Shooter of starlings loses pest control case.

An article in the Telegraph by Nicola Woolcock

(Filed: 23/10/2001)

A LANDOWNER accused of shooting starlings he attracted to his garden with bird feeders was acting unlawfully, a judge ruled yesterday.

Craig Cundey, 37, who claimed Government-granted licences entitled him to kill the birds, was cleared by magistrates earlier this year.

But the RSPCA challenged the ruling and its appeal was upheld in the High Court. It is believed to be the first case of its kind.

Cundey, from Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, said licences issued by the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions and its predecessor, MAFF, authorised the killing of "pest species".

Mr Justice Silber, ruled however that people who shot wild birds were acting unlawfully, even if they held a licence, if they could not prove the birds were a public health risk or potentially spreading disease to livestock or crops.

He allowed the RSPCA to appeal against a decision by Huntingdon magistrates in February to acquit Cundey of breaching the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Cundey will not face the charges again. The case was brought only for legal clarification.

Dr William Peach, a research biologist, said at the magistrates' hearing that it was "almost unheard of for starlings to pose a risk to public health in the summer."

A spokesman for the RSPCA welcomed the ruling. "This means that people with licences who shoot birds in their back garden or on their land can only do so for authorised purposes," he said.

"Those who have legitimate reasons for controlling birds under certain circumstances do not have to worry about this judgment," he added. "It will be relatively easy for farmers and landowners to demonstrate if birds are being a nuisance."

Note :- As from February '05 Starling are a protected species in the UK and should not be shot.