Police leadership hits back over criticism of white-tailed eagle investigation

·3-min read
The RSPB were 'baffled' by Dorset Police's decision to drop the investigation.
The RSPB were 'baffled' by Dorset Police's decision to drop the investigation.

DORSET'S Police and Crime Commissioner and the force's chief constable has hit back after being widely criticised over the investigation into the death of a white-tailed eagle.

Officers launched an investigation earlier this year into the death of one of 25 eagles released on the Isle of Wight as part of a re-introduction scheme.

The body of the white-tailed eagle was recovered in rural Dorset but examinations on the bird were deemed to be ‘inconclusive’ despite high levels of brodifacoum – a rat poison – being found within the bird.

The force said it was not possible to establish if it was a deliberate act of poisoning.

Dorset Police’s decision to drop the investigation prompted a barrage of criticism from a raft of wildlife experts. The RSPB said it was ‘completely baffled’ by the ending of the investigation.

Read more: RSPB baffled by Dorset Police decision to drop white-tailed eagle investigation

David Sidwick, Dorset’s PCC, released a statement today in which he hit back at "misleading commentary and media reporting".

In the lengthy statement he said he felt it necessary to "set the record straight" so that "anyone affected by rural crime… has the confidence that the police will treat such issues seriously".

Mr Sidwick said:“Let me be clear crystal clear. Since becoming Police and Crime Commissioner, rural crime has been a priority for me and I have intentionally made available the resources for the Chief Constable to invest further in the Rural Crime Team, so much so, that their number has more than doubled – putting more boots on the ground exactly where they are needed - in our rural communities.

"Further, it is a plain and simple fact that the Team continues to do what they have always done, which is to tackle all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime in Dorset and they have my unwavering support in the work they do, day in day out, for our rural communities.”

Read more: Investigation called for after stormy council meeting adjourned over 'health and safety' fears

Mr Sidwick said his position was notably different from Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, who reportedly said the investigation should not be a police priority.

Mr Sidwick went on to describe some of the reporting of the situation as "bizarre".

He added: “With regard to the tragic death of the sea eagle, I clearly publicly supported the Rural Crime Team in their decision to carry out a full and thorough police investigation – this was contrary to the position that was first expressed by the MP for West Dorset and I have continued to support such investigations taking place.

"The suggestion that this investigation was somehow politically impeded is therefore bizarre and entirely without merit.

"Politicians, including myself as PCC, are not able to ‘direct or drop’ investigations – the police are operationally independent and have to be so, in order to uphold the law.

"I acknowledge that there have been differing opinions regarding the sea eagle investigation, however, once again, let me state quite clearly, that the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team have my full and unwavering support in their efforts to investigate potential wildlife crime offences.”

Chief constable Scott Chilton also issued a statement "to give some clarity" and reinforced Dorset Police’s "commitment to those responsible for the abhorrent instances of wildlife crime".

In the statement he said “we have reviewed our Rural Crime Strategy for the county and have invested in our Rural Crime Team, allocating additional officers to tackle all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime in Dorset".

Responding to concerns raised of a change of a police unit, the chief constable said: "The name change to the Rural Crime Team simply reflects this additional focus.

"It is disappointing therefore that this change has been portrayed as a lesser service, rather than the investment that it is.

"It is vital to me that communities across Dorset have confidence in their police force to deliver the services that matter to them and that is why it is important to take the time to listen to local people and to respond to their concerns.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting