Archie James Watson, a 21 year old gamekeeper/farm worker from Pewsey has been summoned to appear before Swindon Magistrates Court on Wednesday 25 May at 10am, on 6 charges under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and 3 Firearms Offences.
The case has been brought after almost two years of detailed investigation and forensic analysis in conjunction with the CPS, RSPB and other partners. It is potentially the largest English raptor persecution case in terms of the number of alleged victims.
PC Marc Jackson of the Rural Crime Team said: “This is the first case in Wiltshire to be run under Operation Owl since Wiltshire Police joined in 2020. Operation Owl addresses the issues of Raptor persecution across the UK.”
“Wiltshire is known for its wonderful countryside, which is home to many species of birds – including protected birds of prey (also known as raptors) such as buzzards and red kites.”
“Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless, birds of prey are still shot, poisoned and trapped and the Rural Crime Team receive several reports each year regarding suspected illegal killings.”
“Operation Owl might be primarily a policing operation but there are many ways that members of the public can get involved by helping to spread awareness of bird of prey persecution, understanding how to recognise the signs, how to record anything you do find and finally how to report this to the police so that we can investigate.”
Recognise – what to look out for
Dead birds of prey lying next to dead pigeons, rabbits, pheasants, or other poisoned baits. DO NOT TOUCH.
Live birds of prey caught in any trap.
Any spring traps set out in the open that are not within a cage tunnel or other enclosed tunnel structure.
Any spring traps set out on top of a post – known as ‘pole traps’.
Record – what to you do if you spot signs of bird of prey persecution
If you come across a dead bird or suspicious object, this could be a wildlife crime scene. Every piece of information may be crucial in prosecuting an offender.
Don’t disturb the scene by walking around it unnecessarily and trampling possible evidence.
Don’t move anything.
Don’t touch any traps, dead birds, or suspected poison baits. Many poisons (e.g. carbuforan) are extremely dangerous even in very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.
Don’t approach anyone you suspect of committing crime, as they may become violent or aggressive.
Do take photographs if you can or make a sketch as soon as possible.
Also take photographs of the surroundings and any landmarks to help officers relocate the crime scene.
If photographing an object please try to use a coin or notebook for scale – providing it won’t disturb anything.
Note the location as accurately as possible by grid reference, GPS, or what3words
Note a description of any suspect(s) and any vehicle numbers
Note the time and date and what happened.
Reporting a wildlife crime:
If the crime or suspected crime is still taking place right now, call 999 immediately. Never approach suspects yourself as they may react violently.
If the crime or suspected crime is no longer taking place, please use force website to report online or call 101.
When you are connected to the police, ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and make sure you get an ‘incident report number’.
You can also report to:
Give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
Report suspected pesticides and poisoning incidents to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) hotline number 0800 321600.
Call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101