A Borders gamekeeper who admitted lacing pheasant carcasses with poison and using live pigeons as bait has been given 220 hours of community service.

George Aitken, 56, from Blythe Farm, Lauder, admitted a total of eight charges. These included possession of the banned poisons carbofuran and Cymag and possession of poison with intent to commit offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Not guilty pleas were accepted to another seven charges.

Aitken – who has been a gamekeeper for 20 years – committed the offences as part of pest control to stop birds of prey attacking the pheasants.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is calling it ?one of the most serious wildlife persecution cases the region has ever seen?. RSPB officer Bob Elliott said ?Carbofuran being left in our countryside is a national disgrace?.