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RSPB case thrown out of court

PUBLISHED: 09:59 17 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:59 17 February 2015

Archant

The RSPB should hang its head in shame, says NGO, after court rules that the bird charity provided unlawfully obtained evidence to support the prosecution of a gamekeeper

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has said that the RSPB should hang its head in shame after it was revealed at Northallerton Magistrates Court on 12 February 2015 that the bird charity had provided unlawfully obtained covert surveillance evidence from a hidden camera in order to support the prosecution of a gamekeeper from North Yorkshire. The court dismissed the case after hearing legal arguments that an “abuse of process” had taken place and that the grouse keeper, who has been described as a man of “impeccable character”, could not receive a fair trial.

The case, brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, had centred on evidence that had been obtained unlawfully by the RSPB. The charges related to the quality of the water and the shelter provided for decoy birds in a cage trap during April 2014.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: “The RSPB should be hanging its head in shame today after providing unlawfully obtained evidence to support the prosecution of a gamekeeper. The RSPB was so scurrilous as to plant a covert surveillance camera, and film for more than 380 hours, without the permission of the landowner, nor with any lawful justification. It’s a disgrace that the RSPB – now widely seen as a self-styled wildlife police force – should operate in this manner. The RSPB needs to get its house in order. “

He added: “It makes us wonder whether the RSPB may be out of control? The fact that this case was dismissed so swiftly is in our view perhaps indicative of the depths to which the RSPB will stoop in order to create the illusion, both for the court and for the public, of a gamekeeper being involved in wildlife crime. The RSPB is, it seems, singlehandedly destroying its own reputation and credibility by the use of covert surveillance cameras. How can anyone trust its word in the future? We hope the RSPB has now learned its lesson, its knuckles having been soundly rapped by the decision of the court. We hope it has the decency to apologise to all concerned.”

Mr Sleightholm was represented by leading country sports barrister Peter Glenser, of 9 Bedford Row, and specialist solicitor, Tim Ryan, of Warners Solicitors.

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