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Kneeton man, 63, who killed protected birds because 'they were a risk' avoids jail

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A man who killed protected birds because he believed they were a risk has avoided jail.

John Orrey, 63, was snared by undercover cameras that captured his crimes in Kneeton in January last year.

Nottingham Magistrates' Court was shown footage of Orrey recovering two buzzards from a cage that he had beaten to death, with two other dove carcasses also being discovered.

Police attending the scene of a crow cage trap in January 2021. (54553785)
Police attending the scene of a crow cage trap in January 2021. (54553785)

On January 12, 2021, Nottinghamshire Police — working with the RSPB Investigations Team — attended a location in the Kneeton area following reports of concern.

A gamekeeper was later arrested and charged with the alleged killing of buzzards, as well as firearms offences.

Ashley Petchey, prosecuting, said Orrey's actions were a deliberate attempt to cause suffering and death to birds.

Orrey was sentenced at Nottingham Magistrates' Court.
Orrey was sentenced at Nottingham Magistrates' Court.

"A police officer found his vehicle and seized what has been described as a slash hook," said Mr Petchey.

"In relation to the firearm certificate breaches, the officer opened an under-stairs cupboard and on the right-hand side were two firearm lockers with a smaller ammunition locker above.

"There were lots of household items in the cupboard and the lockers themselves had keys hanging from the holes. When Mr Orrey reached for a green firearm slip containing a shotgun, it was not in a locker at all.

"The officer then recovered the ammunition which determined Mr Orrey had 627 rounds of .22 ammunition, so he was around 27 rounds over the maximum limit he can hold.

"We still don't know what licence he was operating under, if at all."

The court heard a spring trap had been found but Orrey was not charged in relation to this.

Orrey's defence solicitor said: "What he [the defendant] says to me is that spring time, March and April, is time when eggs and young game birds start to be taken by birds including buzzards.

"I would suggest Orrey wasn't educated on those stats [because he killed the birds in January].

"In weeks leading up to the matters, Mr Orrey said he had been bating the traps with a view to catching birds. The plan was to reduce the population to prevent less of risk to young birds.

"We all know what happened and he says the buzzards posed a risk and that's why he behaved as he did.

"He is remorseful and has no previous history. There has been no repeat behaviour since the January incidents.

"This isn't a case of deliberate causing of suffering, it was not prolonged."

Orrey, of Slack's Lane, Kneeton, a labourer at a farm where he helps to rear birds, pleaded guilty to the following wildlife offences:

  • Using a trap with the purpose of killing or taking a wild bird
  • Two counts of killing intentionally a wild bird, namely a common buzzard
  • Possessing dead wild birds, namely stock doves

He also admitted not securing a shotgun properly, not storing ammunition securely, not securing a cabinet in which firearms and ammunition were stored, and possessing ammunition in quantities in excess of that permitted.

The presiding magistrate said Orrey's fear of going to prison at the age of 63 would surely deter him from crime in the future.

She sentenced him to 20 weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months.

He must pay a fine of £1,000, costs of £700 and £180 compensation.

Orrey also had his shotgun licence revoked.

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