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Gamekeeper sentenced for killing birds of prey and badgers

Last modified: 19 September 2008

Badger emerging from sett

A gamekeeper has received a six-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the systematic killing of birds of prey and badgers on the shooting estate where he worked.

Kyle Burden, 19, was sentenced at Telford Magistrates' Court today (19 September 2008) after admitting to killing buzzards and badgers and setting illegal traps at an earlier hearing.

His offences came to light after other gamekeepers independently contacted the RSPB after short periods working on the estate, which is managed for pheasant shooting.

As a result, the RSPB launched an investigation which resulted in West Mercia police executing a search warrant in July last year. Burden was later arrested and charged.

'This is a truly horrifying case. Wildlife on this estate was killed brutally and systematically'

The court heard how police has seized a coded diary, which the witnesses said had been written by Burden and contained a tally of the animals he had killed at the Kempton Estate in Aston on Clun, Shropshire during 2007.

The witnesses alleged the tally had included protected species, with entries relating to 102 buzzards, 40 ravens and 37 badgers.

Burden pleaded guilty to killing two buzzards, attempting to kill two more and to possessing a shotgun, which he used to carry out the offences. He also admitted killing two badgers and to illegally setting eight spring traps on the estate, which it is believed were intended to trap birds of prey.

In addition, he asked for the killing of six more badgers and another count of setting spring traps to be taken into account in passing sentence.

He was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and pay £200 costs.

Mark Thomas, RSPB investigations officer, said: 'This is a truly horrifying case. Wildlife on this estate was killed brutally and systematically. Birds of prey were shot, badgers trapped and bludgeoned to death, seemingly without a second thought.

'The lack of respect for nature, the disregard for the law and the arrogance involved in these crimes was total.'

'Brave and public-spirited'

He added: 'Huge thanks are due to the gamekeepers who came forward and let us know what was happening at this estate. Their actions were brave and public spirited and show the decent, law-abiding face of game keeping.'

As a result of this case, the RSPB now plans to launch a dedicated phone line for people to report crimes against birds of prey.

Mark Thomas said: 'We want to provide a simple way for people who find themselves in a similar position to the witnesses in this case to report what they have seen.'

A second gamekeeper at the estate was also arrested at the same time as Burden.

Roger Venton, 33, has pleaded not guilty to charges of setting and using a spring trap and permitting some of the offences committed by Burden.

The court set his trial for December 3.

How the case came to court

Read our Investigations Officer's blog post: Burden of Proof

How you can help

Birds of prey continue to be mercilessly killed, despite the fact that it is illegal and has been for decades. Please add your name to our online pledge and say 'the killing must stop'.

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