First conviction under snares legislation

George Whitehead admitted two charges relating to a section of the Wildlife and Countryside Act to control the use of snares after two badly-set devices were discovered in a local woodland.

Fiscal depute Nicola Gillespie told Forfar Sheriff Court that Whitehead was part of a syndicate that reared young pheasants in pens at Montreathmont Forest, near Brechin.

She said that at the end of August last year someone involved with Advocates for Animals — now known as OneKind — had come upon a number of snares he thought might be illegal. A wildlife officer became involved and the court heard that two snares were found which, although not illegal, had not been properly set.

Whitehead (49), of Glenisla Drive, Arbroath, admitted two charges of setting snares between August 31 and September 1 last year so as to be calculated to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal coming into contact with them.

Defence agent Lynsey McLeod said her client was part of the syndicate that rented the ground but was purely a volunteer and was not a trained gamekeeper. “He understands ignorance is no excuse and in September 2010 underwent a snares course and now fully understands the legislation.”

Sheriff Kevin Veal fined the accused a total of £200, saying the offence was “certainly at the lower end of the scale.”

Policy director at OneKind Libby Anderson said their organisation remained unconvinced the new legislation was effective.

“In this case a OneKind field research officer found a number of snares believed to be illegal and reported them to the police. However, this is only one of a number of incidents from around the country that show the legislation brought in last March is not working.

“Since it came in the police have reported at least 10 cases of apparently illegal use and the Scottish SPCA has dealt with 14 incidents of possibly illegal snaring. It is impossible to say how much more bad practice is continuing in remote countryside locations and in our view the new wildlife bill will not change the position, unless it is significantly amended next week.”

A stage parliamentary three debate on the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill is scheduled to take place on March 2.

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