West Lothian man fined thousands after selling peregrine falcon chicks 'under false pretences'

A breeder who illegally sold peregrine falcon chicks for thousands of pounds has been ordered to hand over more than £7,000 in fine and confiscation charges.

Gary MacFarlane, 62, advertised and sold the birds without the required legal documentation.

His offences came to light after bird of prey enthusiasts who answered his adverts on a trader website agreed to pay several thousand pounds to buy a number of peregrine falcons.

A court heard how he misled online buyers by providing them with letters indicating he had applied to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for the required Article 10 (A10) registration certificates.

He was eventually snared after the agency received an anonymous tip-off that he was offering peregrine falcon tiercels (males) for sale without the A10 documentation.

MacFarlane admitted one charge of offering a peregrine for sale and two of selling the falcons without the A10 certificate.

He also pleaded guilty to seven counts of making false declarations over the parentage of birds he bred.

MacFarlane pleaded guilty at Livingston Sheriff Court last October and returned for sentencing on Thursday - a day after his birthday.

MacFarlane was fined £2,100 and ordered to forfeit £5,220 in cash seized from his home in Blackridge, West Lothian.

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Iain Batho, lead of wildlife and environmental crime at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said: "It is highly important to preserve Scotland's natural heritage, including the wildlife that forms part of it.

"Birds of prey are given strict protection by our law, and this includes ensuring adherence to the strict rules that are in place for the lawful trade and registration of such animals.

"These rules are in place to ensure that the trade of birds of prey is carried out lawfully and to ensure the ongoing health and welfare of the bird of prey population in Scotland, both in the wild and in captivity."

Detective Constable Steven Irvine said MacFarlane sold protected chicks "for his own profit and under false pretences".

He said the extensive police investigation received support from partner organisations, such as the Scottish SPCA, the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA) forensic unit, APHA, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and raptor specialists.

DC Irvine added: "This case sends a strong message to those who flout regulations in terms of our endangered and protected species that Police Scotland will thoroughly investigate these crimes and bring those responsible to justice."