‘My role is to protect game – buzzards presented a risk to those birds’.
That was a statement offered by the Defence on behalf of Mr Orrey in mitigation at the sentencing hearing.
Incredibly it appears to be an attempt at justification rather than mitigation. He could just as easily said ‘OK I killed a couple of Buzzards; I’m a gamekeeper, it’s my job. What’s the problem with that?’
The problem with that of course is that killing Buzzards is illegal and has been illegal for decades. Yet here we have a professional gamekeeper who appears to believe that killing birds, caught in one of his cage traps, is part of his job description. He also appears to believe that he has a duty of care to the game birds under his control to protect them by killing Buzzards until the day that the pheasants are shot for profit, for pleasure or for both.
This case came to light thanks to the quick thinking of two members of the public who, when out walking, happened upon a crow cage trap containing a Buzzard and recorded the fact in a short video. They then reported the incident to the RSPB Investigations Team and one of the Team attended the location the following day and also found a Buzzard in the trap along with various items of bait. This Buzzard was safely released and a covert camera was installed to monitor the trap. Interestingly; when images of the Buzzard released by the RSPB were compared to images of the original bird taken by the witnesses it was clear that these were two different birds.
What happened to the original bird? We simply don’t know. By law it should have been released unharmed by the person managing the trap; but was it?
The covert camera, installed by the RSPB to monitor the cage trap, recorded Mr Orrey visiting the trap twice and on each occasion he beat a Buzzard to death with a billhook.
The video can be viewed at https://rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/rspb-news-stories/man-convicted-for-killing-two-buzzards
On one hand the footage is shocking in that Mr Orrey showed not an ounce of compassion as he bludgeoned the defenceless birds to death. On the other hand we should hardly be surprised because we have seen similar behaviour before when gamekeepers were covertly filmed by the RSPB Investigations Team doing exactly the same thing. Killing protected species caught in crow cage traps on land managed for game shooting is not as rare as the shooting industry would have us believe.
In an earlier hearing Mr Orrey had pleaded guilty to four firearms offences with regards to the storage of his firearms and possession of ammunition. He also pleaded guilty to Wildlife and Countryside Act offences in relation to the unlawful use of a cage trap, possession of the billhook, the killing of two Buzzards and the possession of two Stock Doves. On 28 January he was sentenced to a total of 20 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12months and ordered to pay a total of £1880 in fines, victim surcharge and compensation to the Wildlife Forensic Working Group. He has also had his firearms and ammunition confiscated and his firearms licence revoked by Nottinghamshire Police.
We know from many, many previous cases involving the killing of birds of prey on land managed for game shooting that this is not an isolated incident. We also know from past experience that Mr Orrey will be described by the shooting industry as ‘another bad apple gone rogue, unrepresentative of the industry at large, and repeat the mantra of having zero tolerance of bird of prey persecution, etc.’ In the event that they comment at all of course. Statements such as that are meaningless, simply another example of Hobson’s Choice at work and proof, if proof was needed, that the shooting industry representatives on the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery have zero influence on the activities of members of the industry that they represent.
In this case the ‘bad apple’ is an insider who appears to think that it’s all in a day’s work to kill protected species to protect gamebirds and was prepared to say so in court. His actions and that statement by the Defence shine a very bright spotlight on a very dark industry.
Our heartfelt thanks go to the witnesses who reported the original incident to the RSPB. The follow up by the RSPB is another example of outstanding, professional, dedicated casework by the Investigations Team.
31 January 2022