Mutch was seen in the footage to kill a goshawk

Mutch was seen in the footage to kill a goshawk

A gamekeeper has been jailed for four months for killing a protected bird of prey.

George Mutch of Kildrummy, was found guilty of four offences involving goshawks and a buzzard.

It is believed to be the first time a gamekeeper has been jailed for wildlife crime involving raptors.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland set up a covert surveillance camera to film traps on the Kildrummy Estate near Alford in Aberdeenshire in 2012.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court saw footage of 48-year-old Mutch killing a goshawk by hitting it with a stick and putting another goshawk and buzzard into sacks.

He denied the offences but was found guilty of illegal use of a trap; illegal killing of a goshawk; illegal taking of a goshawk; illegal taking of a buzzard and sentenced to four months imprisonment for each offence, to run concurrently.

Duncan Orr Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “This sentence is a historic, landmark result.

“Mr Mutch has been sentenced to four months in prison following his conviction for the illegal killing of a goshawk; illegal use of a trap; and illegal taking of a buzzard and a second goshawk.

“We would like to thank 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.

“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.

“Wildlife criminals must expect no sympathy from now on.”

Superintendent George MacDonald of Aberdeenshire and Moray division of Police Scotland said: “Today’s sentence highlights the ultimate consequences of Mutch’s deplorable conduct.

“I do not believe his actions and behaviour reflect the vast majority involved in the various forms of countryside management, most of whom understand the clear lines that should not be crossed in terms of criminal persecution of wildlife.

“Wildlife crime is a priority within a number of communities across Aberdeenshire and Moray.

“It is a matter we take very seriously and through highly trained and skilled staff, we will always endeavour to piece together, what at times can be complex and challenging enquiries, but as today’s result has shown, these investigations are not insurmountable and we will continue to use advanced investigative and scientific techniques, the support of our local communities and partners to ensure that action is taken against the small minority who persist in such awful actions.”

RSPB Scotland said it would like to see the open general licence system controlled further by restricting the timing of use of such traps to the spring when crows are best targeted.

“In addition we would like greater standardisation of design of these traps to prevent by-catch of other non-target bird species, and also restrictions on use on open hill land where birds of prey are more likely to be caught,” it said

“RSPB Scotland also believes that there needs to be an effective compliance monitoring system put in place by the authorities.”