News release by Crown Office
17 November 2010
Gamekeeper fined for planting poisoned rabbit on estate
Lewis Whitham, 20, has been fined £800 reduced from £1000 after pleading guilty at Lanark Sheriff Court today (Nov 17) to planting a poisoned rabbit carcass on a country estate.
Whitham, a gamekeeper on the Hopetoun Estate in South Lanarkshire, was caught after a researcher from Advocates for Animals saw him walking along a stone dyke on the estate on 8 April this year then returning ten minutes later on a quad bike. The researcher saw Whitham look around before removing a rabbit carcase from the quad bike and staking it to the ground using wire then leaving.
The researcher looked at the rabbit and saw blue/black coloured granules in the stomach cavity. He contacted authorities and scientific analysis later confirmed that the granules contained a significant quantity of carbofuran, an illegal poison.
The conviction of Whitham, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, will mean that he will lose the protection of the general licences, as issued by the Scottish Government.
Area Procurator Fiscal Tom Dysart, who leads COPFS on wildlife crime, said:
"Lewis Whitham was caught red-handed staking a poison-filled rabbit carcase to the ground on a country estate.
"This bait would prove attractive to a variety of carrion-eating birds, including birds of prey which are protected by law.
"Whitham says he was targeting crows but any bird or animal ingesting this poison would have died.
"Carbofuran is a banned pesticide and anyone caught using it indiscriminately will be dealt with robustly.
"COPFS takes crimes against wildlife and the environment seriously and anyone involved in harming Scotland's rich natural heritage in this way should expect to face prosecution."
Communications 0844 561 3984
News release by the National Wildlife Crime Unit
Earlier today Lewis Whitham, aged 20 years, pled guilty at Lanark Sheriff Court to an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. This charge related to the placing of a poisoned bait on open land.
In April 2009, a member of the public witnessed Whitham placing what he thought was poisoned bait on an open piece of land on the Leadhills Estate near to Abingdon, Lanarkshire, and owned by Hopetoun Estates.
As a result, officers of Strathclyde Police, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and staff from Scottish SPCA and Scottish Government Rural Payments & Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) conducted a full and comprehensive investigation resulting in charges against Whitham.
Today the court heard that Whitham, a former underkeeper on the estate, pled guilty at Lanarkshire Sheriff Court to staking a poisoned carcass which was likely to cause injury to any wild birds coming into contact with it, and was fined £800.
The area had been identified as a poisoning hotspot over recent years on the PAW Scotland Hotspot Maps.
The illegal poisoning of wildlife has blighted this and other parts of the Scottish countryside for years and tarnishes the good reputation of many responsible land managers.
The indiscriminate nature of poisons being left in the open countryside raises serious safety concerns for any walkers, children, pets and wildlife that may come across them.
Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit said;
"This conviction sends out a strong message that the poisoning of wildlife will not be tolerated. The illegal use of poisons in the management of land is abhorrent and represents a serious threat to the public and the environment. "
"As has been seen with this conviction the police rely on members of the public reporting incidents to the police. In the event that someone comes across what they believe is a poisoned bait, bird or other animal I would encourage them to contact the police immediately but not to touch the carcass as this could be dangerous".
Anyone with any information in relation to Wildlife Crime should contact their Police Force or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.
Notes to editors:
- The National Wildlife Crime Unit is a member of PAW - Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime. PAW membership encompasses a wide range of bodies with an interest in tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations. www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk
- PAW Scotland poisoning hotspots maps are released every year to highlight where problem areas exist in Scotland. The next set of maps will be published in early 2011. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Wildlife-Habitats/paw-scotland/types-of-crime/crimes-against-birds/Poisoninghotspotmaps2010
- The NWCU is part funded by a variety of bodies including the Home Office, DEFRA, Scottish Government, ACPOS, ACPO & Northern Ireland Government.
- The NWCU was established in October 2006 and is currently based at Livingston in cooperation with Lothian & Borders Police.
- The NWCU is a police-led unit with the UK wide remit for wildlife crime. The NWCU gathers intelligence on national wildlife crime and also provides analytical and investigative support to the Police and UKBA.
Further information from:
DI Brian Stuart, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit 07919 690 392
PC Charles Everitt, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit 07917 599 690
OneKind, formerly Advocates for Animals, has also issued a statement >>