Wednesday, 17 July 2019

CHAIRMAN'S BLOG: LEADHILLS QUESTIONS


On Monday the SGA condemned the actions of anyone setting an illegal trap to catch a bird of prey. This was in the wake of reports which emerged regarding a Hen Harrier being found in a trap at Leadhills.
This should always be the reaction of everyone in our industry when we hear of such things. It is so, within the SGA Committee and our membership and we await further news.
As is normal, we know very little about this case but we hope the Police will have full co-operation from everyone as they seek to get to the bottom of things.
Leadhills Estate has made its own statement saying that it reported interference with traps by third parties to Police on the same day. Everyone in our industry knows this type of activity on estates is now rife.
This is a criminal offence and, while this does not deter those who are out there to cause trouble, it makes things very, very difficult for Police. We have always been told that, if you suspect a wildlife crime in the countryside, leave everything as it is. Take photographs but don’t touch anything. This is obviously because this is evidence at a potential crime scene which could potentially lead to prosecution. When this is done, you call the Police.
While it is not unreasonable to expect SPPCA to remove the bird, in this instance, as- according to reports- it was in distress, it beggars belief why people are not reporting such incidents to Police in the first instance. Ultimately, all crime evidence was removed from the scene, members of various organisations with clear campaign objectives all turn up and the evidence is then photographed in the hands of RSPB’s Chris Packham.
I have sympathy for Police trying to do their job, with so much at stake for everyone and little evidential trail left.
What is also clear from the photos of the second trap allegedly left on a nest with eggs is that this trap is not set and would, therefore, have been unable to catch anything. Why would it be there?
Those involved in filming that will know that, too, but continued with their narrative regardless. It is highly unlikely a Police Officer at a crime scene would do that, then broadcast it, as it would be regarded as important evidence in a live investigation.
Whether by good intentions or other, organisations have been given powers within investigations which- deployed in certain ways- now seem to outdo those of the Police trying to investigate them. That observation is not specific to this case, only.
This is highly worrying and, like any form of persecution, must be tackled. 
I, like others, want to know the truth. Only by knowing the truth can proportionate action be taken by Police, decision makers and representative bodies. If this type of thing continues, it seems highly likely we are not going to get it. We have said for years, if you resource and train the Police, there is no need for outside charities in wildlife crime cases.

Please help Police with any information regarding this incident. Despite Monday’s press headlines, this remains a live investigation.

Alex Hogg. Chairman. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.