Wildlife Detective

The man who shot the buzzard – would he have been convicted in England or Wales?


A shot buzzard

An x-ray of a shot buzzard (taken on an airport x-ray facility)

It was widely reported in the Press and Journal of 12 December, and subsequently in other media, that a man had been convicted after trial in Inverness Sheriff Court the previous day for shooting a buzzard.  Keith Riddoch, an oil executive had been one of the guns at a shoot near Newtonmore in November 2016 when the bird was flushed from a wood by beaters and was shot by Riddoch. I meant to write a blog on this at the time, but time, that valuable commodity, even for someone who is retired, has been scarce this past week or so.

Looking at the text in the news report the following wording is of interest:

(He) shot a buzzard he thought to be a pheasant

(He) was convinced he had bagged a hen pheasant

(The) raptor had been shot by mistake

(He) denied….recklessly shooting it

(He claimed to have) made a genuine mistake…(and) didn’t misassess the situation.

Thankfully (but only since 2004) the wording of the offence in Scotland is:

1.- (1)     Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally or recklessly–

(a)        kills, injures or takes any wild bird;

he commits an offence.

But what if the same situation arose in England or Wales where the wording of the offence is:

1.– (1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally-   

                              (a) kills, injures or takes any wild bird;

he commits an offence

Riddoch, according to the wording of the article, maintained all along he didn’t intend to kill or injure a buzzard; he meant to shoot a pheasant. That he killed or injured the buzzard would, at least in this case, be easy to prove. It would even be straightforward to prove that he killed or injured the buzzard recklessly, by failing to identify it as a protected species, but not that he intentionally shot a buzzard.

In England and Wales, even if he admitted to shooting the buzzard but gave the excuses as listed above, it is likely that the magistrate would need to consider these as a plea of not guilty to the intentional killing of the buzzard and proceed to trial. This would then be an extremely difficult case in which to secure a conviction.

There are many changes required in England and Wales to bring an outdated law into being fit for the 21st century. This is but one.