Gamekeeper Matthew Stroud admits shooting and poisoning birds of prey in Norfolk woodlands

One of five buzzards shot dead by Matthew Stroud in Norfolk. Credit: RSPB

The RSPB said it was disappointed after a gamekeeper who admitted shooting and poisoning birds of prey avoided being sent to prison.

A joint investigation by the RSPB and police found Matthew Stroud had killed birds in two areas of woodland in Norfolk. He later took photographs on his mobile phone.

In court, the 46-year-old admitted a series of offences including:

  • Six counts of killing a common buzzard

  • One count of intentionally killing a northern goshawk

  • Three counts of using poisoned bait

  • One count of releasing 3,400 common pheasants into the wild

During the investigation, officers discovered three dead buzzards in Osier Carr Wood, near Fakenham, which had been shot, as well as a poisoned buzzard and poisoned pheasants being used as bait at Belvedere Wood at Weeting, near Thetford.

When Stroud's mobile phone was searched, it contained photos of a dead goshawk and five dead common buzzards. He later confessed to police that all the photos were of birds he had killed.

At a hearing at Norwich Magistrates's Court, Stroud, of Fengate in Weeting, was given a 12-month community order and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay fines, costs and compensation totalling more than £1,200.

The court also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all Stroud’s firearms, mobile phones and any chemicals.

But the RSPB said it was "difficult not to be disappointed with the outcome ... considering the significance of the offences".

Mark Thomas, head of RSPB investigations, added: "Laying poison baits out in the open is not only illegal but extremely dangerous and irresponsible. Baits like those being used at Fengate Farm present a deadly risk to any animal or person that might come across it.

"It is particularly troubling that this was happening on an SPA (special protection area), a designated area where wildlife and nature should have the highest legal protection."

PC Chris Shelley, of Norfolk Police, said this was one of the biggest cases of its kind in the county.

"Stroud's actions were dangerous and inhumane - he shot and poisoned birds of prey as he saw fit, and at will, because it suited him to do so," he said.

"He also used a highly dangerous poison - one that has been banned in the UK for the last 15 years - indiscriminately, which could have had a disastrous effect on other local wildlife and showed a scant regard for the safety of others."

The court heard from the defense that Stroud - who manages land for pheasant shooting - was under pressure to produce game birds for the shoot after two poor years, that he had taken no pleasure in killing the buzzards and that he should have been informed that the law had changed around pheasant releases.

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