Gamekeeper fined for pesticide and firearm offences after buzzard poisoned

Male hunter in the woods Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Shane Leech was sentence for pesticide offences and breaching firearm licensing laws - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A part-time gamekeeper has been handed a community order for pesticide offences and breaching gun licensing laws after a bird of prey was found illegally poisoned. 

Shane Leech, 33, of Maids Cross Hill, Lakenheath, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching a firearms certificate, two charges of breaching a shotgun certificate and two other health and safety offences over pesticide storage. 

In September 2020, a dead buzzard and wood pigeon carcass were found on farmland near Lakenheath. Leech runs a pheasant shoot nearby, police said. 

Toxicology tests later confirmed the buzzard had been illegally poisoned by the pesticide bendiocarb, having fed on the pigeon which had been laced with the same toxic substance.

Following the toxicology results, on January 18, 2021, Suffolk police, assisted by officers from Natural England and the RSPB, undertook a search at Leech’s home. 

In an unlocked outbuilding, they discovered two tubs of the pesticide Ficam D, the active ingredient of which is bendiocarb.

A number of firearms were also seized, and officers continued the search on nearby farmland where Leech operated his pheasant shoot.  

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A number of agricultural pesticides were found in inappropriate storage conditions, including slug pellets (metaldehyde) which had been decanted into another container.

Leech was originally charged with additional offences relating to the poisoning of the buzzard, but these matters were later discontinued after pleas had been entered to the six other charges.

At Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Monday, Leech was sentenced to a community order, with 80 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to £105 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £95. 

Sgt Brian Calver of the rural crime team in Suffolk Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver, of Suffolk police's rural crime team - Credit: Archant

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police’s rural crime and wildlife team, said: “Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority.

"I hope today’s result will serve as a warning to others and urge anybody who finds a suspected poisoned bird of prey to come forward to police or anonymously to Crimestoppers.

“Whilst the identity of the poisoner in this case has not been confirmed, the police enquiry did uncover a number of pesticide storage and firearms offences.

"Firearms and pesticides both have inherent risks if not stored and used correctly. As a firearms holder and professional pest controller Leech fell well short of the required standards.”

Mark Thomas, head of investigations at the RSPB, said: "Despite the best efforts of a range of enforcement agencies, no-one has been prosecuted for the killing of the buzzard in this case due to insufficient evidence.

"But cases like this raise public awareness, and that is at least an important deterrent.

"The illegal laying of poison baits in the open continues to cause the death of many birds of prey every year and also poses risks to people, pets and other animals.

"We would particularly like to thank the diligent work of Suffolk Constabulary and the CPS in this case.”