Man found guilty of illegally killing protected species
A man from Winters Park in Penrith has pleaded guilty to the intentional killing of buzzards on land managed by a private shooting syndicate.
Colin Burne, 64, is a gamekeeper and he killed the birds in the Whinfell Forest, near Penrith, in Cumbria.
Burne attended Carlisle Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to three charges. These charges related to the killing of two buzzards on the 11th February 2013, killing five buzzards prior to this date and he was also found guilty of possession of a wooden stick as an item that was capable of being used to kill the birds.
He was handed a 70-day jail sentence, concurrent on each charge that was suspended for 12 months. In sentencing, the Judge stated that had it not been for his ill health he would have considered jailing him.
On 11th February this year, some members of the public discovered a cage trap containing live buzzards on the land managed by the shoot. These traps are not illegal, however, they must lawfully be used to control certain species of crows. If non-target birds are accidentally caught in the trap then they must be released unharmed.
The day after the traps were discovered, RSPB Investigations Officers set up a covert camera near the trap site. The footage was later retrieved and showed Colin Burne entering the trap and intentionally killing two buzzards by beating them to death with a wooden stick.
Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: “After we retrieved the footage and played it back, we were surprised at the openness with which Burne had killed the birds. Buzzards were given full legal protection in 1954 – six years after Burne was born – but he calmly dispatched the birds as though it was a routine operation, rather than an illegal act killing a protected species.”
Cumbria Constabulary later searched the trap site and discovered the presence of the remains of many other buzzards. This revealed that the killing of these birds at this site had become a regular practice. Burne ended up admitting to killing five of these birds.
Bob Elliot added: “Buzzards are magnificent birds and their presence in the countryside brings pleasure to many people. This case confirms the urgent need to tighten up the use of crow cage traps to ensure that protected species, such as buzzards, are not routinely killed.”
PC Helen Felton, who led the investigation for Cumbria Constabulary, said: “This was a despicable crime in which someone who was in a position of trust as a gamekeeper, trapped buzzards and then later came back to kill them.
“From what was found nearby, it was clear that this practice had been taking place for some time. The sentence that has been given today highlights how wildlife crime is not tolerated in Cumbria. Those people who believe they can kill protected species will be brought to justice.”