Suspended sentence for ‘worst bird of prey poisoner’, Allen Lambert

Photo: Guy Shorrock
Photo: Guy Shorrock

10 poisoned Buzzards =  10 weeks suspended sentence.

This is totally outrageous.

Media coverage – click here.


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37 Replies to “Suspended sentence for ‘worst bird of prey poisoner’, Allen Lambert”

  1. This sentence is truly appalling and just goes to show once again how seriously the court view such criminal activity. Today's sentence conveys the wrong message to the gamekeeper, carry on doing what you are doing the penalties are well worth the risk.

  2. The dead Buzzards laid out next to the Pheasant feed bag that they were stuffed in tells the story of raptor persecution in the UK in one image

  3. As I understand it a suspended sentence can also be coupled with a fine but no indication of this being invoked. Why not? Merely ordered to pay costs! So he has effectively got off scot free, providing he isn't stupid enough to break conditions of his sentence in the next year. There is no indication of why the judge suspended his sentence, despite saying that the case "crossed the custody threshold". What happened to deterrent sentences? How can we encourage the judiciary to take such crimes seriously? After all, this was the "worst" case and he gets a ten week suspended sentence! Good work RSPB though - couldn't do any more.

  4. This sentence is embarrassing for the English legal system.
    If this had happened in Scotland the estate responsible (the Stody Estate in this case) would be liable as well. In any other walk of life the employer is responsible for the illegal activities of the employees. Funny how they never know what their gamekeepers are doing. At least the RSPB has called for the estates subsidies to be reviewed. We seriously need to challenge all our public representatives to change the law in England and question why we give landowners (large and small) public money when the appear to act illegally and with impunity.

  5. Whoa everyone...

    Before everybody gets all 'Michael Howard', lets think this through.

    This country already sends far too many people to jail. There is no purpose served by locking this guy up at the taxpayers' expense - unless you count 'making me feel better' as a purpose.

    He is clearly no danger to anyone. Given that, there are far more appropriate methods of restorative justice that could be employed here, that might do him good, have an element of punishment, be cheaper, and reduce the chance of re offending into the bargain.

    I used to think that, by and large, people interested in nature were a thoughtful and temperate bunch. But to just from some of the comments on Twitter, we have plenty of hangers and floggers among us - for the right crime of course.

    1. No purpose served? What about acting as a deterrent? What about the concept of punishment? We don't only send people to jail who are a danger to society. Some crimes are simply judged to be sufficiently serious to warrant custody. The judge felt this was one such case, but then inexplicably (at least from the reports I've read to date) suspended the sentence. The intemperate reactions to this non-punishment you may be reading on Twitter are at least partially the fault of an over-lenient judge following a long line of similarly lenient non sentences and paltry fines. For a crime that has such far-reaching consequences but is so hard to detect, and when a prosecution is so hard to make stick, this is frustrating.

      Out of interest though, what methods of restorative justice are you suggesting?

      Incidentally I do note that he has lost his home on the estate, so perhaps the greatest punishment he has suffered has not been at the hands of our justice system but from his ex-employers. Now if we were to hear about estates discovering such cases for themselves (without the RSPB) and acting like this I'd be more convinced of their shock when cases like this emerge.

    2. 'I used to think that, by and large, people interested in nature were a thoughtful and temperate bunch.'

      So did I, until I saw the feeding frenzy on Mark's hate-fest, 'gamekeepers' blog on the 6th October. The only folk to emerge with any credit on that occasion were Martin WW, Dave M, Filbert Cobb, Doug Mack Dodds and Emily.

    3. so if we let all those who are of no physical threat to society out of jail then would it be Ok to send them all round your neighbourhood? Trust that's OK - or maybe not?
      Prisons should serve to deter and punish as well as protect society and whilst I'm not codoning any corporal punishment as afew might like, I do think that this sentence is disproportionate and unrealistic.
      Try doing a bit of shop-lifting from a large corporation (not that I would of course)and if it's the worse case seen by the judge, bet he wouldn't let you off.

  6. I agree that jail is an expensive option, and the risk to the general public is limited, but what about community service (Owl and Hawk sanctuary....?) or a fine to make the criminal regret their actions? Not much done in this case to make a keeper have regrets if the shooting season went well and their employer is satisfied.....

  7. He may have lost his home on the estate but expect his early retirement package included a very big ,very fat brown envelope with a card saying "Thanks for trying".

    1. Steve. I'd be dancing in the street, which I would have previously adorned with bunting, if he had a home at Her Majesty's pleasure.

  8. Mark. This feels like a kick in the teeth to me. I can almost envisage the Moorland Mafia waving 2 fingers at us and laughing "Ha ha, the law doesn't care if we murder raptors so you're wasting your time". Time to calm down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and convert frustration into determination me thinks.

  9. Predicatably Daily Mail type reaction. At least no one has suggested he be executed yet. I presume, I haven't read all that closely.

