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RSPB's anger after second wildlife crime case dropped

RSPB Scotland said the decision 'undermines' its faith in the justice system.

Angus: Trap was allegedly set on Brewlands Estate, Glen Isla (file pic).
Angus: Trap was allegedly set on Brewlands Estate, Glen Isla (file pic). Creative Commons by Nick Bramhall

The RSPB has hit out after prosecutors dropped a second case against a Scottish gamekeeper accused of wildlife crimes.

The charity said the decision "significantly undermines" its confidence in the justice system.

RSPB Scotland gave the Crown footage which reportedly showed the man setting an illegal trap on the Brewlands Estate, Angus, in 2015.

Prosecutors decided the video would not be admissible in court, however, partly because it was filmed covertly.

It follows an earlier dispute between the RSPB and the Crown over footage allegedly showing a gamekeeper killing a bird of prey in Moray.

https://stv.tv/news/north/1387648-gamekeeper-accused-of-bird-killing-has-charges-dropped/ | default

RSPB Scotland's head of land management, Duncan Orr-Ewing, said: "For one case, where there was excellent video evidence to support the prosecution, to be discontinued inexplicably by the Crown Office so close to the trial was baffling.

"For a second case to be discontinued, again with no explanation from the Crown Office, and again without the opportunity for the evidence to be tested in court, is deeply concerning, and significantly undermines our confidence in the ability of Scotland's justice system to bear down on the criminals who continue to target our protected birds of prey."

Last week it emerged the Crown had dropped a case against a gamekeeper allegedly filmed illegally shooting a hen harrier on the Cabrach Estate.

Prosecutors said the RSPB had set up the camera with the intention of securing a prosecution, although the wildlife charity denied the claim.

A spokesman for the Crown said: "Discussions have taken place over a number of years between RSPB and Crown about the admissibility of evidence obtained through the use of covert surveillance.

"The Crown has consistently made clear the limitations which the law places on the admissibility of evidence which has been obtained irregularly. The Crown will continue to have further dialogue with RSPB to explain the legal position.

"The Crown is committed to the rigorous, fair and independent prosecution of crime, including wildlife and environmental crime."

A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said the organisation had "no membership interest in the case".

"Our members are made acutely aware of what is required in setting traps," he said. 

"Those who fail to comply should consider the effects this has on the reputation of others in the profession.

"Judgments on what is admissible or not in terms of deploying video surveillance are judgments to be made by independent law officers, qualified to make them, not membership organisations like ourselves."

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