North Yorks Police – we’ll let you off.

Photo: RSPB
Photo: RSPB

Many have received the following communication from North Yorks Police after their investigation into the cautioning of a gamekeeper employed on the Mossdale Estate near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park for an offence involving the setting of poletraps.


You wrote to us recently to complain about our decision to caution a man, after he admitted an offence contrary to section 5(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

North Yorkshire Police has now completed a review of this investigation.  This involved looking again at the evidence and the decision, using the Ministry of Justice Guidelines on Adult Cautions, the Adult Gravity Factor Matrix, and the latest Director of Public Prosecutions Guidance on Charging. Specialist advice was also sought from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Our review found that we had not used the correct cautioning guidelines when dealing with this case.   Police officers have a level of discretion in deciding how to deal with a case, based on the specific circumstances of the incident.  However, the review concluded that if the correct guidelines had been used, it is likely that the man would have been charged, rather than cautioned.

It is important to remember that a police caution is not a “let off”.  A person who has been cautioned has a criminal record, and there can be very serious consequences as a result.  Depending on the circumstances, they may lose their job and income, and there may also be implications for the person’s future employment. A decision was also made to revoke this man’s firearms licence as a result of his involvement in this offence.

As a result of the review, we asked the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether further action should be taken on this case, and provided them with other details of our activity related to the man involved.  After consideration, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that, taking all matters into account, including that a decision had already been made, no further action should be taken. 

I would like to reassure you that the mistake we made on the use of guidelines was isolated to this particular case.  Nonetheless, we have taken the matter very seriously, and we have ensured we have done everything we can to avoid mistakes happening in the future.  We have amended our policy on how wildlife crimes are dealt with by investigators and decision-makers, and advice from specially-trained officers is now sought in every case.  We are also using our position as the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on rural and wildlife crime, to share what we have learned with other police services across the UK.

Thank you for raising this matter with us.  On behalf of North Yorkshire Police I would like to apologise for the distress that this matter has caused you, and assure you that we will do our very best to protect our local wildlife, and deliver the police national wildlife action plan here in North Yorkshire and more widely.

Yours sincerely

Amanda Oliver

Acting Assistant Chief Constable


So, a few comments from me.

First, well done North Yorks Police for a) having a review and b) publishing the result in a timely matter and c) for holding up your hands and admitting you made a mistake.  Everybody makes mistakes and it’s always best to admit them quickly and fully.

This blog accepts your explanation fully and harbours no doubts about a police cover-up or corruption. It was a straightforward mistake so let’s accept that and move on. This blog would give you 9 out of 10 for facing up to your error: it would have been 10 out of 10 except there is a small element in your statement above that sounds a little as though it’s saying it’s all very complicated and we slipped up; actually, my understanding is that it is all very simple and you slipped up, by reading the wrong manual. But 9 out of 10 is a very high score and you did well.

Second, I’d only give you 6 out of 10 (hard but fair I hope) for the bit of your statement that says that a police caution is not a let-off – that is a bit of a cop-out (geddit?) and a bit wrong, in my opinion (please feel free to put me right if you have a better legal grasp than do I – there must be lots of you out there who qualify!). Yes a caution gives the recipient a criminal record and yes, it is right that this individual has lost his firearm licence, but the individual cannot be named and nor can his picture be used because a caution represents, immediately, a ‘spent’ conviction under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Naming and shaming criminals is part of the deterrent nature of the justice system and a caution removes that element. Without knowing the identity of this individual then it would be difficult for a vigilant member of the public to report the person for carrying a shotgun if he were ever seen to do so – we are not allowed to publish his name.  Likewise it would be difficult to know whether this individual is still working for the Mossdale Estate, perhaps in work closely related to gamekeeping, if that were in fact the case. And it would be difficult for others to know whether this individual were employed in the future by other shooting estates, perhaps in roles rather akin to gamekeeping.  If I am right about that, then maybe it doesn’t matter very much, but if it matters at all, then a caution is a bit of a let-off compared with a criminal conviction in the courts.

