Gamekeeper found guilty of killing a rare bird.

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Added by January 15, 2015

A gamekeeper has been jailed for four months after being found guilty of killing a rare bird of prey and setting traps illegally to capture others.

George Mutch, 48, of Kildrummy, denied recklessly killing or injuring a goshawk and illegally taking away another goshawk and a buzzard in 2012.

However, Mr Mutch was found guilty of four charges at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. He is believed to be the first gamekeeper in Scotland to have been jailed for such an offence.

The case was also one of the first times in Scotland that hidden camera footage, obtained by the RSPB, has been accepted as evidence to prosecute wildlife crime.

When summing up the case, Sheriff Noel McPartlin said the persecution of wild birds was a “huge problem” and added “Having regard to the gravity of the offence, I am of the view that there is no other method of dealing with you which is appropriate to this case other than the imposition of a custodial sentence.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “This sentence is an historic, landmark result.” He continued  “This penalty should be a turning point, sending a clear message to those determined to flout our laws that wildlife crime will not be tolerated but instead will be treated with the seriousness that it deserves.”

Mr Orr-Ewing also thanked the Crown Office and Police Scotland for helping to bring this case to a successful conviction, as well as the exemplary work of the RSPB Scotland investigations team.

Sara Shaw, procurator fiscal for wildlife and environment, said: “Birds of prey are given strict protection by our law. Goshawks in particular are rare birds: the court heard evidence in this case that there are only about 150 nesting pairs in Scotland.

“It is highly important to preserve Scotland’s natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it. Our environmental laws exist to provide this protection.

“This case involved serious contraventions of those laws. The conviction of Mr Mutch and the severity of the sentence given by the court highlights that message.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has taken the ultimate sanction available to it by revoking Mr Mutch’s membership.

On the SGA website a spokesman reluctantly accepted that the court has found one of their members guilty of raptor persecution and commented “The court has made its decision and Mr Mutch will now have to live with the consequences of his actions.”

However, SGA has angered many conservationists by stating that it will continue to campaign for a change in legislation to allow their members to kill protected birds of prey in the future without fear of being prosecuted.

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