Bird-nest raider jailed for trade in wild chicks

BY NICHOLAS SCHOON

Environment Correspondent

A nest raider yesterday became the first person in Britain to be jailed for trapping and selling wild birds caught in this country.

DNA fingerprinting techniques, similar to that used for convicting murderers and rapists, were used to refute Derek Canning's claim that he had bred rare peregrines from captive parents and was breaking no law.

In fact, he had trapped them or taken them from nests in the wild, and yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court he was jailed for 18 months. Judge Michael Cartlidge said: ``In a sense you were stealing from the public what was their own heritage ...

"Your suggested breeding programme was a sham - throughout this case you have taken enormous trouble to disguise your offences."

Canning, 33, a warehouseman, fabricated a succession of cover stories after 14 young peregrines - and no parent birds - were discovered during a police raid on his home at Riding Mill, near Stamfordham, Northumberland.

He claimed the parent birds had been stolen by a rival breeder. Seventeen months later he produced two parents, but the court was told that these were also taken from the wild.

The court was told that he advertised his young peregrines in a bird magazine, claiming they were captive-bred. Mark Styles, for the prosecution, said: ``The defendant asked for cash, camera equipment, newish cars, Rolex watches or jewellery in return for these chicks.''

Police and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds were first alerted to his activities when Canning was stopped driving near a nest site in Kielder Forest with two chicks soon after a nest had been robbed.

The authorities were unable to prosecute him on that occasion and the chicks were returned to him, but their suspicions had been aroused and further inquiries resulted in the raid on his home.

Using DNA evidence, geneticists at Nottingham University were able to show that Canning's claims about how the young peregrines were related to each other and had been captive-bred were untrue.

Canning denied one count of keeping or offering for sale a prohibited bird species and six counts of selling prohibited birds under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations. The jury found him guilty after a two-week trial.

The court was told that Canning tried to get round Department of the Environment laws by registering his birds as being legitimately born in captivity. In all, Canning illegally had 22 wild birds in captivity during a two-year period.

The RSPB hopes some of the peregrines remain sufficiently wild to be released. Investigations officer Guy Shorrock said: ``He is an obsessive, persistent and very devious man. The preparation for the case was something of a running battle, because he kept coming up with new stories about how these young peregrines had been hatched in captivity.

``He saw these birds only in terms of the money he could make from selling them."

Britain's peregrine population plummeted in the 1950s after the introduction of organo-chlorine pesticides, but it has made a strong recovery and there are now about 1,200 breeding pairs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders