Regina v Ivan Peter Crane - Appeal against Conviction
Nottingham Crown Court – 12 July 2012
On 12 July 2012, Ivan Crane appeared before His Honour Judge Tony Mitchell and two magistrates at Nottingham Crown Court, to appeal against his conviction on 30 January 2012 of 3 offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
His appeal was allowed and a wasted costs order was made against the Crown Prosecution service in respect of Mr Crane’s costs in defending the case.
Mr Crane was represented in the proceedings by Peter Glenser, of 9 Bedford Row, the UK’s leading fieldsports barrister and Tim Ryan, of Warners Solicitors, Tonbridge, who specialises in country sports and wildlife litigation.
The case concerned the use of two Larsen traps on Mr Crane’s family farm.
Larsen traps are a common form of cage trap very widely used for controlling crows and magpies to protect chicks and eggs of other species especially gamebirds. Their use is permitted under the terms of General Licences issued annually by Natural England.
It is a condition of the General Licence that a person convicted of certain wildlife offences may not use the General Licence until the conviction is spent. This condition was added for the first time in 2010.
On 21 April 2011 Mr Crane pleaded guilty to two wildlife offences at Market Harborough Magistrates Court and was therefore excluded from being able to use his Larsen traps under the terms of the General Licence. There was no reason, however, why others not so excluded, including employees and family members, should not operate them instead. Mr Crane could also have applied for a specific licence from Natural England to use them himself.
Special Constable Neil HughesSpecial Constable Hughes, who is the Leicestershire Wildlife Crime Officer (pictured on the Leicestershire Police website), was present at court on 21 April 2011 when Mr Crane was convicted. At that time he was well aware that Mr Crane had two Larsen traps on his property He did not tell Mr. Crane about the new condition on the General Licence and nor did anyone else.
One month and twenty-two days later, on 12 June 2011, SC Hughes visited Mr Crane’s farm. He attended at 08.00 on a Sunday morning, dressed in khaki clothing. He did not announce his presence on private property. He did not have a search warrant nor did he have any authorisation to carry out covert surveillance. Nonetheless he was equipped with a device capable of recording still images, a device that recorded GPS co-ordinates and a video camera with a zoom lens. He located one of the Larsen traps, and took video footage in which he stated that “for all intents and purposes it is a legal trap.” He then left the premises, having made no attempt whatsoever to speak to anyone at the property.
He did not return to the farm until 22 June 2012, this time accompanied by a regular Police Officer. In contrast to his previous visit, he called at the farm house and told Mr Crane that it was his intention to check for “illegal traps” but provided no further explanation. Mrs. Crane and their son agreed to take him to the trap that he had seen on the previous unannounced visit and then to another part of the farm where the second Larsen trap was positioned. The party returned to the farmyard where SC Hughes proceeded to interview Mr Crane under caution but without the benefit of legal advice. The interview was very short and it was not until after the interview was concluded that SC Hughes told Mr Crane why it was his use of the traps would be illegal.
Mr Crane was subsequently prosecuted. He appeared for trial at Leicester Magistrates Court on 30 January 2012, where he was convicted and sentenced on 27 February 2012 to fines and costs totalling £3,215. That conviction was the subject of the present appeal.
The Judgment - 12 July 2012
After considering written legal submissions by both parties and hearing evidence from SC Hughes, during which he was cross-examined at length by Mr Glenser, the Court upheld the appeal.
HHJ Mitchell said “I can’t think of a case which more fairly fits an abuse of power, an abuse of position an abuse of process. He described the actions of SC Hughes as being “very underhand” and called it “entrapment of the worst kind, grossly in breach of the way the public are entitled to expect the Police to behave”. He said that not drawing the licence condition to Mr Crane’s attention was a matter of fairness and referred to the duty of a Police Officer in preventing crime. He said that having seen perfectly legal traps, he should have knocked on the farmhouse door to warn Mr Crane, adding: “that would be the way a reasonable human being would have behaved”.
HHJ Mitchell also commented on the failure of the CPS to properly review the case despite repeated requests from Mr Crane’s solicitors. He said that it was not in the public interest to prosecute and described the prosecution as “outrageous”. He said: “What the CPS should have thought was that the way the Police Officer went about this is appalling; he should be reprimanded for it. Any competent lawyer would have stopped it.”
Wasted Costs - 19 July 2012
The case was back before HHJ Mitchell to deal with the issue of wasted costs, when he ordered the Crown Prosecution Service to pay the Defendant’s costs of just under £35,000. In doing so, he referred to the extensive correspondence that had been sent by Mr Ryan, before the summons was issued and thereafter, requesting that the case was reviewed on public interest grounds. He observed that “this was taken to the highest level on countless occasions with no response” and referred to it as “a lamentable state of affairs by the CPS generally”. He held that they had failed at any level to give proper consideration to their own requirements as to whether a decision to prosecute is in the public interest and that it was “a clear case where the decision to prosecute was taken in bad faith”.
Mr Crane suffered a stroke shortly after being visited by SC Hughes on 22 June 2011. He comments that the past 12 months have been extremely difficult for him and his family but finally justice has been achieved. He is very grateful for the hard work and excellent representation provided to him by his legal team, and also to his many friends and well-wishers who have remained supportive throughout.
This has been the first prosecution for an offence arising out of this deeply controversial amendment to the General Licence.
It is a cause for considerable concern that, when questioned by Mr Glenser, SC Hughes, Wildlife Crime Officer for more than 20 years, claimed not to know whether his actions were governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its Codes of Practice, and admitted that he had not read any of the relevant legislation for many years.
Paul Cantwell, from Natural England, who had provided a statement at the request of the police in connection with the prosecution, was present during the appeal.
The case highlights concerns in the rural community about decision-making and allocation of resources in combating rural crime.