A father and son who have been working as part-time gamekeepers have been barred from keeping birds of prey. Timothy Hall, 48, and his son Lewis, 22, had taken peregrine falcon chicks and eggs from their nests in Berwickshire which were later sold to affluent customers and used in racing in the Middle East. However, DNA tests carried out on the eggs and chicks found in their house proved that these were wild birds instead of captive-bred ones, as claimed by the duo.

The Halls were prosecuted at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, where they pleaded guilty and were handed unpaid work sentences. Timothy Hall was sentenced to 220 hours, while Lewis Hall was given 150 hours of such work. The two were also barred from birds of prey possession for five years. A total of 22 eggs and chicks were taken from nests and sold for huge amounts of money.

An inquiry revealed the pair’s culpability and outlawed the thriving trade that was almost guaranteed to bring an end to the peregrine population in Southern Scotland. Although they claimed initially that the chicks and eggs had been taken from parent birds in captivity, an investigation established that they were taken from wild nests. Detectives revealed that investigations were still ongoing by HM Revenue and Customs and that a hearing for proceeds of crime against Lewis Hall was continued for six weeks.

Wild peregrines from Scotland are the most popular falcons in the world, owing to their incredible hunting prowess, speed and strength. Timothy Hall was indicted by Sheriff Peter Paterson for being complicit in the bird-napping scheme, which he admitted was purely motivated by money. The pair’s home in Lamberton was searched in May 2021, resulting in police confiscating eggs and seven chicks. Peregrines have become so desired in the last 15 years that export permit applications rose from 73 to nearly 3,500. Despite initial suspicions that licensed breeders were stealing wild chicks and passing them off as hatched in captivity, DNA testing revealed otherwise.

Operation Tantallon resulted from the initial raid at The Halls’ residence, leading to over 3,000 more independent investigations into nest retrieval – this operation is the most massive wildlife crime operation in UK police history. Two other similar charges were brought to court in recent times, with Gary MacFarlane from West Lothian being ordered to pay a fine of £2,100 and hand over £5,220 in cash, while Christopher Wheeldon from Derbyshire received an eight-week prison term for his role in stealing wild peregrine falcon eggs. National Wildlife Crime Unit officers anticipate a spate of upcoming prosecutions

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