A man who killed an otter in a ‘barbaric and inhumane’ way after he caught the animal eating his carp has been imprisoned.
Stuart Jones, 54, shot the Eurasian otter in the head with a rifle in July last year, after the otter ate his valuable carp that was worth up to £40,000 each.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard how Jones, who owned Lyons Gate Campsite and Fishery in Dorchester, Dorset, had ‘planned’ the animal’s death by setting traps for a number of otters that had been targeting his four fishing lakes.
Prosecutor Victoria Hill told the court a group of people witnessed the incident after visiting the lake between July 7 and July 11 last year.
They had been staying at a campsite on one of Jones’ lakes when they saw a fisherman catch the otter in a net and shout for somebody to fetch Jones, with Ms Hill explaining: ‘They thought it was being caught to be relocated.’
The prosecutor continued:
But when the defendant arrived with his wife and daughter he was carrying a rifle. He pulled the bolt back on the rifle, put it to the back of the otter’s head and pulled the trigger. The otter seemed to thrash a few times and then it was deceased.
If people were to behave in the way this defendant has, the impact on the otter population as a whole would be devastating. That’s why they are a protected species.
Eurasian otters are fully protected under British law as a European protected species (EPS), and are also protected under sections nine and 11 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
You’re breaking the law if you: capture, kill, disturb or injure otters; damage or destroy a breeding or resting place; obstruct access to their resting places; or possess, sell, control or transport live or dead otters.
Anybody found guilty of the above faces an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison, however Jones’ case is the first prosecution of its kind in the UK.
The 54-year-old was jailed for two months, with Dave Webb, the founder of the UK Wild Otter Trust, saying he was ‘over the moon’ with the outcome.
Speaking after the case, Webb said the prosecution ‘will set a real precedent and send a stark warning out to other fishery people’. He continued: ‘There is no excuse to remove a native predator for commercial reasons and everybody knows about the law.’
Jamie Porter, defending, said the otters were a ‘nuisance’ to the fishery owner, just as ‘chicken farmers find foxes and cattle farmers find badgers’ a nuisance.
He added that, while Jones’ actions were ‘utterly inappropriate’ and he has since handed back his rifle licences and no longer has anything to do with wildlife, he did ‘dispose’ of the animal in the ‘cleanest, kindest and quickest way’ – as a vet would.
However, Judge Stephen Climie disputed this, stating: ‘If they are ill and need to be put to sleep yes, but in the context of this case it was both unnecessary and illegal.’
Judge Climie said he could not suspend the sentence because ‘the point has to be made,’ and Jones had deliberately attempted to avoid the law, which has been in place since 1981.
Jones had run the fishery for 17 years, but has recently sold the business and is no longer involved.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).