Part-time gamekeeper Timothy Hall, 48, and his son, Lewis Hall, 23, appeared at Jedburgh Sheriff Court this morning to be sentenced after pleading guilty to illegally laundering wild peregrines they stole from sites in the south from Scotland (see here for previous blogs).
Despite their crimes exceeding the threshold for a prison sentence, Timothy Hall was ordered to complete 220 hours of unpaid work and Lewis Hall was ordered to complete 150 hours.
More on that soon…
UPDATE 1:40 p.m.: Police Scotland press release –
Two men convicted of wildlife crimes in southern Scotland
Two men have been sentenced with community pay orders after pleading guilty to a series of wildlife crimes involving peregrine falcons in southern Scotland.
Timothy Hall, 48, was given 220 hours, and Lewis Hall, 23, was given 150 hours community payback orders today at Selkirk Sheriff Court [Ed: case moved to Jedburgh Sheriff Court]. Both were banned from keeping birds of prey for 5 years.
They admitted charges relating to 22 peregrine falcons, including involvement in the illegal sale of the protected species at Selkirk Sheriff Court on Monday, December 11, 2023.
Timothy Hall also pleaded guilty to firearms-related charges and animal welfare crimes.
The ground-breaking investigation led by Police Scotland was launched in 2021 and during a search of a property in Lamberton, Berwick-upon-Tweed, seven chicks were discovered, as well as a number of other birds of prey.
While it is legal to sell captive-bred peregrines, owning or selling wild birds is not.
To confirm that the chicks were wild, an innovative new DNA tactic was introduced that definitively established that they had not been bred in captivity, even linking some of them to wild adult peregrine falcons known to nest in southern Scotland.
The investigation lasted two and a half years and, through extensive inquiries, Police Scotland were able to trace the sale of several peregrines to UK businesses that sold the birds and confirmed that some had been exported abroad.
Throughout the investigation, a number of partners provided invaluable input and expertise, including the Scottish SPCA, the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the Scottish Raptor Study Group, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and COPFS.
Police Scotland has also worked closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to improve processes and procedures relating to the illegal wildlife trade to prevent people from becoming involved in this type of crime.
Detective Superintendent Bryan Burns said: “The sale of peregrine falcons became an extremely profitable business that Timothy and Lewis Hall exploited for financial gain of their own.
“If their illegal activities had continued unchallenged, it would have had a huge impact on the young bird population and had the potential to wipe out the entire peregrine falcon population in southern Scotland.
“This case was a monumental effort by Detective Steven Irvine, who led the investigation and was determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, going into meticulous detail to uncover the true extent of the criminality involved.
“These convictions would not have been possible without the incredible support of the partner agencies involved, who played a vital role in the investigation..”
Assistant Chief Constable for Serious Crime, Public Protection and Local Crime, ACC Bex Smith, added: “This case not only has huge ramifications locally, but also across the UK and around the world and shows that Police Scotland is at the forefront of combating the illegal wildlife trade, working with our partners to use forensic techniques new and innovative. Wildlife crime remains a key priority for the Service and we will continue to use all resources at our disposal to put an end to this illegal activity..”
Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “This is part of the biggest wildlife crime investigation in UK history, showing that the illegal wildlife trade is a thriving business for criminals.
“The UK is home to some of the world’s rarest birds of prey, some of which are being captured and laundered in the legal falconry trade, bringing lucrative returns for criminals and having a direct impact on the current natural crisis. NWCU is committed to solving this problem.”
Dr Lucy Webster, from Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), part of the Scottish Government, led the forensic work. She said:
“This is the first case to use our new DNA forensic method to test whether documented Peregrine Falcon breeding records are true or false. However, we have gone beyond establishing false breeding records here, and have also identified familial links to several wild peregrine nests. This powerful method will continue to support investigations and combat the illegal trade in wild peregrines in the UK and beyond..”
Anyone with information or concerns about wildlife crime in their area can contact Police Scotland on 101.
UPDATE 2pm: Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service COPFS press release):
Father and son banned for illegally selling peregrine falcon chicks
A father and son who, over several years, illegally owned and sold wild Peregrine Falcon chicks for large sums of money have been sentenced to periods of unpaid work.
Both men are also banned from possessing or having under their control any bird of prey for a period of five years.
Timothy Hall, 48, pleaded guilty to acquiring for commercial purposes, keeping for sale and selling 15 wild peregrine falcon chicks between 2019 and 2020 and possessing a further seven wild peregrine falcon chicks on May 18, 2021.
He also admitted the charge of failing to meet the needs of nine other birds of prey by failing to provide a clean and suitable living environment and failing to provide them with sufficient clean water. He also admitted breaching the Firearms Act by failing to properly secure a shotgun.
He was ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work over a period of 18 months.
Lewis Hall, 23, pleaded guilty to acquiring for commercial purposes, keeping for sale and selling wild peregrine falcon chicks between 2020 and 2021, which included 13 of the aforementioned peregrine falcon chicks sold in 2020 and the seven chicks found in May 18th. 2021.
He was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work over a period of 15 months.
Both men were convicted at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Iain Batho, who leads wildlife and environmental crime at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said:
“It is very important to preserve Scotland’s natural heritage, including its wildlife. As such, birds of prey receive strict protection under our law.
“The sale of peregrine falcons became an extremely profitable business and Timothy and Lewis Hall took advantage of this for their own financial gain and to the detriment of the wild peregrine falcon population in southern Scotland.
“Their illegal activities had the potential to have a devastating impact on the entire peregrine falcon nesting population in that part of the country..
“The outcome in this case is testament to the collaborative work between COPFS, Police Scotland, the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the Scottish SPCA and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA)..”
The court heard how, in April 2021, a member of the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group alerted police to suspected failures in peregrine falcon nests in the Berwickshire area, which were previously productive.
Officers later investigated two nesting sites and discovered they had been disturbed and several eggs were missing from both sites.
A police search of Timothy Hall’s home in Berwick-Upon-Tweed later found a total of seven peregrine falcon chicks, as well as several other birds of prey.
Further investigations concluded that none of the cubs were born in captivity and were removed from the wild.
The court was also told that an examination of Lewis Hall’s mobile phone contained a note which suggested he was monitoring known peregrine falcon nest sites.
Data from the same device also showed that a drone connected to the phone performed 20 separate flights directly over several known peregrine falcon nest sites.
The court also heard evidence that between 2019 and 2020, Timothy and Lewis Hall were involved in the sale of 15 peregrine falcon chicks, for which they received a total of £41,164.
To confirm that the chicks were wild, an innovative new DNA tactic was used that definitively established that they had not been bred in captivity and that linked some of them to wild adult peregrine falcons known to nest in southern Scotland.
Under legislation, the sale of captive-bred peregrine falcons is legal, but the possession or sale of wild birds is illegal.
Lewis Hall will now be subject to action under proceeds of crime legislation.