Gamekeeper George Mutch jailed for killing rare bird
A gamekeeper found guilty of killing a rare bird and setting traps illegally to capture others has been jailed for four months.
George Mutch, 48, of Kildrummy, denied recklessly killing or injuring a goshawk and illegally taking away another goshawk and a buzzard in 2012.
Mutch was found guilty of four charges at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.
Mutch is believed to be the first gamekeeper in Scotland to have been jailed for such an offence.
The case was also one of the first times in Scotland that hidden camera footage, obtained by the RSPB, had been used to prosecute wildlife crime.
Sheriff Noel McPartlin said the persecution of wild birds was a "huge problem".
He said: "Having regard to the gravity of the offence, I am of the view that there is no other method of dealing with you which is appropriate to this case other than the imposition of a custodial sentence."
Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: "This sentence is an historic, landmark result.
"We would like to thank the Crown Office and Police Scotland for helping to bring this case to a successful conviction, as well as the exemplary work of the RSPB Scotland investigations team.
"This penalty should be a turning point, sending a clear message to those determined to flout our laws that wildlife crime will not be tolerated but instead will be treated with the seriousness that it deserves.
"Wildlife criminals must expect no sympathy from now on."
Sara Shaw, procurator fiscal for wildlife and environment, said: "Birds of prey are given strict protection by our law.
"Goshawks in particular are rare birds: the court heard evidence in this case that there are only about 150 nesting pairs in Scotland.
"It is highly important to preserve Scotland's natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it. Our environmental laws exist to provide this protection.
"This case involved serious contraventions of those laws. The conviction of Mr Mutch and the severity of the sentence given by the court highlights that message."
A Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) spokesman said: "The SGA has taken the ultimate sanction available to it, as an organisation. Mr Mutch will no longer hold SGA membership.
"The court has made its decision and Mr Mutch will now have to live with the consequences of his actions."
A spokesman for Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners, said: "The illegal killing of any bird of prey is unacceptable and anyone who engages in such activity can, rightly, expect to feel the full weight of the law.
"There are many people and groups working together to eradicate wildlife crime and significant progress has been made. However, it is important that this effort is sustained."