Two men have received criminal convictions for hunting protected wild birds.*
On March 20th, the two appeared before Portlaoise District Court which heard that artificial crow decoys and a crow-caller had been used to lure rooks into what was described by one of the defendants as “the kill zone”.
The first accused, Clifford Roe, of 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, Ian Fairbrother, of 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 the video recordings provided 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 caused by the birds.
The court also heard that both of the accused refused to co-operate 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.
The judge convicted Mr Roe on all three Wildlife Act summonses he pleaded guilty to and imposed fines totalling €1,500.
The judge also convicted Mr 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 All other charges were withdrawn by the prosecution.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, the Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, said all wild birds, without exception, are protected by law.
There were “certain species that can cause serious damage to crops and livestock feed lots”, he said, but that was why the derogation to allow the control of these particular species was enacted every 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,” he said.
“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.”
*This article was amended on Tuesday, April 18th, 2023 to clarify that a reference to recreational shooting of birds was made by one of the witnesses for the prosecution and that the charges related to hunting protected wild birds