- Scottish SPCA special investigators describe case as ‘truly shocking’ due to volume of wildlife killed and range of methods used to do so
A gamekeeper has been sentenced after being convicted for the deaths of dozens of wildlife on Longformacus Estate near Duns in the Scottish Borders.
Alan Wilson, 60, was responsible for game management at the estate. In July, Wilson pled guilty to nine offences. He was sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court. Wilson pled guilty to killing badgers, an otter, goshawks and buzzards and setting 23 illegal snares on the estate where we worked. He also pled guilty to possessing two bottles of carbofuran, which is banned in the European Union.
On 19 August, Wilson was sentenced to a 225 hour community payback order which must be carried out within 18 months and a 9pm – 6am restriction of liberty order to last 10 months.
The court ruled he was responsible for the deaths of numerous wildlife, including protected species. Investigators found animal corpses including otters, badgers, foxes, birds of prey and more when they searched Henlaw Wood in 2017.
A captive eagle owl which the Scottish SPCA suspects was being used as a live lure on birds of prey who were subsequently shot and killed was also discovered at Wilson’s residence. Last year, Wilson was fined £400 and banned on from keeping birds of prey for ten years for failing to ensure the welfare of the eagle owl.
After an investigation which involved experts from the Scottish SPCA’s special investigation unit (SIU), RSPB and Police Scotland, Wilson was found to have used techniques including illegally set snares and unlawful items such as banned pesticides and gin traps to trap and kill wildlife. A land inspection also found ‘stink pits’, where dead animal carcasses are left to attract other wildlife. These ‘stink pits’ were surrounded by illegally set snares and animal remains, including mammal skulls, were recovered.
Wilson came to the attention of the Scottish SPCA on 25 May 2017 after a tip-off from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). An inspector from the LACS discovered several snares and the remains of a number of birds including a goshawk in Henlaw Wood. The following day, Scottish SPCA inspectors assisted the police with a search where dead birds and badgers were found.
A further search of the area, including Wilson’s residence at Henlaw Cottage in Duns, took place in early June 2017. At Wilson’s residence, investigators discovered a variety of trapping tools and equipment including:
- Snare tags
- Plastic owl, peregrine and raptor decoys
- A tamperproof container with what appeared to be an illegal pesticide
- Gin traps
Commenting on the case, an undercover Scottish SPCA SIU investigator said: “This is a despicable case of serious and systematic crimes to indiscriminately remove wildlife from an estate. The sheer volume of dead wildlife discovered and the variety of methods used, which include shooting, trapping and snaring, is truly shocking.”
“The Sheriff alluded to the fact he was restricted in the sentence that could be served in this case due to regulations surrounding wildlife crime. Whilst we welcome the sentence, we hope this case highlights the need for increased sentencing for crimes of this nature in the future.
“A tremendous amount of credit must go to Police Scotland and Detective Constable Wildlife Crime Officer Andrew Loughlin, who co-ordinated this complex case and utilised the expertise of the Scottish SPCA and other partners.
“The successful prosecution of Mr. Wilson sees some form of justice served, and the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit were happy to lend our expertise on wildlife crime to support this multi-agency effort. This level of cooperation is vital to catching people who are committing these specialist, brutal crimes.”
“Some of the equipment in Mr. Wilson’s possession has been unlawful for decades yet it was evident it had been recently used to trap wild animals. The illegally set snares across the estate he was managing would have trapped wild animals indiscriminately and the remains discovered were proof of that. This amounted to large-scale eradication of wildlife for what appears to be to the benefit of game shooting interests. We will never know the total number of animals which perished due to Mr. Wilson, though had it not been for our robust intervention many more would have suffered and perished.”
“Sadly, the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit has seen a rise a wildlife crime in recent years, particularly the persecution of birds of prey. Through working with organisations like the League Against Cruel Sports, RSPB and Police Scotland, we will continue to take people committing offences against wildlife to task and make sure they answer for such horrific crimes.”
Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “This is an appalling case, involving the systematic illegal slaughter of wildlife so that more grouse can be shot for entertainment, and in our view is one of the worst wildlife crime incidents in recent years.
“While we are pleased Alan Wilson has been brought to justice for his crimes, this case illustrates the scale on which wildlife is being persecuted in order to prop up the commercial shooting industry which relies on eradicating any species deemed to be a threat to game birds.
“This is why the League is proud to be a partner of the Revive Coalition, seeking radical reform of Scotland’s grouse moors to put an end to this type of sickening behaviour.
"We can't praise the Scottish SPCA highly enough for their role in bringing Mr Wilson to justice. This has been an excellent example of partnership working resulting in the conviction of a serial wildlife criminal operating in an area which is notoriously difficult to prosecute.”
Detective Constable Andy Loughlin who led the police inquiries said: “This has been a complex inquiry that has amounted to a large-scale police investigation spanning the past couple of years.
“We have worked with experts in the field to secure Wilson’s conviction and I would like to thank our colleagues from the Scottish SPCA, RSPB, veterinary pathologists at the Scottish Agricultural College, specialists at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and independent experts, for all their assistance.
“The illegal killing of birds of prey and protected species cannot, and will not, be tolerated, nor will the inhumane use of illegal traps and pesticides. Whenever such offences are reported to us we will work closely with partners to identify those responsible and ensure they are brought before the courts.
“If you have concerns regarding this type of criminal activity in your area, please report it to us via 101 so that we can investigate thoroughly.”