    Many birders will drive the length of the country at the drop of a hat, or fly to far flung places to chase birds, making large and unnecessary additions to CO2 in the atmosphere. Climate change is destroying the planet. Read that bit again. Now before we go all Richard Littlejohn to assuage us of our guilt and enable us to pretend that the world would be great if it weren't for gamekeepers, can we get some perspective?

    No? Oh well, had my say at least.

    1. 'At least no one has suggested he be executed yet. I presume,...'

      Sadly someone already has - see Michael May's Comment above - 1st post

    2. I think you are comparing apples with pears, Steve. It is ridiculous to suggest that concern about raptor persecution is pointless because some birders go on carbon intensive jaunts, just as it would be to suggest that the existence of corporate fraud (say) makes it meaningless to punish muggers or rapists.
      It is possible to be concerned about more than one issue and it is hard to understand how as a 'Green' you consistently downplay the continued onslaught on biodiversity, in all its various guises, and suggest that climate change is the only game in town.
      Allen Lambert is guilty of a serious wildlife crime but the court's decision amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist, sending out the message to other offenders that the law does not take wildlife crime seriously. It is not lacking in perspective to protest about this.

      1. You have completely misread it Jonathan - as people often do. Probably subliminally.

        I am comparing the reactions and attitudes, not the acts. People get insanely agitated over one issue (the buzzards) while basically ignoring the other (climate change) and carrying on as they were before. Which is the larger threat to biodiversity? Of course it's possible to be concerned about both - we all should be. However, it seems to me that most people are only really concerned about one - the one that only requires you to be vocal about what you'd do to a gamekeeper, rather than the one which would mean you actually have to do something different in your life and make some real changes.

  10. I've written to Norfolk's local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press (they hear from me quite regularly) and emailed with some encouraging thoughts for their future guidance to employees.

  11. Glad to see the story is the 3rd most shared and 8th most read on BBC news website. And rural payments agency may claw back money. Everyone is right though, the sentence is a disgrace. Bring on vicarious liability.

      1. See

        The Queen has appointed Peter John Veits to be a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, the Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke QC MP.

    1. RPA clawing back money, public money .... sadly unlikley from large estates / landowners has been my experience to date but we can dream of justice and unlawful acts being punished?

      We put some MPs in prison for expense fiddling, why was that Andrew / Steve, after all that kind of crime isn't a danger to anyone? Principles and politics: interesting bed fellows?

  12. The shooting and hunting lobby get off lightly because of their links to the top of the establishment. Surely it is time that conservation groups stop having shooters and hunters (includes) Royals as patrons etc!

  13. So anyway, I was so cross I did a meme.
    You can share it if you like.

  14. I don't know how painful it is to die of poisoning, and I hope I never find out. I suspect it is not the most comfortable way to die!
    I also admit that I have never got inside a microwave!

    I see that a man gets 16 weeks in jail for killing one rabbit in a very painful way, and another who kills multiple birds of prey in (I suspect) a similar painful way gets a slap on the wrist.

  15. Agree with your comments Mark.
    Its good to see that the Estates subsidies are being looked at. It seems that landowners view pheasant and partridge shooting as agricultural - it looks like big bucks business to me. Whatever the estates claim as wildlife benefit from shooting management it must be totally wiped out by the negative impact of so many non native birds and the destruction of native wildlife to ensure their survival for a week or two. Agriculture should be about farming the land for food - pheasant shooting is not providing food for everyone, only a few rich and silly people who seem to think eating lead shot birds is the thing to do.
    So I ask why are we paying agricultural subsidies to an elitist profit making industry?

  16. The refusal of the employer to condemn the criminal activities of an employee seems to me very close to tacit approval. Hence the calls by the RSPB for the estate to be stripped of the grants it has been given from the public purse are wholly justifiable. Whilst I commend Hugh Webster's humane and decent approach, I fear that this 'sentence' is so lenient that it will only serve to encourage the illegal destruction of raptors. After all the offender is very unlikely to be caught - it's scarcely likely that this was the first time this gamekeeper acted thus - and, even if caught redhanded for one of the worst abuses on record, will suffer only a minimal punishment.

  17. Simply unbelievable, we are constantly informed there is a zero tolerance policy on anything concerning the misuse of firearms and ammunition, remember Sergeant Danny Nightingale’s case, a quick reminder
    Sergeant Danny Nightingale, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 18 months in military detention by a court martial.
    He was charged with illegally possessing a 9mm Glock pistol which had been packed up and returned to him by colleagues after he had to leave Iraq in a hurry to help organise the funeral of two friends killed in action.
    The gun was a gift from Iraqi soldiers he had been helping to train in 2009 and he claimed he did not remember having it.
    Sgt Nightingale had been planning to fight the charge but pleaded guilty after being warned he faced a five-year sentence.
    The case sparked outrage, with Sgt Nightingale’s family, fellow soldiers and some politicians dubbing it a betrayal of a war hero.
    If my memory serves me right Danny Nightingale actually served some time and was only released due to the public outcry
    Compare this to this case and factor in the fact as already pointed out that school children were regularly wandering around Stody estate
    National Wildlife Crime Unit officer Alan Roberts said: “This case has been significant because of the number of birds of prey found poisoned which, together with the lax attitude to firearms security, has exposed an ingrained blasé attitude to lethal chemicals and weapons.

