A gamekeeper from Tomatin, Rory Parker, has been fined £1,575 after he admitted shooting a protected species of bird, a sparrowhawk, on the Moy Estate near Inverness. RSPB Scotland investigations team caught the incident on camera, where Parker was seen firing two shots at the bird as it flew overhead at Tom Na Slaite, Ruthven, on 16 September 2021. The Wildlife and Countryside Act was violated, and the court found Parker guilty. He was 22 at the time and working as a gamekeeper.
Mark Moir KC, who was representing Parker, admitted his client's wrongdoing and expressed deep regret for what he had done. The court was informed that Parker had been in his job since leaving school, and it was his mistake that he had resigned from his post as a result of his actions. In response to this conviction, Parker's firearms certificate is expected to be revoked, causing him to lose his license to use a firearm. The court heard that Parker should have been shooting pigeons and crows, which are a problem on the estate, but his impulsiveness got the best of him.
Sheriff Sara Matheson informed Parker that Scotland's birds of prey were a valuable asset that needed protection. This conviction, according to RSPB Scotland, marks the 56th instance of a gamekeeper being convicted of raptor persecution offences since 1990. The conviction is welcomed by the RSPB, who believes that the persecution of birds of prey in Scotland has continued unabated. This specific incident was a result of exemplary partnership working between the police, RSPB Scotland, the Wildlife DNA Forensics team at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, and the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
The land where the sparrowhawk was shot is used for pheasant and partridge shoots and is managed by a tenant of the Moy Estate. The tenant's spokesman, upon being made aware of the incident, suspended Parker from his position, calling the incident unacceptable. The spokesman further added that they are committed to maintaining the highest standards of game management.
Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses, has condemned raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms. Dee Ward, the organisation's representative, expressed their disappointment at the illegal persecution of the sparrowhawk and stressed the importance of preventing and detecting such activities in the future. Ward emphasised the sector's progress in reducing raptor crimes in recent years and the industry-wide condemnation of this unacceptable behaviour.
The use of plastic decoy owls to lure birds of prey to their position is a common tactic used by gamekeepers. Ian Thomson, head of investigations for the RSPB, believes that this was probably the case with Parker's offence. It is illegal to use plastic decoy owls, and doing so can lead to prosecution.
In conclusion, the case against Parker was a clear violation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which prohibits the shooting of protected bird species. The court found him guilty of the offence and fined him £1,575. The conviction was welcomed by the RSPB, who believes that the persecution of birds of prey in Scotland continues to occur frequently. The incident was a result of exemplary partnership working between various agencies, including the police and the Wildlife DNA Forensics team at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture. The use of plastic decoy owls to lure birds of prey is illegal and may result in prosecution. Scottish Land and Estates has condemned raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms and emphasised the importance of preventing and detecting such activities.