It is reassuring to learn that North Yorks Police has taken steps to prevent this type of mistake happening again. Fair enough. We do all make mistakes, this was a mistake, North Yorks Police has admitted its mistake and we should all move on.  This blog wishes North Yorks Police every success in its continuing fight against wildlife crime – we think you’ll have plenty of work in your beautiful part of the world over the coming years..


12 Replies to “North Yorks Police – we’ll let you off.”

  1. Too kind Mark. I’ve asked North Yorkshire Police;

    -Could you please advise on the standard procedure for challenging the Crown Prosecution Service decision?
    -Could you please reveal what action has been taken against the officers who made the admitted mistake?

    1. A further response from North Yorkshire Police;

      ‘Morning Mr Clarke

      I’m responding on behalf of ACC Oliver, who is on leave.

      The standard practice for CPS decisions would be via the Victim’s Right to Review Scheme, details are here
      This particular case may well fall out of this remit, as it was an initial out of court disposal, but this would be a suitable place to address any concerns one has.

      The officers involved in the decision making process received management advice.

      Kind regards


      A/Insp Jon Grainge
      Collar Number 1859
      Rural Taskforce
      North Yorkshire Police’

      I will be writing to the Crown Prosecution Service.

  2. I’m in the middle here between Mark and Jim. Yes, well done for admitting your mistake fully and quickly. BUT we see far too many instances where you can’t help thinking that, if it wasn’t for being caught out, this ‘mistake’ would not have been recognised. In addition, it hasn’t been rectified and the blame for this has been swiftly passed on to the CPS. My last point is that the police are pretty damn sure of procedure in just about every other area of crime. Ever been stopped for speeding at 55mph and been told “Sorry, I didn’t know it was 60mph sir. Have a nice day”?

  3. On the other hand it is at least something. Leave it to the CPS and one of their old chaps will have a conversation with another old chap who points out that if a chap wants to get on socially then a chap better be a good chap regarding another chap’s chap being just a good chap.

  4. It is extremely disturbing that this force is the lead in dealing with crimes of this nature given 1) the appalling level of persecution going unpunished in their area and 2) if they don’t know how to apply the law properly, and they are the lead force, surely that is a ready made excuse for those following?

  5. Admitting mistake(s) to be applauded.

    As for CPS no surprise there is there, wonder what their excuse will be? Perhaps we should wait till we hear it before we assess and award their marks out of ten?

    Interesting (?) that no further detail is made available by the AACC as to why the CPS did not then decide to take further action? Presumably they work to some form of guidelines and are also accountable as a Public Body?

  6. The case should be re-opened. The statement from the estate said that the gamekeeper in question had been dismissed, if I remember rightly, or was it the statement from the moorland association. If this is the case, it is an ideal opportunity to get the guy to testify against the estate.

  7. OK they got it wrong, they’ve apologised and put in place a system that should prevent it happening again. Good but it still feels like he got away with it. Let’s hope that it results in cross compliance consequences for the estate.

  8. And what about the man who gave the information to the police. Do you know what it is like to live in an area where certain folk hate you and try and make life difficult for you even if you were born and bred in the area like this man was. I know of incidents where they try and knock you off your motor bike or damage your car when you leave it too close to the moor where they work. Where are the police then? Is that a caution or just a verbal warning! Do the RSPB give him a gold reward or a life membership to the society? Do they know he and others are risking so much when it seems the law is on the side of the big estate where the local policeman gets free shooting with the same keepers! I wonder if Amanda Oliver, Acting Assistant Chief Constable looked into that!!

  9. ‘We’ll let you off’…….Is that the Royal ‘we’ Mark because you are not speaking for me? I don’t for a minute believe a ‘mistake’ was made.
    But hopefully because of the high profile of this case things are changing for the better. (Forgive my brevity but it wouldn’t be prudent to comment more on a public forum)

  10. Pretty surprised by how easily you’ve been appeased on this Mark.

    Was it really a mistake? Given N.York’s high level of wildlife crime, you’d think they’d had enough practice to remember the procedures. Even if it was, in most walks of life, if you make an important mistake that can be corrected, then you correct it.

    When CPS says “taking all matters into account, including that a decision had already been made, no further action should be taken”, I think CPS need to elaborate on “taking all matters into account”.

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