    Nightingale and his family have spent around £120,000 trying to clear his name.

    My bet is members of the syndicates that shoot at shody have all chipped in to pay his fine and costs and that Lambert is will still be working there unofficially, he doesn’t need a gun license to shoot on private land if he borrows someone else’s gun, the removal of his gun license only prevents him owning a gun, they’ll be toasting the judge this weekend

  18. Tend to agree that sending him to prison would be pointlessly expensive and that a serious bout of communitym service would be more approriate - say 1000 hours at Pensthorpe? But, compare his sentence with this:

    Works of art are clearly far more important that a few measly Buzzards!

  19. Is it me or are there a lot of "dislikes" on comments on this blog than normal? Particularly on those bemoaning the paultry sentence this man recieved...

    I'm undecided as to whether he should have been sent down, especially given his age. I'm not sure time served would act as deterrent to others - you only have to look at egg collectors that have been sent down only to reoffend. He has a criminal record now either way, and that comes with a lot of ramifications. But as the WCA allows for a maximum fine of c.£5000 per offence, why wasn't he given a fine in line with this? That would act as a deterant. My understanding is that each dead raptor would have equaled an offence - that is a potentially a big fine. And victim costs? How about one reflecting the loss of these birds, perhaps in terms of the cost that it took to investigate this case and bring him to trial.

    Regardless of this man's profession he was found guilty by a jury of his peers for the crimes he was charged with. I don't care if he is/was a gamekeeper, a egger or a developer. I want the judicial system to start handing down punishements that fit the crimes and the legislation.

    For those ready on the dislike buttom - on your marks, get set, GO!

    1. Just to clarify - this wasn't a jury case, but a single District Judge. However I completely agree with you about the huge discrepancy between the maximum imposable fine and the negligible punishment actually handed down.

  20. Thanks John - thought he'd been sent to Crown Court. Wonder if the punishment would have been different?

  21. I come to this rather late ( lots of computer work at work so none at home for a day or two!) It is of course true that nobody died and Lambert is no risk to the public, or is it? Some of the poisons he had and used are very very toxic and poisonous through the skin, so a child finding a bait and dead buzzard or a pet or just an uninformed but curious member of the public-------- it could happen and the amount of poison in our countryside, much of it put there by keepers means there is a chance it will.
    For me he should have gone to prison to send a message to all those in the shooting lobby that carry out such illegal acts, condone, excuse or just turn a blind to them that it is not a minor thing and that it has consequences. Yes few are caught another reason to make an example. Not a rant al a Daily Mail (appalling rag) but a simple hope that we can send a message to the morons like Lambert that its not acceptable at all and it does matter.
    I have a colleague at work a sober upstanding scientist, a family man, who sometimes fishes a bit, his view poison the poisoners, shoot the shooters trap the trappers, a logical view. Me I prefer the law but a law with some logic to penalties, the fines we see for wild life crime are paltry when compared to the value of the shooting and no convicted keeper has yet gone to jail. In my worst moments I'd nail Lambert and his ilk upside down on a tree but in reality I want the law to do its job, punish and deter and that means a realistic sentence not a slap on the wrist. Oh and chaps the maximum penalty per bird for a non-schedule One like buzzard is £500 not £5000.

  22. I think we need to shine a light on Allen Lambert's employers. Some may assert that wildlife crime, a bit like journalists and phone hacking, is limited to a few rotten apples acting alone. Lambert's employer's the McNicol family are right in the heart of the shooting and farming establishment - trustees of the Game Conservancy, past presidents of the CLA and also of the Royal Agricultural Society.

    The MacNicols are liable for the safe working practices of their staff. This means they are responsible for the safe handling of firearms, pesticides and poisons. They are also responsible for the working culture of their employees.

    The Stody estate's website is here:

    Alan Tilmouth's blog is excellent on the vicarious liability of Lamberts employers:
    - curiously the link to the Fieldsports Magazine's interview with Allan Lambert has been taken down (in fact the magazine has no reference whatsoever to the poisoning crime). his blog quotes: '"Gamekeeper Allan Lambert joined Stody from nearby Foxley in 1990, and quickly developed a good understanding with his new boss." Yet we will no doubt hear that this keeper employed on the estate for over 20 years was operating without the knowledge and complicity of the landowners, if CLA or the estate bother to comment at all.'


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