By Will Finch
Monday, 30 July 2012
Gamekeeper's conviction for wildlife crimes overturned as judge describes police officer's investigation as "entrapment".
Gamekeeper, Ivan Crane, has won an appeal against his conviction earlier this year of three wildlife crime offences, after a judge at Nottingham Crown Court gave a stinging criticism of the policeman who investigated the case.
Judge Tony Mitchell said Leicestershire Police’s wildlife officer, Special Constable Neil Hughes, should have told Mr Crane that he could not use Larsen traps under the terms of the General Licence because he had previously been convicted of two wildlife offences.
The judge said: "I can't think of a case which more fairly fits an abuse of power, an abuse of position, and therefore an abuse of process."
He described the actions of SC Hughes as being “very underhand” and called it “entrapment of the worst kind, grossly in breach of the way the public are entitled to expect the police to behave”.
The judge allowed Mr Crane’s appeal and a wasted costs order was made against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in respect of Mr Crane’s costs in defending the case.
Mr Crane had originally pleaded guilty to two wildlife offences in April 2011.
Two months later, SC Hughes, alone and dressed in khaki clothing, had taken covert video footage on Mr Crane’s farm of one of the Larsen traps at the centre of the case. He stated on the video that “for all intents and purposes it is a legal trap.”
Ten days after that, he returned to the farm accompanied by a regular police officer, and told Mr Crane that it was his intention to check for “illegal traps”.
He was taken to the trap that he had seen on his previous visit and then to another part of the farm where the second Larsen trap was positioned.
SC Hughes then interviewed Mr Crane under caution but without the benefit of legal advice.
It was not until after the interview was concluded that Mr Crane was told why it was that his use of the traps would be illegal.
Mr Crane subsequently appeared for trial at Leicester Magistrates’ Court earlier this year, when he was convicted and sentenced to fines and costs totalling £3,215.
But last week, the judge referred to the police’s duty of preventing crime, and said that having seen perfectly legal traps, a “reasonable human being” would have warned Mr Crane.
The judge also commented on the failure of the CPS to review the case properly despite repeated requests from Mr Crane’s solicitors, and described the prosecution as “outrageous”.
In ordering the CPS to pay the defendant’s costs of just under £35,000, the judge said: “The way the police officer went about this is appalling; he should be reprimanded for it. Any competent lawyer would have stopped it.”
Mr Crane was represented in court by fieldsports specialists barrister Peter Glenser, of 9 Bedford Row, and Tim Ryan, of Warners Solicitors, Tonbridge.
After the judgement, Mr Crane said: “The past 12 months have been extremely difficult for me and my family, but finally justice has been achieved. I am very grateful for the excellent representation provided to me by my legal team, and to the many friends and well-wishers who have remained supportive throughout.”
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “We are yet to receive the letter or comment from Judge Mitchell directly. Once we have received this we shall obviously look into his concerns.”
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