ONE of Scotland’s leading wildlife protection groups has hit out at a "shameful" waste of taxpayers’ money after two gamekeepers walked free from court on bird poisoning charges when the case was dropped by the Crown.
Thousands of pounds of public money was spent interviewing expert witnesses and preparing the case in advance of a planned trial.
But more than two years after the original arrests, and after 13 court hearings, the Crown quietly dropped the case at Perth Sheriff Court last Thursday.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has condemned the move and accused the Crown of failing to see that justice was done.
Senior investigations officer Dave Dick, 52, said the estate at the centre of the allegations was among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime.
He said: "We are very disappointed by this. In these circumstances you want to have a trial so there is a resolution over what’s been going on.
"Everyone is entitled to put forward a defence but this is a real kick in the teeth for everyone who is working against wildlife crime. It is certainly not justice being seen to be done."
Dick said Edradynate Estate in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, which is owned by City financier Michael Campbell, had been at the centre of a string of wildlife offences for the past two decades.
He said: "This estate has a shocking record for poisoning and persecution of birds of prey. That is fact, whoever is to blame. There have been many incidents where birds have been retrieved by the police and found to contain poison."
David Campbell, 55, and Neil Smith, 22, both of Aberfeldy, denied a total of nine charges relating to the use of poisoned baits and bird cruelty.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Office admitted the time taken to prepare the case for a trial had been a major factor in the decision to scrap it.
Michael Campbell, who rents Edradynate House to shooting parties for 2,500 upwards, was unavailable for comment.