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6 November 2014, 11:31
A gamekeeper on a leading estate in Norfolk who was convicted of "the worst case of bird of prey poisoning'' ever recorded in England has escaped an immediate jail term.
Allen Lambert, 65, who worked on the Stody Estate, near Holt, was found guilty of deliberately killing 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk and possession of pesticides and items used to prepare poison baits.
He pleaded guilty to five other charges including illegal use of pesticides and possession of an illegal firearm at an earlier hearing.
At Norwich Magistrates' Court, district judge Peter Veits said the offences had "crossed the custody threshold'' but said his sentence would be suspended.
He said: "The only motivation I can see for this is to protect the birds the estate breeds for its shooting.
"Those who employ gamekeepers have a strict duty to know what is being done in their name.''
He added the buzzard population in Norfolk is thriving and this should not be regarded as an inconvenience to the shooting community.
"Nature should be allowed to live side by side with such activities,'' he added.
Lambert was given a 10 week jail tern suspended for one year. He must pay prosecution costs of #930.
Prosecutor Kevin Eastwick said Lambert, of Holt Road, Edgefield, could have been jailed for up to six months for the offences which happened in April last year.
He added that the gamekeeper had used mevinphos, a poison which has been banned for 20 years, and aldicarb, which has not been in use in this country since 2007.
The Stody Estate is now being investigated by the Rural Payments Agency which could withdraw tens of thousands of pounds of subsidy for that year if the estate is found to have been negligent, Mr Eastwick said.
The estate was owned by Ian MacNicol, the former chairman of the Country Land and Business Association who died in 2006.
His wife, Adel Richmond-Watson, has since taken over the running of the house and grounds.
In a statement read to the court, the estate distanced itself from the offences and said it had considered Lambert a "valued and trusted member of staff''.
The statement added: "Mr Lambert was not authorised, trained or asked to kill wildlife and we had no knowledge he possessed such items.''
John Hughes, in mitigation, said Lambert still denied he was responsible for the killings.
He said the consequences for him had been significant as he had lost his home on the estate which he had expected to be allowed to stay in after retirement.
He added: "He's lost his good name. He was a man who was well respected who visited local schools to talk about country craft and he was a good employee who worked hard for the estate.
"All of the items were found in outbuildings which belonged to the estate - if their level of supervision was so great, they might have come across it.
"It is unlikely he will be able to work as a gamekeeper in future.''
Lambert was described as being in "poor health'' having suffered a stroke three years ago.
His arrest came after an RSPB investigation into game shooting on the estate.
Investigators found remains of several birds of prey in woodland and a feed bag containing nine dead buzzards at Lambert's house.
Analysis found 11 birds had been poisoned.
Police found containers of the pesticide in Lambert's car and storeroom, as well as a syringe and needles.
The court heard he wanted to protect pheasants he was rearing on the estate.
Lambert had originally claimed a dog walker with a grudge against him had planted the dead birds but the judge dismissed this account.
Head of RSPB investigations Bob Elliot said the discovery at Lambert's home was "truly dreadful''.
He added: "This is the worst case of bird of prey poisoning we are aware of in England, and one of the worst ever recorded in the UK.''