 for each offence, and Smith £50. Both were ordered to pay £210 costs. Stephen Graham - for Dixon, Smith and their employers, Croglin Estates, of Wellingborough, Northants - said both men were of previous good character. They had been reprimanded and given verbal warnings by their employers. Dixon, Smith and Croglin Estates also admitted three offences relating to the keeping of pesticides. Smith was fined £50 on each of the three counts, Dixon £100, and Croglin Estates £2,000 on each count. The trap was used to kill birds on Stanhope Common in Weardale, County Durham.

A head gamekeeper laced dead pheasants with illegal poisons to kill predators that attacked the birds he bred for shooting parties, Exeter magistrates were told on 16/6/03. Alan Hetherington (32) of Rackenford, Devon, was responsible for looking after the 20,000 pheasants bred annually at Meadowview and Higher Barns, near Oakford, Devon. The court heard how he had poisoned the dead pheasants because he knew badgers, foxes and birds of prey, particularly buzzards, would eat them.
On 15/7/03 Hetherington was ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service and pay £250 costs when he appeared before Exeter magistrates. At the earlier hearing he pleaded guilty to six offences related to storing or using pesticides - some restricted or illegal - under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. He asked for one further offence to be taken into consideration. Hetherington also admitted two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, one under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, and asked for one offence to taken into consideration. One offence involved having two syringes containing carbofuran, bromadiolone and warfarin, and three containers of pesticide, two with carbofuran and one with bromadiolone. Another related to poisonous matter placed at a pheasant release pen at Chample's Farm, Oakford. A further charge said Hetherington used a dead pheasant poult laced with pesticides containing carbofuran and bromadiolone to kill or take a wild bird. One police officer who took part in the raid spoke of "the awful smell of death and decay" given off by the bodies of dead badgers and foxes littered in woodland at the pheasant shoot.

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On 12/12/02 gamekeeper Philip Holland of West Street, Crewe was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog and the use of non-approved pesticides. The case follows an incident when a golden retreiver strayed onto land used by a shooting syndicate in Hanklow, Nantwich. The dog ate part of a dead rabbit and sadly died within minutes. The owner discovered a Fenn trap baited with a rabbit carcass and reported it to the police. The dog and rabbit were sent for tests and they confirmed the dog had died from ingestion of mevinphos, an insecticide that had been banned fo 10 years. The rabbit also contained traces of the insecticide. At Vale Royal magistrates he was fined £200 for causing unnecessary suffering and £200 for the use of non-approved pesticides.

A gamekeeper who spent 10 years rearing pheasant chicks in huts filled with dust and droppings, died from bird fancier's lung, an inquest heard on 12/9/02. Anthony Wensley (54) was employed by the chairman of the Countryside Agency Ewan Cameron on his Dillington Estate near Illminster, Somerset. He died after developing severe breathing problems. The Health & Safety Executive said it is the first pheasant-related case of the disease in Britain.

A head gamekeeper laced dead pheasants with illegal poisons to kill predators that attacked the birds he bred for shooting parties, Exeter magistrates were told on 16/6/03. Alan Hetherington (32) of Rackenford, Devon, was responsible for looking after the 20,000 pheasants bred annually at Meadowview and Higher Barns, near Oakford, Devon. The court heard how he had poisoned the dead pheasants because he knew badgers, foxes and birds of prey, particularly buzzards, would eat them.

On 15/7/03 Hetherington was ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service and pay £250 costs when he appeared before Exeter magistrates. At the earlier hearing he pleaded guilty to six offences related to storing or using pesticides - some restricted or illegal - u nder the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. He asked for one further offence to be taken into consideration. Hetherington also admitted two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, one under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, and asked for one offence to taken into consideration. One offence involved having two syringes containing carbofuran, bromadiolone and warfarin, and three containers of pesticide, two with carbofuran and one with bromadiolone. Another related to poisonous matter placed at a pheasant release pen at Chample's Farm, Oakford. A further charge said Hetherington used a dead pheasant poult laced with pesticides containing carbofuran and bromadiolone to kill or take a wild bird. One police officer who took part in the raid spoke of "the awful smell of death and decay" given off by the bodies of dead badgers and foxes littered in woodland at the pheasant shoot.

On 12/12/02 gamekeeper Philip Holland of West Street, Crewe was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog and the use of non-approved pesticides. The case follows an incident when a golden retriever strayed onto land used by a shooting syndicate in Hanklow, Nantwich. The dog ate part of a dead rabbit and sadly died within minutes. The owner discovered a Fenn trap baited with a rabbit carcass and reported it to the police. The dog and rabbit were sent for tests and they confirmed the dog had died from ingestion of mevinphos, an insecticide that had been banned for 10 years. The rabbit also contained traces of the insecticide. At Vale Royal magistrates he was fined £200 for causing unnecessary suffering and £200 for the use of non-approved pesticides.

