Farmer fined £7,500 for beating swans to death with shepherd's crook

David Thompson pleaded guilty at Canterbury Magistrates' Court

Caroline Mortimer
Tuesday 29 November 2016 20:54
Farmer fined for killing swans

A farmer who beat two swans to death with a shepherd’s crook has been fined £7,500.

David Thompson pleaded guilty to killing two birds and wounding another at Canterbury Magistrates Court after he was caught on camera during a Coastguard helicopter training exercise in April.

The 80-year-old attacked the swans after seeing them eating his rape seed crop on his farm in Snargate, Kent.

Footage captured by the Coastguard pilots was shown in court which captured Thompson tossing one of the swans into a ditch at the edge of the field.

Kent Police searched the farm at around 11pm that evening after the Coastguard reported the incident and found the swans.

One was already dead and two others were critically injured. A second later died on the way to a veterinary practice for emergency treatment, Kent Online reported.

The surviving swan was taken to Mallydams Wildlife Centre in Hastings where it was cared for before being released back into the wild.

Thompson’s brother was originally arrested for the offence but was dearrested when he handed himself into police a month later.

Defencing Oliver Saxby QC said the farmer “regrets his actions” and had simply lost his temper.

Mr Saxby said: "It's upsetting to him and his family but he does regret what he did.

“He's been in the countryside since he was born and respects the laws of nature.”

He said it was two months into lambing season and earlier that day he had found a ewe and a lamb which had been injured by some form of predator.

Thompson had had problems with swans in the past and had previously asked a local bird reserve to plant rape seed on their land to stop the birds coming onto to his.

During the incident, Mr Saxby said Thompson had initially tried to chase the birds off which “in doing that he was totally within his rights".

“Having said that it wasn't a very sensible thing because they reacted by coming to him or refusing and staying put. He was upset at what happened earlier in the day", he explained.

“He accepts it was an appalling ugly scene that developed but his intention was to chase them off.”

Swans are a protected species and killing carries a potential prison sentence

Magistrate Christine Lunn called the case “disturbing” but took into account Thompson lack of prior convictions, good character and early guilty plea.

Swans are a protected species under an ancient charter and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The maximum penalty for killing the bird is six months in prison.