Hello! This is my first post to the Investigations blog with an update I thought worthy of sharing. 

Mute swan photo by Steve Round

I joined the investigations section as an assistant officer in June last year on a secondment from the Wildlife Enquiries team. It soon became clear that as with the wildlife enquiries, this team is also regularly required to provide expert advice on reports relating to our more common wild bird species, not just those of significant conservation concern.  

The investigation of offences against species that are considered common or with stable populations are mostly led by the national network of Wildlife Crime Officers,  based within the countries' regional police forces. (Read more about how the RSPB works with police and other enforcement agencies

Anyway, the reason for my post is this. On Thursday 24 February the Merseyside Wildlife Crime Officer called to inform us of the outcome of the latest swan killer case.  

46-year-old Thomas Bowen appeared that day at Wirral Magistrates Court for sentencing, after an earlier guilty plea for the killing of a juvenile mute swan. He was arrested on Tuesday 23 November 2010 and was initially taken into custody for an offence of cruelty to animals. 

He had captured a juvenile mute swan and took it to his (now former) girlfriend’s home address, where he killed the bird with a violent blow to the head. He then proceeded to decapitate the animal and cut off its wings. The police were called to the scene and he was arrested, during the course of the arrest he assaulted a police officer by spitting in his face.

During interview Bowen was said to have defended his actions saying that he had taken his dog for a walk and the dog had attacked the swan. He claimed that he had taken the animal home to care for it but decided to put it out of its misery instead.  He also stated that he was 'probably going to eat it'.  

Of the four charges brought against him, Bowen received 12 weeks for 'possession' of a wild bird, 12 weeks for 'taking' the bird, 26 weeks for the actual killing and an additional 10 weeks for the assault on a police officer. All these charges are custodial and to run consecutively. The overall sentence was reduced by four weeks in light of Bowen's early guilty pleas. He is therefore to serve a total of 22 weeks in jail. 

This is the just the fifth prison sentence for killing swans in the past decade. My colleagues and I applaud the work of the officers involved in this case in securing such a good result!