A DORSET gamekeeper has been handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting wildlife and firearms offences.
Paul Scott Allen, whose address was given as Baileys Hill, Brockington, had previously pleaded guilty to a total of seven offences, including possessing poison in contravention of licencing laws and of possessing a live or dead wild bird unlawfully.
He was handed a 15-week suspended sentence and ordered to pay fines and compensation of £2,900 by Weymouth Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (February 16).
The charges came after the 54-year-old’s home near Wimborne was searched by police and other agencies in March 2021 after reports of suspected bird poisonings on a Dorset estate.
During the searches a number of dead birds of prey were located.
Officers also found a shotgun and ammunition, which were not covered by the defendant’s firearms certificate, during the search.
Further enquiries uncovered a number of prohibited toxins at the premises.
Allen was interviewed by officers and – following detailed enquiries and liaison with experts from the Crown Prosecution Service – was charged with the various offences.
Previously, Allen pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a live or dead wild bird under schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and two charges of failing to comply with the conditions of a firearms certificate.
He also admitted using a biocidal product in contravention of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; possessing an unlawful substance under the Plant Protection Products Regulations 2012 and possessing a regulated substance without a licence under the Poisons Act 1972.
Chief Inspector David Parr, of Dorset Police, said: “We take all reports of wildlife crime and rural criminality very seriously.
“This case has seen us work with partners including Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit to compile evidence before liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service Specialist Wildlife Prosecutor who agreed to the charges against the defendant.
“Wildlife crime remains a key objective of the recently expanded Dorset Police Rural Crime Team and we will continue to work with our partners to investigate criminal offences and deal with offenders robustly.”
Speaking after the sentencing the Shaftesbury Estate – where Allen had worked as a gamekeeper – said: “Paul was not employed by the estate at the time of this incident and is not permitted to work on the estate.
“We strongly condemn any form of raptor persecution and we do not condone illegal activity of any kind.
“The Estate places huge importance on conservation and supports a wide range of initiatives that protect wildlife and important habitats, as shown in our annual ecological monitoring report.”
It added: “We fully support the efforts of Dorset Wildlife, RSPB, Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Foundation – and many more – for the work they do in conservation and we share their passion for protecting wildlife.”
Stephanie Bird-Halton, national delivery director for Natural England, said: “Natural England is determined to tackle the scourge of persecution of our birds of prey.
“We assisted Dorset Police in this prosecution, gathering evidence and providing specialist technical advice. We are pleased Allen has been held to account for his offences against our wildlife.
“Without landowners and land managers complying with the law and reporting illegal activity, the impact on our wildlife will continue.
“If members of the public spot birds of prey they suspect may have been poisoned, we would ask them to contact the police, but not to touch the bird.”
Angharad Thomas, the CPS Wessex Wildlife Lead, said: “We work closely with the police on all wildlife related cases to make sure there is sufficient evidence to meet our legal test for prosecution.
“In this case, the review of extensive and complex evidence made it clear that Allen’s offending posed a significant threat to human and animal life, as well as having a negative impact on the countryside.
“Anyone acting otherwise than in accordance with firearms licences or in contravention of laws intended to protect our wildlife and countryside will be prosecuted.”