Published: 26/05/2011 19:26 - Updated: 27/05/2011 14:23

Black Isle kite conviction hailed

Police hail conviction of gamekeeper
Police hail conviction

THE £1,500 fine handed down to a gamekeeper found in possession of a dead Black Isle kite has been widely welcomed.

James Rolfe was fined £1,500 after admitting having the protected species dead in his vehicle.

In a separate incident, the sporting manager for Skibo Estate was fined £3,300 after he pled guilty to the possession of the banned pesticide, carbofuran.

The gamekeeper on the Moy estate has become the first person in Scotland to be convicted of the offence since the species was reintroduced to the country 22 years ago.

Northern Constabulary's Wildlife Crime co-ordinator, Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss, said the force "is committed to tackling crimes against wildlife" and that the offence "is treated extremely seriously".

He said, "The Highlands and Islands attract large numbers of visitors every year and many arrive hoping to see some of the most iconic species in the United Kingdom, such as red kites and golden eagles. The persecution of these magnificent species is illegal, unacceptable and has an unwelcome and negative impact both on the natural environment and local economy."

RSPB Scotland also welcomed the successful prosecution of Rolfe, who was at Inverness Inverness Sheriff Court on Thursday for a crime committed in June last year when he was working at the Moy shooting estate near Tomatin.

Rolfe was sentenced at Inverness Sheriff Court
Rolfe was sentenced at Inverness Sheriff Court

The protected bird of prey was recovered by police during a search in June 2010. A post mortem revealed the kite, whose remains were found in the back of an estate vehicle, had broken legs and had died as a result of a blow to the head.

Just a week before the Northern Police operation, the sporting tenant at Moy Estate, Victor Beamish, and the owner, Celia Mackintosh, both signed a letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, condemning the persecution of birds of prey. Moy Estate is home to the annual Highland Field Sports Fair.

Over a five week period, the remains of a further two dead red kites, six illegal baited spring traps, a trapped hen harrier, and a poison bait laced with a banned agricultural pesticide were also recovered from the estate. No arrests or charges have been made in connection with these incidents.

Police were first alerted to Moy Estate in May 2010 when a satellite-tagged Black Isle red kite, monitored by RSPB Scotland staff and adopted by pupils at a local primary school, disappeared.

A bid to find the missing kite uncovered a severed red kite leg and wing tags belonging to the bird, hidden in holes under a covering of moss.

Two weeks later a second red kite was found lying close to a suspected grouse bait by members of the Highland Raptor Study Group conducting survey work.

The kite was subsequently confirmed by Scottish Government testing to have been poisoned with a banned pesticide. Nearby a male hen harrier was found, held by the leg in an illegally-set spring trap.

Miraculously the hen harrier survived this ordeal and was subsequently released back into the wild. Other traps, hidden under a thin layer of moss, were found close by.

The case has prompted RSPB Scotland to call for more information to be provided by responsible landowners and their employees to help the police identify those people in the countryside who deliberately and indiscriminately kill protected birds of prey.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland head of species and land management said it was a "historic conviction" and paid tribute to the committed efforts of Northern Constabulary.

Meanwhile, the sporting manager for Skibo Estate on Thursday pled guilty to the possession of the banned pesticide, carbofuran, at Inverness Sheriff Court and was fined £3,300.

Northern Constabulary's Wildlife Crime co-ordinator, Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss, said, "The force notes the sentence handed out to Dean Barr for the possession of the largest ever recovered amount of the banned pesticide Carbofuran.

"Experts say that the amount of poison our officers uncovered would have been enough to kill every bird of prey in the UK.

"The poison was discovered within premises operated and solely accessed by Mr Barr on Skibo estate land.

"It was found in the course of an investigation launched after the discovery of dead birds of prey, believed to have been illegally killed on the estate, including three golden eagles and a sparrow hawk and a Grouse laced with Carbofuran, which was pinned to the ground by a metal spike. Undoubtedly this was a prepared piece of bait. No one has been convicted of these offences."

He added, "This was an extensive and detailed inquiry and highlights Northern Constabulary's commitment to tackling crimes against wildlife, which the Force treats extremely seriously.

A police spokesman added, "Our investigation into the deaths of these birds remains open. There is no excuse for the illegal killing of some of our most iconic species.

"We will continue to deal robustly with anyone who is found to have been involved in the illegal persecution of any protected species."

Police encourage anyone who has information about wildlife crime to report it  or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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