Masked up gamekeeper enters a ladder trap containing a goshawk

Court drops all wildlife crime charges against gamekeepers working for Prince William’s best friend

An employee of Hilborough Estate was found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon. The charge came after an undercover investigation into wildlife persecution at the estate. However, a number of other charges related to the “taking” of a goshawk were dropped.

Dominic Green and William Richardson were at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on 17 October to enter pleas in a case of raptor persecution. The charges came after the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) captured footage of a masked person trapping a goshawk on 22 April 2022. Police visited the estate a few days later, on 29 April, and said they found a live pigeon inside a trap. Later that day, they:

“saw two men in the same wood. The men were stopped and searched, and officers discovered a police-style baton in a vehicle being used by one of the men

“Four live pigeons, one deceased pigeon and the police-style baton were among the items seized by police. The pigeons are currently being cared for on behalf of the police.”

As a result, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brought three charges against the pair, who at the time of the offence were head gamekeeper and underkeeper. They related to the use of live pigeons in traps and an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act for the taking of a goshawk. The CPS also charged Green with possession of an offensive weapon.

During the plea hearing on 17 October, the CPS dropped all charges against both defendants except for Green’s offensive weapon charge.

Reflecting on the outcome, HIT told Protect the Wild:

“HIT are disappointed but not surprised that illegal goshawk trapping on the Hilborough Estate has not resulted in any convictions for wildlife crime.

“Once again, a shooting estate has evaded justice for illegal persecution of a protected species on its land. We acknowledge the efforts of local police in this case, despite today’s outcome. The illegally trapped goshawk was not even mentioned in court. The incident was reduced to a bargaining chip in the gamekeepers’ plea. This is clearly not justice for wildlife. HIT continues to monitor the estate and others.”

‘Humane dispatch instrument’

The offensive weapon charge related to what the judge described as an “extendable baton”, which Norfolk Police found when searching Green’s vehicle on 29 April 2022.

Solicitor Tim Ryan, mitigating for Green, said the gamekeeper had acquired the baton in 2003 when he was preparing to enter into gamekeeping work, at which time it was not an offence to buy or possess. Green had bought it as a “humane dispatch instrument for game or vermin”. However, the law changed in 2019 to make it an offence to possess such an item. Ryan said Green continued carrying the weapon in his car because he believed it was still legal to carry them for ‘humane dispatch’.

Due to a lack of previous convictions and good character, as well as the weapon not being used to attack or intimidate anyone, the judge ordered a £1500 fine – reduced by a third to £1000 because Green plead guilty at the first opportunity. He also ordered a £400 victim surcharge and £145 in costs, as well as the forfeiture and destruction of the baton itself.

Police had previously cautioned Green in 2006 for a breach of his firearms certificate. However, details of this weren’t given in court.

Royal connections

It appeared as though Green entered a plea deal in order to minimise the flak against Hilborough Estate. The estate is owned by prince William’s close friend William Van Cutsem, who has been under suspicion for wildlife crimes in the past.

Van Cutsem was with prince Harry in 2007 when two hen harriers were shot out of the sky. HIT also mentioned other apparent wildlife crimes taking place on other estates owned by Van Cutsem. Furthermore, in April 2021, a red kite was found shot dead and hanging from a tree in Cockley Cley. The village sits on the northern boundary of Hilborough estate.

It was notable that the wildlife crimes weren’t even mentioned in court, instead referred to by the judge as “all other charges”. This reflected the lack of interest that the so-called justice system has in wildlife crime more generally, whether it relates to the hunting industry or shooting industry. It remains up to us, the public, and groups such as HIT to continue holding their crimes accountable.


  • For information on how to recognise, record, and report crimes against birds of prey please see our Protectors of the Wild page > Bird of Prey and the Law