I’ve been reading about the two buzzards that were recently found shot in different parts of that disgraceful county in England for raptor persecution, North Yorkshire. There was a pretty stupid comment to the article dealing with these crimes on the blog Raptor Persecution UK, that the person commenting is ‘particularly interested in whether they (the police) have the capability and the inclination to arrest people with guns breaking the law’.
Part of another much more reasoned comment was, ‘The chances of there being any arrests for an unwitnessed shooting are essentially nil. There is no evidence tying a culprit to the offence that is more than circumstantial without that or a confession. Even the stupidest gun holder will not do that’.
Another person commented, ‘Whilst I agree that it is very difficult to investigate and convict a person responsible for shooting birds of prey, it can be done’, and gave a link to a case where a farmer in Peebles-shire had been convicted of shooting a buzzard. When I looked up the case there had been a witness to the shooting, which makes a relatively simple investigation.
I agree completely with the comment about the ‘unwitnessed’ shooting (though I would have phrased it slightly differently). Even if it had been witnessed, there is still a huge drawback to investigations in England and Wales where the very much outdated Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states:
Section 1.-(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally
(a) kills, injures or takes any wild bird;
(b) takes, damages or destroys the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built; or
(c) takes or destroys an egg of any wild bird, he shall be guilty of an offence.
There is an easy get out of jail free card with this wording if the person maintains he thought the buzzard was some other bird that can legally be shot. It could be extremely difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was intent to shoot the buzzard. Before the law in Scotland was changed in 2004 to include the term ‘recklessly’ we dealt with a classic example of this in Tayside where the shooting was witnessed by an off-duty police officer (see –https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/wildlife-cases-frustrated-by-poor-legislation/ )
Much more pressure needs to be put on the Westminster government to bring wildlife law in England and Wales up to date – unless of course it suits them to have the police investigating many aspects of wildlife crime with one hand tied behind their back.