Scottish gamekeeper, George Mutch, was yesterday sentenced to four months in prison for trapping a Goshawk and beating it to death. Mutch is the first gamekeeper to be jailed for killing raptors. Click here to see some of the video evidence that led to the conviction in December.
It’s never a good thing for anyone to go to prison. I wouldn’t fancy it myself. But our society has decided that removing someone’s liberty is one of the ways to punish and potentially to chasten offenders against the law. Such a sentence will presumably act as a far greater deterrent than a fine, however large, because the prison sentence cannot be paid by another as can a fine.
This type of sentence has been available in other cases and I don’t know the details of this case, and particularly of Mr Mutch, but eventually society’s patience is bound to run out with the shooting industry’s blatant, repeated and widespread breaking of the laws protecting wildlife. If a few custodial sentences are needed to change the ways of shooting estates then so be it.
One wonders just how many gamekeepers would have to go to prison for the message to get through. And one wonders how many gamekeepers are slept a little less easily last night because they are expected to break the law and know that they are in jeopardy themselves.
And in Scotland, there is vicarious liability too.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: ‘We welcome the conviction of George Mutch on the four charges, including illegal killing of a goshawk.
This long-running case, informed by evidence from RSPB Scotland staff, has finally delivered some justice. To witness the destruction of a specially protected bird of prey in this callous manner was truly shocking. Crimes against protected birds of prey are an affront to the people of Scotland and damage the reputation of the sport shooting industry.
We commend those estates that operate within the law, but expect a better performance from this sector in future. We also thank the Crown Office, Police and Scottish SPCA for their help in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.
RSPB Scotland has voiced concerns to the Scottish Government about the abuse of crow cage traps in Scotland for many years. Crow cage trap use is authorised annually by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) under the Open General Licence (OGL) and only certain types of birds, may be taken for specific purposes.
The use of such traps is therefore a privilege, and not a right, and cases of abuse of this type put the whole OGL system at risk.
We welcome the recent announcement by Scottish Government to tighten up procedures, which will allow SNH to remove the use of the OGL from land where there is good evidence of crimes against protected birds of prey occurring.‘