A gamekeeper was fined £250 for illegally possessing poison, 11 gin traps and a wild buzzard's egg. Ronald Allison (66) was the only suspect when a buzzard was poisoned on Balmanno Estate in Perthshire. At Perth Sheriff Court on 13/11/03, Allison denied the charges against him but changed his plea midway through a trial. The buzzard had been killed with the banned pesticide Carbofuran. The court heard that there was no legitimate reason for a gamekeeper to have any Carbofuran. Allison pleaded guilty to three charges. Others, relating to the killing of a crow and a buzzard and the poisoning of protected birds with Carbofuran were dropped by the Crown.

On 22/7/03 Gary Mark Taylor, a head gamekeeper for Northumberland estates, pleaded guilty to four charges contrary to the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, at Alnwick magistrates. The charges related to the use and storage of fumigant pesticides. Taylor's fines and costs totalled £310. He was acquitted on five charges relating to the use of three cage-traps. In July 2001, the RSPB found a cage-trap on a grouse moor containing a live pigeon, with food, water and shelter provided. It appeared that the trap was intended to take birds of prey - in particular, peregrines. In one trap were two dead mistle thrushes, thought to have starved to death. At his home, an unmarked and unlocked outbuilding held fumigant pesticides that were legally required to be stored under lock and key.

On 5/9/03 in the Court of Criminal Appeal of the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh, gamekeeper Malcolm Kempson lost his appeal against his conviction for a number of poisoning offences. On 21/11/01 at Perth Sheriff Court, Kempson was convicted of placing a bait containing carbofuran, poisoning five buzzards and a carrion crow and possessing carbofuran for the purpose of committing offences against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. He was also convicted of illegal carbofuran storage. These crimes took place on Tillyrie Farm, near Milnathort in Perthshire, where Kempson was leasing the shooting facility and running a pheasant shoot. Following the failed appeal the court made no adjustment to the penalty, however, Kempson must now pay the £2,400 in fines that were originally imposed in the Sheriff Court.

A gamekeeper accused of slaughtering rare birds of prey kept a diary in code detailing his killings Buxton's magistrates heard on 26/1/04. When the police searched John Cripps's cottage in the Derwent Valley they found 171 wild bird eggs and equipment for climbing trees. The gamekeeper, for a private shooting estate in the valley, faces 19 charges under the Wildlife Act, including 10 of killing rare peregrine falcons, goshawk and sparrowhawk. He is also accused of illegally collecting and smashing birds' eggs. John Cripps (60) of Keeper's Cottage, Ronksley, Derbyshire, denies all the charges. On 30/1/04 he was acquitted of 12 charges of killing goshawk, sparrowhawk and peregrine falcons, which are all protected species. However, he was found guilty of recklessly disturbing a goshawk while it was on a nest containing eggs and intentionally destroying the eggs of a goshawk. On 25/2/04 he was given a three-month suspended jail sentence.

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A gamekeeper and his wife were banned from keeping dogs for three years after their two pets became seriously underweight. Caroline Bunnett (23) and James Bunnett (25) of Narborough Road, Pentney, near King's Lynn, pleaded guilty to two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a black and tan Alsatian cross and a white and tan Jack Russell at Central Norfolk magistrates at Swaffham on 19/2/04. As well as the ban on keeping dogs, the couple were ordered to pay £125 each towards costs. Caroline Bunnett was given a year's conditional discharge and James Bunnett was ordered to do fifty hours' community service.

On 16/8/04 at Shrewsbury Crown Court John Frederick Twist, gamekeeper for the Marrington Shoot near Chirbury in Shropshire, pleaded guilty to two offences contrary to the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. A police search revealed a number of pesticides, including Cymag and Talunex. They were found stored on a shelf in an unmarked wooden shed after Twist had denied storing any pesticides at this location. Twist was fined £500 and one of his employers, John Wilde, from Kenley in Shropshire, pleaded guilty to two charges. These related to failing to provide appropriate instruction, training and guidance for pesticide storage, as well as permitting the unsafe storage of Talunex. Wilde received a12-month conditional discharge and costs of £330

A gamekeeper who admitted poisoning birds of prey in one of the country’s worst wildlife crimes has kept his job. Stephen Muir (38) pleaded guilty to placing poison pellets in the countryside on the Barns Estate at Kirkton Manor in the Borders, with the intention of killing wild birds. Muir was given a £2500 fine for each of those charges and a further £500 fine for endangering wildlife - a total of £5500. On 26/8/04 he was admonished at Peebles Sheriff Court, sitting in Selkirk, on a fourth charge of being in possession of the poisonous substance carbofuran. Although suspended from the £900-a-month post he has held for 17 years while Wemyss and March Estates conducts its own disciplinary process, Muir is still employed at the estate carrying out tree and ground maintenance. He was initially charged in connection with the death of 25 wild birds.

