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Aberdeen gamekeeper jailed for killing Goshawk

Gamekeeper Mutch was handed a custodial sentence today after being caught trapping and killing a rare wild bird with the use of video cameras.

George Mutch was sentenced to four months imprisonment on each of the four charges, one offence under Section 5(1)(b) and three offences under Section 1(1)(a) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The sentences will run concurrently.

Mutch was convicted at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 11 December 2014 of the use of traps for the purpose of taking wild birds and of the killing of a goshawk and the taking of another goshawk and a common buzzard on the Kildrummy Estate in late 2012.

An RSPB researcher noted that a homemade Larsen trap was being used in unusual circumstances and RSPB officials decided to record, on video, how it was being used for the purposes of their research. When they went to recover the camera, they discovered a multi-catch trap in which a goshawk had been caught. They decided to monitor that trap too.

When the video recordings were reviewed later, the officials discovered that a jay was used as a lure in the Larsen-type trap, which is not permitted, and that a goshawk was trapped in it. The accused was later seen to kill the goshawk by repeatedly striking it with a stick.

They also saw that a common buzzard was caught in the trap and that the accused subsequently removed it, placed it in a sack and carried it off.

Finally they discovered that the goshawk, which they had seen captive in the second trap, was removed by the accused and that it too was placed into a sack, into which the accused threw the remains of a dead jackdaw, before carrying it off.

The accused did not release any of the birds immediately, unharmed, as is required and the Sheriff decided that the preponderance of the evidence pointed to a scheme to trap birds of prey.

Sara Shaw, Procurator Fiscal, Wildlife and Environment said:

"Birds of prey are given strict protection by our law. Goshawks in particular are rare birds: the court heard evidence in this case that there are only about 150 nesting pairs in Scotland.

"It is highly important to preserve Scotland's natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it. Our environmental laws exist to provide this protection.

"This case involved serious contraventions of those laws. The conviction of Mr Mutch and the severity of the sentence given by the Court highlights that message.

"COPFS will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice."