IT appears that the RSPB may be going down the same route as the RSPCA in having an obsession with prosecutions, rather than focusing on what should be its core agenda of nature conservation.
The shooting community must of course work at all times within the law, but so must the RSPB, who cannot be allowed to abuse it in its attempts to obtain unwarranted convictions.
The recent case that was brought by the RSPB against a gamekeeper on the Bolton Estate in North Yorkshire is a case in point.
That case was based on unlawful “evidence” that had been obtained by RSPB investigators over a three-week period, with photographs supposedly revealing the lack of welfare of two crows that were in a legal trap used for predator control, both of which were subsequently removed in a perfectly healthy and alert state by the keeper without any intervention by the RSPB investigators.
Failure to supply evidence to the defence team, despite repeated orders from the court, meant that it would have been impossible for the defendant to have received a fair trial, and magistrates therefore considered there to have been an Abuse of Process by the prosecution, and ordered a stay of proceedings.
This outcome will not have pleased the RSPB, but the question must be how did this case get so far, and on so little? Even if the evidence had been accepted by the court, there was still insufficient to show that a serious offence had been committed; and certainly not enough to justify the resultant costs to the public purse, or what could have been entirely disproportionate consequences to the defendant.
The Bolton Estate can be justifiably proud of its credentials when it comes to its impressive records for nature conservation, which makes the RSPB’s efforts to discredit one of those responsible even more remarkable.
Figures from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Surveys between 2007 and 2014 reveal that over that period, there was a 111 per cent increase in the different bird species present on the estate, from 18 to 38.
In the three grid squares surveyed, the total number of birds present also increased from 201 to 583, an increase of 190 per cent.
In one grid square, curlew numbers increased from 18 to 72, a staggering 300 per cent.