On the 20th March two men were before Portlaoise District Court to face charges of hunting protected wild birds, and for using artificial crow decoys and a crow caller to lure rooks into what was described by one of the defendants as ‘the kill zone’.
Mr. Clifford Roe, Tinraheen House, Ballacolla, Co. Laois, pleaded guilty to the three summonses relating to using an artificial decoy, a crow caller and hunting protected wild birds, all of which are breaches of the Wildlife Acts.
The second accused, Mr. Ian Fairbrother, Shanahoe, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois also pleaded guilty to two summonses – using an artificial decoy and hunting protected wild birds.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) took the case. During the trial, video recordings taken at the scene by a member of the public showed both of the accused with an unidentified third man behind a camouflage hide with shotguns. A short distance from the hide were plastic rook decoys and dead, wounded, and maimed rooks. The videos also showed a crow caller worn around the neck of Mr. Roe at the time of the incident.
In evidence to the court, an NPWS official informed Judge Alec Gabbett that all wild birds, including rooks, are protected under the EU Birds Directive. However, the state recognises that certain wild bird species can damage crops, adding that under Article 9 of the EU Birds Directive, each member state can, by Ministerial Order, derogate from this Directive to allow the control of certain wild bird species under certain circumstances. The derogation, he said, describes the method by which rooks can be controlled when they are causing significant damage to crops or livestock on the property where the damage is occurring.
The NPWS official further informed the Judge that the video recordings provided clear evidence that the methods used by the two accused to hunt the rooks were illegal, describing the actions of the defendants as recreational shooting in a place where there was no evidence of any crop damage. The court also heard that both of the accused refused to cooperate when NPWS officers asked them to explain their actions in the videos. Mr. Roe and Mr. Fairbrother also refused to divulge the name of the third person seen in the video recordings.
Judge Gabbett convicted Mr. Clifford Roe on all three Wildlife Act summonses he pled guilty to and imposed fines totalling €1,500. He convicted Mr. Ian Fairbrother on the two summonses and imposed a fine of €1,000. Both accused were given six months to pay. All other charges were withdrawn by the prosecution.
Commenting on the case today the Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, commended the immense dedication of NPWS officials in pursuing such cases and noted that all wild birds, without exception, are protected by law:
“There are, of course, certain species that can cause serious damage to crops and livestock feed lots but that is why the derogation to allow the control of these particular species is enacted ever year.
This derogation ensures that the birds listed are controlled in a manner that is lawful and that takes into account what is necessary to prevent serious economic damage on the property where the damage is occurring. It remains the case, however, that many of Ireland’s wild bird species have experienced serious declines in recent times, and that is why they need legal protection, now more than ever.”