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Gamekeeper told he may face jail

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3 December 2008 - BBC News

A head gamekeeper who admitted setting illegal traps and allowing a junior gamekeeper to illegally kill animals has been told he could face jail. Roger Venton, 33, of Borrough Cottage, Kempton Estate, Aston-on-Clun, Shropshire, pleaded guilty when he appeared at Telford Magistrates' Court. The court heard he was charged after two former estate employees complained.

Gamekeeper Kyle Burden, 19, of Kempton, was found guilty of killing buzzards and badgers earlier this year. He was given a 26-week prison sentence suspended for six months in September.

Magistrates hearing Venton's case were told he and Burden were charged following a joint operation by police and the RSPB in 2007. RSPB officers had covertly filmed the traps, which had been set up on the 6,000 acre Kempton Estate to protect partridges and pheasants being reared for shoots.

Fellow Kempton Estate game keepers Dean Coleman and Andrew Gravetts had blown the whistle on Venton's activities. Outside court, Mr Coleman said: "I was employed as an under keeper on the Kempton Estate and I was asked by the head gamekeeper to kill birds of prey - buzzards. I didn't, hence why I'm here today giving evidence against Roger Venton, the head gamekeeper."

Venton admitted setting a spring trap between 16 July and 27 July 2007 and allowing Burden to use a caged trap with a baited raven on 15 May. Venton, who no longer works for the estate, was told he would be sentenced on 2 January.

Mark Thomas, an officer with the RSPB, said he hoped the case would encourage more people to report similar incidents. He said: "Hopefully by working with other gamekeepers like the gamekeepers here we can rid the world of persecution of birds of prey."

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