A father and son who, over a number of years, illegally possessed and sold wild peregrine falcon chicks for large sums of money, have been ordered to carry out periods of unpaid work.
Both men are also prohibited from possessing or having under their control any bird of prey for a period of five years.
Timothy Hall, 48, pled guilty to acquiring for commercial purposes, keeping for sale and selling 15 wild peregrine falcon chicks between 2019 and 2020 and to being in possession of a further seven wild peregrine falcon chicks on 18th May 2021.
He also admitted a charge of failing to provide for the needs of nine other birds of prey by not providing a clean and adequate living environment and not providing sufficient clean water for them. He also admitted breaching the Firearms Act by not properly securing a shotgun.
He was ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work over a period of 18 months.
Lewis Hall, 23, pled guilty to acquiring for commercial purposes, keeping for sale, and selling wild peregrine falcon chicks between 2020 and 2021, which included 13 of the previously referred to peregrine falcon chicks sold in 2020 and the seven chicks found on 18th May 2021.
He was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work over a period of 15 months.
Both men were sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Iain Batho, who leads on wildlife and environmental crime for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said:
“It is highly important to preserve Scotland’s natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it. As such, birds of prey are given strict protection by our law.
"The sale of peregrine falcons has become an extremely lucrative business and Timothy and Lewis Hall took advantage of that for their own financial gain and to the detriment of the wild peregrine falcon population in the South of Scotland.
“Their illegal activities had the potential to have a devastating impact on the entire population of nesting peregrine falcons in that part of the country.
“The result in this case is a testament to the collaborative working between COPFS, Police Scotland, the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the Scottish SPCA and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).”
The court heard how in April 2021 a member of the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group alerted police to suspicious failures of peregrine falcon nests in the Berwickshire area which had previously been productive.
Officers later investigated two nesting sites and discovered they had been disturbed and a number of eggs were missing from both locations.
A police search of Timothy Hall’s home in Berwick-Upon-Tweed subsequently found a total of seven peregrine falcon chicks as well as a number of other birds of prey.
Further enquiries concluded that none of the chicks were captive-born and had been taken from the wild.
The court was also told that an examination of Lewis Hall’s mobile phone contained a note that suggested he had been monitoring known peregrine falcon nest sites.
Data on the same device also showed that a drone linked to the phone had flown 20 separate flights directly over several known peregrine falcon nest sites.
The court also heard evidence that, between 2019 and 2020, Timothy and Lewis Hall were involved in the sale of 15 peregrine falcon chicks for which they received a total of £41,164.
To confirm the chicks were wild, a new innovative DNA tactic was used which definitively established that they had not been bred in captivity and which linked some of them to wild adult peregrine falcons known to nest in the south of Scotland.
Under legislation, selling captive-bred peregrine falcons is legal but possessing or selling wild birds is unlawful.
Lewis Hall will now be subject to action under proceeds of crime legislation.