The offences were committed on the Longformacus Estate near Duns. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

The offences were committed on the Longformacus Estate near Duns. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

A gamekeeper has been sentenced for killing numerous protected species on a Scottish Borders estate.

Alan Wilson’s activities on the Longformacus Estate amounted to large-scale eradication of wildlife, an investigator said.

Wilson, 61, pleaded guilty to nine offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court in July and was sentenced on Monday to a 224-hour community payback order.

His conviction followed a two-year investigation by police and other agencies.

He admitted illegally killing a goshawk, buzzards, badgers and an otter.

A Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals undercover investigator said the full extent of Wilson’s toll would never be known.

Police Scotland officers welcomed the sentencing. However, Sheriff Peter Paterson said guidelines prevented him imposing the short-term prison sentence that the offences merited.

Police in the Borders Police in the Borders received information from a member of the public that a dead goshawk had been found on the estate near Duns in May 2017, with a subsequent search of a nearby woodland leading to the recovery of further dead birds of prey, three badgers and an otter.

As a result of the investigation, the gamekeeper was arrested and charged in July 2018 and pleaded guilty to nine Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 22 July 2019.

Wilson’s offences also included being in possession of two bottles of an illegal pesticide, carbofuran, which is recognised as one of the most toxic pesticides and illegal in the UK.

Detective Constable Andy Loughlin, who led the police inquiries, said: “This has been a complex inquiry that has amounted to a large-scale police investigation spanning the past couple of years.

“We have worked with experts in the field to secure Wilson’s conviction and I would like to thank our colleagues from the Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, veterinary pathologists at the Scottish Agricultural College, government specialists at [Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture] and independent experts, for all their assistance.”

The Scottish SPCA investigator said: “This is a despicable case of serious and systematic crimes to indiscriminately remove wildlife from an estate. The sheer volume of dead wildlife discovered is truly shocking.

“The successful prosecution of Mr Wilson sees some form of justice served, and the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit were happy to lend our expertise on wildlife crime to support this multi-agency effort. This level of co-operation is vital to catching people who are committing these specialist, brutal crimes.

“Some of the equipment in Mr. Wilson’s possession has been unlawful for decades yet it was evident it had been recently used to trap wild animals.

“The illegally set snares across the estate he was managing would have trapped wild animals indiscriminately and the remains discovered were proof of that. This amounted to large-scale eradication of wildlife.

“We will never know the total number of animals which perished due to Mr Wilson, though had it not been for the robust intervention of Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and our other partner agencies, many more would have suffered and perished.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing from RSPB Scotland said: “This was an absolutely appalling incident involving the illegal killing of a range of protected wildlife.

“We thank the Police, Scottish SPCA, and other public agencies for their hard work in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Dr Lucy Webster, a wildlife forensic scientist at SASA said: “This investigation has made good use of forensic evidence to fully illustrate the range of offences committed.

“It is an excellent example of the benefits of partnership working to bring a prolific wildlife criminal to justice.”

DC Loughlin added: “The illegal killing of birds of prey and protected species cannot, and will not, be tolerated, nor will the inhumane use of illegal traps and pesticides. Whenever such offences are reported to us we will work closely with partners to identify those responsible and ensure they are brought before the courts.

“If you have concerns regarding this type of criminal activity in your area, please report it to us via 101 so that we can investigate thoroughly.”

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