Second conviction for wildlife crime by vicarious liability secured

Second conviction for wildlife crime by vicarious liability secured

A self-employed game farmer has pled guilty to wildlife offences, leading to the second conviction in Scotland by vicarious liability for wildlife crime against wild birds.

At Stirling Sheriff Court, Graham Christie was fined a total of £3,200 after admitting his liability for the crimes committed by James O’Reilly, a gamekeeper employed by him.

Mr O’Reilly was previously sentenced to a community payback order after pleading guilty to intentionally trapping and injuring a buzzard, using an illegal gin trap, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Despite veterinary treatment for the severe injury caused to its leg, the buzzard required to be euthanised as it would never be suitable for release back to the wild. The buzzard had been in good condition otherwise.

Mr Christie leased part of the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire to use for his business, Dunmhor Shooting.

He had employed O’Reilly as head game-keeper with responsibility for pest control on this part of the estate.

The offences were committed more than a year after the introduction of the vicarious liability legislation.

The law placed responsibility on Mr Christie unless he could show that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to prevent Mr O’Reilly from committing the offences.

When asked by police how he was able to see what was going on ensure everything was done properly and professionally, Mr Christie said: “Well I can only tell that by the amount of pheasants that were shown on a shoot day and that he was very good to be fair”.

Helen Nisbet, head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit said: “These offences were committed well after the vicarious liability offence was introduced and the accused had ample time in which to take advice and put appropriate measures in place.

“He failed in his responsibilities and as a result stands convicted of the killing of a wild bird using an illegal gin trap.

“Anyone who seeks to injure or kill wild birds and anyone who employs or engages the services of such persons without taking appropriate precautions to prevent these offences being committed can fully expect to be brought to account before the courts.”

Detective chief superintendent Sean Scott, Police Scotland said: “Those who employ others to work on the land and who control pest species, in particular, wild birds, must ensure they take all reasonable steps and exercise due diligence to prevent any such crimes occurring.

“We welcome the level of fines awarded in this instance, and thank the landowner in this case for assisting with the enquiry.

“Police Scotland with its partners is committed to tackling wildlife crime. These fines should act as a serious deterrent and help protect Scotland’s wildlife.”

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