A gamekeeper has been sent to prison after being caught trapping rare wild birds of prey.

A goshawk, photographed by the RSPB.

George Mutch, 48, had pleaded guilty at Aberdeen Sheriff Court to four offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

He was sentenced to four months imprisonment for each charge to be served concurrently.

He had admitted using traps for the purpose of taking wild birds, killing a goshawk, and taking another goshawk and a common buzzard on the Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire in the summer of 2012.

The offences came to light after a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) researcher saw a homemade Larsen trap being used in unusual circumstances.

RSPB officials decided to record, on video, how it was being used for the purposes of their research, but when they went to recover the camera they discovered a multi-catch trap in which a goshawk had been caught. They decided to monitor that trap too.

When the video recordings were reviewed, the officials discovered a jay was used as a lure in the Larsen-type trap, which is not permitted, and that a goshawk was trapped in it. Mutch was seen killing the goshawk by repeatedly striking it with a stick.

A common buzzard was caught in the trap and Mutch subsequently removed it, placed it in a sack and carried it off. Finally the officials discovered a goshawk, which they had seen captive in the second trap, was removed by the accused and that it too was placed into a sack, into which the accused threw the remains of a dead jackdaw, before carrying it off.

Mutch did not release any of the birds immediately, unharmed, as is required and the sheriff decided the evidence pointed to a scheme to trap birds of prey.

After the case, Sara Shaw, Procurator Fiscal, Wildlife and Environment, said birds of prey were given strict protection by law.

“Goshawks in particular are rare birds: the court heard evidence in this case that there are only about 150 nesting pairs in Scotland,” she said.

“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.

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure offenders are brought to justice.

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