By Kevin Heath
A gamekeeper at a Norfolk shooting estate has been found guilty by magistrates of killing 11 birds of prey and possessing pesticides used to make poisoned baits for the birds. Allen Lambert, 65, has also pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to 5 charges of illegal storage and use of pesticides and possession of 9 dead buzzards.
Lambert has worked for the Stody estate in Norfolk who operates the land as a shooting estate.
Lamert was found guilty on Wednesday at Norwich Magistrates’ Court and will return there on 6th November for sentencing. The charges he was found guilty of included the killing 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk and possession of associated pesticides and equipment.
During investigations another 5 dead buzzards were found littered around the Stody Estate but they were too decomposed for forensic investigation to determine the cause of death.
The offences were discovered in April 2013 by a member of the public, who alerted the RSPB, and by a subsequent inspection of Lambert’s sheds and vehicle by a Natural England official, operating under a warrant from the Health and Safety Executive, accompanied by Norfolk Constabulary and the RSPB.
Rob Cooke, Natural England’s Director of Sustainable Development, said: “The sheer scale of the offences in this case is shocking and I am dismayed that incidents like this are still occurring. We welcome the conviction and hope it will act as a significant deterrent to others.
“I am pleased that Natural England were able to take part in this successful investigation with Norfolk Constabulary and other agencies, working under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS). It demonstrates that together we will not rest until those behind such crimes are brought to justice.”
Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, “This is the worst case of bird of prey poisoning we are aware of in England, and one of the worst ever recorded in the UK. Finding the carcases of nine poisoned buzzards in a bag at Lambert’s home was truly dreadful.”
“Unfortunately, this is part of a wider national problem. In 2013 we recorded 76 individual birds and other animals illegally poisoned, including 30 buzzards and 20 red kites. We are now calling on the UK government to show their commitment to the protection of birds of prey by introducing stronger legislation, such as increasing controls on people who possess pesticides used to poison wildlife such as mevinphos and aldicarb. This could be vital in the fight against illegal persecution.”
Alan Roberts Investigative Support Officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, commented: “This case has been significant because of the number of birds of prey found poisoned which, together with the lax attitude to firearms security, has exposed an ingrained blasé attitude to lethal chemicals and weapons. There is a lot of work going on amongst all the relevant agencies from the law enforcers to gamekeeping bodies and the RSPB to stamp this sort of behaviour out. We will continue to seek out and prosecute anyone who follows Allen Lambert’s style of predator control.”
Dr Andy Clements, Director of the BTO added: “BTO data provided expert evidence to this case. Up to date information on the distribution and abundance of buzzards in north Norfolk, from the Breeding Bird Survey, Bird Atlas 2007-11 and BirdTrack helped to support the prosecution’s case by providing proof that populations of the bird in the area are consistent with the number of birds that Lambert was suspected to have poisoned.”
While Lambert is set to be sentenced for the killing of protected birds of prey his employer at the time the Stody Estate will go unpunished and this highlights the difference in protection for birds of prey in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Scotland’s wildlife laws include the criminal act of ‘vicarious liability’. This makes the employer responsible for the actions of their employees. This act of ‘vicarious liability’ has been credited with the substantial decrease in killings of birds of prey on shooting estates. Employers can no longer turn a ‘blind-eye’ or pressure their gamekeepers into illegal activities to protect game bird stocks without themselves being bought before the courts. More....