Gamekeeper escapes jail after admitting intentionally killing birds of prey

Gamekeeper escapes jail after admitting intentionally killing birds of prey.

Matthew Stroud, 46, of Weeting, appeared at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on 5th October 2022 and admitted to the intentional killing of six Common Buzzards and a single Northern Goshawk. Police found photos of the dead raptors, which he confessed later to killing, on his mobile phone.

Stroud was found guilty of a raft of charges.

  • Three counts of using poisoned bait on or before 19 August 2021 and 14 September 2021.
  • Six counts of killing a Common Buzzard (a non-Schedule 1 wild bird) at Weeting between 10 August and 14 September 2021.
  • One count of intentionally killing a Northern Goshawk (a Schedule 1 wild bird) at Weeting on or about 10 August 2021.
  • One count of possessing a regulated substance – Strychnine Hydrochloride – without a licence on 14 September 2021.
  • One count of possessing 4 shotguns to kill a Schedule 1 wild bird on 14 September 2021.
  • One count of releasing 3,400 Common Pheasants into the wild between 1 June and 14 September 2021 contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • One count of incorrectly storing a biocidal product – Rentokil Phostoxin – on 14 September 2021 contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

This is one of many incidents of raptor persecution identified on lowland pheasant and partridge shoots, which the RSPB says is an area of increasing concern. There is also evidence that large-scale releases of pheasant and partridge for shooting is having a detrimental impact on native wildlife.

In 2021 it became illegal to release gamebirds on or adjacent to an SPA without a licence, which Stroud had not sought, making him the first person to be prosecuted and convicted for this offence.

Ashley Petchey of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This was a case where Mr Stroud has, while in his position as a gamekeeper, killed wild birds by shooting and poisoning. He has also released non-native species into a SSSI.

“The scale of the offences in this case demonstrates the lengths people will go to in order to persecute raptors.

“The Crown take all cases of raptor persecution seriously and where the full code test is met, bring offenders to justice.”

Stroud received a 12-month Community Order and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, fined £692 and ordered to pay costs of £145, compensation of £288.72 and a victim surcharge of £95. The court also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all Stroud’s firearms, mobile phones and any chemicals.

Sentencing Stroud, magistrates said that he was lucky not to be jailed.

Mark Thomas Head of RSPB Investigations UK, commented: “It is difficult not to be disappointed with the outcome today considering the significance of the offences and combined efforts of the agencies involved. Laying poison baits out in the open is not only illegal but extremely dangerous and irresponsible. Baits like those being used at Fengate Farm present a deadly risk to any animal or person that might come across it. It is particularly troubling that this was happening on an SPA, a designated area where wildlife and nature should have the highest legal protection.”