A Dumfries and Galloway wildfowl collector was today (19 May 2023) sentenced to 216 hours of community payback at Dumfries Sheriff Court, after being convicted of multiple charges relating to the use of illegal poisons to target protected wildlife.
At a previous hearing, Barry Nicolle (67) plead guilty to 14 charges, including the illegal poisoning of five Red Kites and 10 Rooks, the placing of poison baits out in open countryside and the possession of banned pesticides.
Speaking in court today, the Sherriff said the crimes were serious enough to cross the threshold for prison to be considered, however given that the individual had no previous convictions, in light of his age, and due to sentencing guidelines regarding custodial penalties of less than 12 months, a community order was served.
The case dates back to spring 2019, when several dead Red Kites were found by members of the public in the Springholm area, between Dumfries and Castle Douglas. Toxicology tests by the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture government laboratory revealed that all had died after consuming meat laced with poison. More victims were identified over the following months, including a number of Rooks found poisoned in the playground of the local primary school. One kite found killed was lying adjacent to the body of a Mandarin Duck used as a bait and found to have been laced with the same banned pesticide that killed the kite.
Mandarin Ducks are not a native species in Scotland, and the use of this exotic species as a bait drew Police Scotland’s attention to Nicolle who kept a large collection of exotic ducks and geese in an enclosure next to his house. During the execution of a search warrant at his premises in February 2020, police officers found quantities of aldicarb and bendiocarb, both illegal poisons, and both of which had been detected in the victims. Officers also found a Larsen trap being used illegally adjacent to Nicolle’s duck ponds. Nicolle was subsequently arrested and charged.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said: “We welcome today’s conviction of a Mr Nicolle for multiple offences linked to the illegal poisoning of Red Kites and Rooks around the village of Springholm. The placing of poison baits out in the open is illegal, dangerous and indiscriminate. It is exceedingly fortunate that Mr Nicolle’s repeated actions did not result in serious injury to a young child.
“The investigation of this case was an excellent example of partnership working. We would particularly like to thank Police Scotland, notably wildlife crime officer PC John Cowan, for their dogged determination to identify the perpetrator of these offences and to see them face justice, and to Procurators Fiscal from the Crown Office’s Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit, for their diligent work in securing a conviction in such a complex case.”
Red Kites became extinct in Scotland in the 19th century due to persecution, but have been reintroduced in four areas, including Galloway. The reintroduction project here ran from 2001-04. Now, of an established Scottish population of around 450 pairs, Dumfries & Galloway contains about a third of these, making it the most important area of the country for these birds and their future conservation. In addition, the Galloway Red Kite Trail is a significant local tourist route, with over 100,000 visitors coming to the area to see the kites and contributing £8.2 million to the local economy between 2003-2015.
Detective Inspector Dean Little, Senior Investigating Officer at Police Scotland, said: “Wildlife crime can be complex to investigate and difficult to prove in court. In this case local officers on the ground were able to promptly gather evidence and work with a number of partners who utilised specialist forensic methods to build a case against Nicolle.
“Scotland’s wildlife is one of its greatest attractions, which is especially true in our local area. Nicolle’s reckless use of illegal poison was not only selfish and damaging to the birds it killed, but also posed a risk to the environment and members of the public who came across them.
“I would like to thank the numerous partners who assisted in this case and members of the public who provided information and assisted police enquiries. Crimes against nature are not unpunishable and we welcome the sentencing today of Nicolle which shows our continued commitment to investigate wildlife crime and bring perpetrators to court.”