Illegal snares Craig Aitken of Haddington

Stealing covert cameras didn’t stop the user of illegal snares being prosecuted. Covert surveillance by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) caught a man using illegal snares. The cameras used were fitted with GPS technology, so stealing them allowed police to track him right to his home.

On 25 May 2016 Craig Aitken, 43, of Carlisle Place, Haddington, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to two offences relating to the illegal use of 47 self-locking snares, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and one charge of theft of two covert cameras. He was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and given a 9pm to 8am curfew for six months.

Following a report, the SSPCA, with permission from a farmer, set up a number of covert cameras and a live feed real-time recording video camera to monitor 47 home-made snares along a 300-metre fence near Haddington, East Lothian. Footage obtained from the cameras between 23 and 27 January 2015 showed Aitken checking and apparently resetting one of the 47 home-made snares. When SSPCA Inspectors returned to the farm on 11 February 2015, they found the cameras had been stolen and all of the snares had been disabled and anchored to the fence line by loops. One of the remaining cameras had footage showing the cameras being removed and Aitken’s voice could be heard in the recording. However, Aitken was unaware of the GPS technology fitted to the covert cameras which led the police to his door.

Gary Aitken, Procurator Fiscal for Wildlife and Environment, said: “The use of snares is governed by legislation and their improper or illegal use can compromise the welfare and conservation status of protected species and other wild animals, and represents a threat to livestock and pets. Craig Aitken set a number of illegal snares without the landowner’s permission in a way likely to cause any animals coming into contact with them to become suspended on the fence, causing unnecessary suffering and death. We are committed to eradicating this type of offending and will continue to work with the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland to ensure that those who commit such crimes are brought to justice.”