BASC has played down the significance of a court ruling in which a syndicate member was found guilty of shooting a bird with lead shot, the first conviction of its kind in the UK.

Simon Quince shot the young mute swan on a pheasant shoot at Skellow Grange, near Minskip, North Yorkshire in December last year.

He was fined a total of £645, including £100 for using lead ammunition.

However, BASC spokesman Simon Clarke said: ?Despite the RSPB?s attempts to portray this as a significant landmark ruling over the use of lead shot, the primary offence was shooting a swan, obviously a protected species. The fact it was shot using lead ammunition was a secondary offence. He pleaded guilty to both offences and was dealt with accordingly by the courts.?

Quince, a 36-year-old electrician from Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, said he had opened fire believing the swan was a goose, and only realised his mistake after the bird had hit the ground.

Geoff Rogers, defending, said Quince was an inexperienced shooter who was ?embarrassed? by what he had done.

An RSPB spokesman said: ?The toxicity of lead is well understood. It is troubling that these [English lead shot] regulations are still being flouted and this conviction reinforces the conclusions of a recent report to Government by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust which highlighted that 70% of duck on sale in England were shot illegally with lead.?

?Lead shot continues to contaminate the environment long after the gun has fallen silent.?

In the same press release, BASC?s Simon Clarke warned of the dangers of mistakenly identifying birds.

He said: ?It is absolutely essential that shooters are able to properly identify their quarry before pulling the trigger. Swans are fully protected by law and may not be shot except under specific licence for the protection of crops.?

?Swans are also listed as a species that may not be shot with lead ammunition. All shooters should be sure of their quarry and fully aware of the lead shot regulations which, in England, cover all duck, geese and swans.?

Jamie Foster, a solicitor specialising in fieldsports law, said that many shooters may not have sufficient legal knowledge.

He said: ?It?s very important that people are aware of the regulations now that fieldsports are watched over a lot more than they ever were.?

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