Desmond Crawford, Roskelton, Mountrath, Co Laois, has been given a three-month suspended prison sentence for the possession of two dead buzzards, which were found strung up on his land.

On Friday 15 October at Portlaoise District Court, Crawford pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of two dead buzzards contrary to Section 45 (2) & 45 (7) of the Wildlife Acts.

The offence took place on 19 April 2020 at Clonadacasey, Mountrath, Co Laois, which was investigated by the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage.

NPWS district conservation officer Kieran Buckley told Judge Catherine Staines that the NPWS travelled to Clonadacasey to investigate the complaint.

Strung up

Upon arrival, the NPWS searched the area and found one dead buzzard strung up by its outstretched wings to an electricity post and another dead buzzard strung up by its legs to a fence stake.

Following a line of enquiry, Mr Buckley established that Desmond Crawford was farming the land where he found the two dead buzzards.

At the district court sitting, photographs of the two dead buzzards and X-ray evidence were presented to Judge Staines.

Mr Buckley told the judge that the X-ray evidence left no doubt that both buzzards had been shot, adding that the tight pattern of the lead shot showed clear evidence that both birds were shot at close range.

He added that given the time of year, the dead buzzards may have been a breeding pair. This, he said, would leave them vulnerable to being shot at their nest.

Frequent casualty

Mr Buckley also told the judge that buzzards were the most frequent casualty of bird of prey persecutions and added that the NPWS is determined to tackle wildlife crimes of this nature, particularly when this species has recovered from the brink of extinction.

Defence solicitor Josephine Fitzpatrick told the judge that Mr Crawford denied he had shot the buzzards, but he was very sorry for what he had done and apologised to the court.

In her summation, Judge Staines expressed her abhorrence at the undignified manner in which two beautiful birds were displayed, saying it showed no respect whatsoever. It was, she said, “an example of a disgusting lack of respect in an outrageous act of wildlife crime”.

Judge Staines then detailed to the court that she had to consider a prison sentence as an appropriate way to deal with this matter.

She convicted Mr Crawford of the possession of the two dead buzzards under Section 45 (2) and 45 (7) of the Wildlife Acts and imposed a three-month sentence of imprisonment, which she suspended on the accused’s own bond for a period of one year.