On 18 October 2019 a member of the public witnessed what he believed to be the shooting of an adult male hen harrier near White Syke Hill in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
North Yorkshire Police (whose force area covers that tiny part of Bowland) put out an appeal for information five months later (see here).
A few days later, North Yorkshire Police announced that an arrest had been made in this investigation and the suspect had been released pending the results of a forensic analysis (see here).
[A male hen harrier, photo by Eddie Maguire]
Unfortunately the police have now concluded there is insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force said: “This case is an all too familiar scenario where we have information from a credible source, but unfortunately the evidence is not strong enough to meet the threshold where we would ask the Crown Prosecution Service to make a charging decision, even after the arrest and interview of a suspect.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone with any information regarding any individuals who are involved in raptor persecution to come forward and report it to the police and assure them they will be taken seriously and the matter will be investigated.”
This is a disappointing result, of course, but as many blog readers will know, securing sufficient evidence in these cases is notoriously difficult. Full credit to North Yorkshire Police for giving it a go. This case didn’t fail for lack of effort and at least that suspect will now be on their radar.
As far as we’re aware, North Yorkshire Police are still investigating the alleged shooting of another hen harrier on another Yorkshire grouse moor (see earlier blog here) so fingers crossed for a prosecution on that one.
Now that the Bowland investigation has ended, part of the eyewitness report of the hen harrier being shot and removed from the moor has been published by the RSPB (see here) and it makes for a disturbing read.