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High-profile deer stalker convicted of poaching

In what is thought to be one of the first cases of its kind, a professional stalker has been convicted for selling stalking on land over which he does not have shooting rights.

A former chairman of the UK Association of Professional Deer Managers, Derek Stocker, from Somerset, was convicted of false representation under the 2006 Fraud Act and of poaching two deer under the 1991 Deer Act at Sudbury Magistrates? Court on 22 September.

On 22 August 2008, Mr Stocker, of UK Deer Management Services, took out three paying clients to shoot muntjac in Stanstead Great Wood at Kentwell Hall estate, in Long Melford, Suffolk.

Local gamekeepers Roger Jones and Peter Jagger raised the alarm when they heard rifle shots being fired in the woods.

Two carcases were then found in the back of Mr Stocker?s pick-up by Suffolk police.

Mr Stocker was fined £100, plus £300 compensation to Colin Foster, who holds the stalking lease together with Tim Davies.

He was also given a two-year conditional discharge, which was suspended for 28 days.

Mr Stocker, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, now plans to appeal the conviction.

He declined to comment to Shooting Times magazine.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit?s newly appointed poaching policy officer, Gareth Cole, commented this case highlights the small, underground minority of outwardly professional and highly-trained stalkers who take out paying clients on to land where they have no written authority.

?These unscrupulous stalkers bring the whole sport and profession into disrepute. This is not the old-fashioned poacher taking a few pheasants for the family pot – these are [ostensibly] upstanding deer managers. I do not think law abiding stalkers realise just how much this is going on.?

Professional stalker, Jan Andrews, said this case should serve as a wake-up call to stalkers with leases: ?If possible, make sure you hold the exclusive rights on your stalking ground and the lease conditions are properly followed. That way each stalker?s boundary is clear.?

Jan Andrews added that some stalkers have a tendency to stretch land boundaries, which can cause disputes.

She said: ?Shooting a deer that runs on to a neighbour?s land or shooting on the wrong side of a boundary fence all constitutes poaching. All stalkers need to adhere to what is in their lease and not break the law.?

She added: ?If a lease was previously held by more than one person, it is advisable to notify the previous joint lessee by recorded mail that the lease conditions have changed and that the person is no longer on the lease.?

John Thornley OBE, co-author of Deer: Law and Liabilities, believes this is the first time a case like this has appeared in court.

?This case brings to the fore a number of risks and liabilities within the deer management world,? said Mr Thornley.

?It is not good enough to have a rough idea of where you can shoot. I would encourage anyone with stalking ground to ensure that they have at least discussed the terms of any verbal agreement with the owner and checked the relevant map for boundary details.?

The National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) has suspended Mr Stocker?s membership until the outcome of the appeal is known and he has resigned from the NGO Deer Branch Committee.

Mr Stocker has also been suspended as an assessor at BASC?s deer assessment centre. This suspension will remain in place until his appeal is concluded.

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