A shooting estate manager who claims he was ordered by the former husband of Lady Dale "Kanga" Tryon to shoot a golden eagle when the peer bought over the estate, has launched a battle for compensation. Ian Thomas, who worked as estate manager for Fordie Estate, near Comrie, in Perthshire, said he was branded a troublemaker after threatening to report Lord Tryon to the Wildlife Commission, the Forestry Commission and the police. Thomas, who had worked on the 6,000-acre estate for 16 years, told an employment tribunal yesterday that his career was left in ruins after he threatened to blow the whistle on Lord Tryon’s plans. He said he believed the peer had instructed him to shoot the golden eagle. He said he was told by the peer, who had been married to Prince Charles’s close friend, Kanga, for 24 years before they divorced, that the protected birds had "no place" on the estate. And he claimed he was constructively dismissed after he made it clear that he would not go along with the peer’s plans for the exclusive hunting estate. Thomas said the peer, who had the shooting lease for the estate but had not taken full ownership of it yet, had also talked about using poison on the estate in a way that gave him cause for concern. Thomas made his complaint official when in June 2000 he wrote to Harp Farm Ltd saying that he felt "morally obliged" to speak to the Forestry Commission, the Wildlife Commission and the police. Lord Tryon, who’s late wife was nicknamed Kanga by Prince Charles and who died of blood poisoning in 1997, is defending the case.

A gamekeeper charged with what is believed to be Scotland’s worst wildlife crime appeared in court on 9/6/04. Stephen Philip Muir (39) made no plea at Peebles Sheriff Court against the charges of poisoning 24 birds of prey. The case was continued for two weeks.

On 6/12/04 a Derbyshire gamekeeper found guilty of persecuting rare birds in the Peak District has lost his appeal against a three month suspended prison sentence. John Cripps (60) of of Keeper's Cottage, Ronksley, Derbyshire, was convicted in February of destroying the eggs of the rare Goshawk. After a three-day hearing, Derby Crown Court upheld the original sentence - which is suspended for two years.

A gamekeeper was fined on 15/12/04 after being caught with a deadly poison which has been used to kill rare birds of prey. David Stewart (39) of Taymist, Ballinluig, Perthshire was fined £1200 after he was found to have two hazardous chemicals. Stewart, who runs shooting parties, admitted illegally storing alpha chloralose in his car and Cymag in his unlocked garage. Chloralose has been used to kill thousands of birds, including golden eagles, kestrels and buzzards, in recent years. Two tins of Cymag were found in Stewart's garage. The chemical, which gives off a lethal gas, has been used to clear mole and rabbit holes but will be banned at the end of the year.

A gamekeeper and her assistant were jailed for three months on 14/1/05 for firing their shotguns when they encountered an illegal rave. A judge said that he recognised that many law-abiding people would take the view that the organisers and revellers got what they deserved when the pair shot at speakers and car tyres. He could not overlook the fact that Jessica Allinson (46) from Pursers Lane, Peaslake, Surrey and her under-keeper, Alexander Szyndel (28) of of Scotland Lane, Haslemere, Surrey discharged their double-barrelled guns where people were present. These offences are, in my judgment, so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified the judge told Guildford Crown Court. A person who is angry has no business loading a shotgun. The possibility of causing injury by those who have momentarily lost their temper is only too obvious. If this court were to overlook what you did it might lead to anyone in lawful possession of a shotgun and not acting in lawful self-defence feeling free to discharge it near to any trespassers on their land and to point a loaded shotgun at them. They in turn might then decide to arm themselves against this possibility and that would lead rapidly to a breakdown in law and order. Both had pleaded guilty to four charges of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and causing criminal damage. Allinson has since lost her job as a gamekeeper and the judge revoked her licence and ordered that the two weapons be confiscated.

Two gamekeepers were fined £2,000 each for clubbing a bird of prey to death. Michael Clare (23) of Cookshall Lane, High Wycombe was secretly filmed battering a common buzzard with a stick. While under-gamekeeper Clare killed the bird, which was caught in a trap, his superior Leslie Morris (36) also of Cookshall Lane, watched on and failed to intervene. Morris and Clare bred pheasants and partridges on the Dashwood Estate in West Wycombe for the Bradenham Hill shoot. High Wycombe magistrates heard on 29/4/05 Clare claim he killed the bird to put it out of its misery after it had broken its leg. The pair were found guilty of killing a wild bird and having in their possession or control a live wild bird. Morris and Clare were ordered to pay £500 costs in addition to the fines.

Wildlife campaigners have expressed outrage after prosecutors dropped 44 charges against a gamekeeper accused of storing poisons capable of killing thousands of people in an unlocked shed. Following plea-bargaining Jock Whellans (68) admitted just four offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 11/6/05 and was fined a total of £190. The alleged offences ranged from the laying of poison baits in the open countryside and the use of an illegal snare. Whellans pleaded guilty to just four offences, with not guilty pleas being accepted on the remaining charges.

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