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
Was his biggest mistake keeping a tally in his notebook, boasting to other gamekeepers or simply the act of shooting protected species in the first place?
There is no doubt that the breakthrough in this case came when two separate gamekeepers working on the same Kempton Estate as Kyle Burden decided to blow the whistle.
The path for these good men was not going to be easy; they knew the moment they spoke up they were out of a job, they had to convince the authorities and then be prepared for the pressure from assisting the likely court case – a daunting prospect.
So it was on June 15th 2007 that I took the call from an audibly frightened man who just wanted to do the best thing and seek justice for the unnecessary slaughter he had witnessed.
I met him in person and listened as gruesome details emerged of the shooting of buzzards and clubbing to death of badgers – all seemingly a matter of routine for Kyle Burden on the Kempton Estate. Then came the crux of the case: as in so many previous cases, the compulsion to detail the crimes was overpowering – it came in the form of a notebook. I was told by both men exactly where to find it and what it contained: coded entries relating to the deaths of 102 buzzards, 40 ravens and 37 badgers, all in a short period of time on the estate.
Burden had shown his book to both whistleblowers - he felt he had nothing to fear as they were all the same - but thankfully, on this occasion that was not the case.
The two witnesses saw some of the killing first hand. One man had only been working on the estate for a matter of hours when the first buzzard fell, followed shortly after by live badgers bludgeoned whilst caught in snares. Burden offered that he used to be scared of killing wildlife but he had killed so much it did not bother him anymore.
It was no surprise when together with the Police we located the diary in Kyle Burden’s possession; analysis confirmed that it matched exactly with the details provided by the witnesses and that this was the driving force behind the guilty pleas in this case.
Mitigation centred on Burden’s young age, remorse and previous good character. It was also suggested that the prodigy of an established game keeping college, was only trying to protect his pheasants for the shooting season – all of this being ‘the way of the countryside’.
He was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term, 150 hours community work and ordered to pay £200 costs.
Thanks to this case the bad parts of the shooting world are yet again called into question but thankfully on this occasion, the ranks have been split and the good men are beginning to find their voices – we praise you.