On 12 February 2015, Mr Ian Sleightholm, a grouse moor gamekeeper, appeared for trial at Northallerton Magistrates Court, charged with illegal use of a cage trap, taking a wild bird, namely a crow, and failing to meet the welfare needs of that crow and one other.
The prosecution was based on the evidence of RSPB officers, who carried out covert surveillance over a 3 week period and alleged that the licence conditions were not being met, because the water in the trap appeared dirty and the shelter provided for decoy birds had fallen over and not been replaced. There was no suggestion that any bird suffered unnecessarily as a consequence. There was no suggestion that the trap was being used for any purpose other than to trap crows in order to protect young grouse.
The RSPB officers had trespassed onto private land, without any valid grounds to suspect an offence. Despite their claims that the trap was deficient to meet the decoy bird’s welfare needs, they did not release it or contact the trap operator. Nor did they take a sample by which to assess the water’s quality. Instead, they set up a camera and took over 380 hours of unlawfully obtained footage.
After hearing submissions, the Magistrates stayed the case for abuse of process, holding that the prosecution’s failings were such that Mr Sleightholm could not have a fair trial and that it would be unfair to try him.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.