The RSPB Investigations team assists the statutory agencies to investigate crimes against wild birds in the UK.
Staff are based at the UK headquarters, Scottish headquarters and the Northern England Regional Office.
This blog will be used to keep you informed on key issues and court case results on a regular basis, but for legal reasons, we may only be able to report on certain aspects of our work.
If you witness a crime against a wild bird and wish to report this to the RSPB, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online form at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reportacrime
He stood in the dock and told the court he was sorry, that the bird breeding season was a stressful time for him and that his problem was that he associated with other collectors, who fuel his obsession for taking eggs.
In life, people have choices and ultimately these choices decide a person’s fate. In Gregory Wheal’s case, his choices have lead to him to become THE most convicted egg collector in the UK.
His previous eight court appearances, dating back to 1987, simply served as no deterrent. Even being sent to jail for four months in January 2006 wasn’t enough. So when the Police and RSPB knocked at his door in the summer of 2007, it was no surprised that the eggs of peregrine falcons and ravens were found hidden in padded containers in his bedroom.
Wheal’s exploits have seen him appear in an A to Z of Police Stations and courthouses throughout the UK: Shetland for whimbrel eggs, Mull when he was luckily intercepted with equipment used by egg collectors at a time when eagles were nesting, and, of course, back home in Coventry - the egg collecting capital of the UK.
Well, Mr Wheal, the Magistrates have decided your time is up. Whilst we do not wish anyone to spend time in jail, we hope you spend the next six months contemplating your actions and decide to stop collecting eggs and hand over any eggs you may still have to the Police.
At a time when birds are increasingly pressured by habitat loss, climate change and migration-related threats, isn’t the idea of a grown man scaling a tree or abseiling from a crag to take eggs just simply wrong?
Thankfully, recently amended laws - the laws that you as our supporters and members helped us persuade the government to implement - have curtailed the activities of all but the obsessed collectors, who are prepared to risk all.
The idea of jailed collectors being ordered to serve their time to correspond with the bird breeding season would be one way to relieve the self- confessed stress faced by men like Gregory Wheal.
Sadly, this is not practical in legal terms, but yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service appealed to the magistrates to try a new innovative technique – the much-documented ASBO. The passing of this order would have restricted Wheal’s movements by banning him from National Parks, nature reserves and conservation areas during the breeding season and preventing him from associating with other known egg collectors.
The court ruled that egg collecting was anti-social but failed to implement the order on this specific occasion.
Looking on the bright side, at least this year the ravens should have hatched their chicks by the time he is released, hopefully a changed man…