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Lake District farmer’s osprey “disturbance” conviction is quashed

Paul Barnes outside Carlisle Crown Court after his conviction was quashed

A LAKE District farmer convicted last year of “recklessly disturbing” an osprey nest has had his conviction quashed.

Paul Barnes vehemently denied two charges. These alleged that he had intentionally or recklessly disturbed a male and female osprey which were in a nest at Bassenthwaite on June 13 in 2017.

The charges arose after 59-year-old Mr Barnes, of Braithwaite, near Keswick, was seen to drive a tractor and a trailer containing children close to the nesting site as he conducted one of many educational visits which have become a regular part of his farming business. The two adult ospreys were said to have left their nest for around 20 minutes.

Mr Barnes was convicted on both charges after a magistrates’ court trial in August but lodged an appeal.

This began at Carlisle Crown Court earlier this year and, after two adjournments, concluded earlier today (FRI).

A judge and two magistrates ruled the case should be stopped – and Mr Barnes’ appeal upheld – after legal submissions were made during an application by his barrister, Peter Glenser QC.

Judge James Adkin – sitting with two magistrates – summed up the three main strands of Mr Glenser’s submissions.

“An individual in authority told Mr Barnes to carry on farming as usual,” noted Judge Adkin.

“Observations had been undertaken of (nest) disturbances not wholly dissimilar to the current circumstances – in some cases arguably worse. They are characterised as agricultural disturbances and not criminal offences.

“Combined with these features there has been a lamentable failure by the prosecution to adhere to the (legal document) disclosure regime.”

As a result, the appeal panel concluded the court proceedings should halted, and Mr Barnes’ appeal against conviction was upheld.

In response, Mr Barnes – a farmer for 35 years and also a trained primary school teacher who has won national awards for conservation and children’s education –¬†spoke “emerging from 18 months of turmoil” which had a “massive impact on family life”.

“I’m pleased with the outcome; relieved. But I wasn’t totally disappointed after the trial because I knew that all the evidence hadn’t been heard,” he said.

Moving forward, Mr Barnes said he looked forward to developing a “fruitful partnership” with all groups and individuals who had a genuine osprey interest.

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