Man jailed for killing an otter in Dorset

Man jailed for killing an otter in Dorset

Published by Maria Greenwood at 8:56am 10th March 2020. (Updated at 9:20am 10th March 2020)

WARNING: This story contains an image which some people may find upsetting.  

The owner of a fishery in Dorset who killed a protected otter to stop it from eating his fish, has been jailed.

54-year-old Stuart Jones from Chilthorne Domer near Yeovil is the former owner the Lyons Gate Caravan Park and Fishery near Dorchester and boasted of well-stocked lakes for people wanting to fish on their holidays.

Please be aware that Lyons Gate Caravan Park and Fishery is now under new management.

When local otters found Jones' lakes and started eating the fish, he complained about it to his partner and visitors to the campsite, as he was unhappy about losing valuable fish.
 

Otter trap
Otter trap

Jones illegally set a trap to try to catch the otters, because he didn't want to spend thousands of pounds on fencing that would deter the animals from fishing in his lake.

When an otter became caught in an angler's net by accident in July last year, Jones used this opportunity to shoot the otter in the head with his rifle.  
 
He did this in full view of holiday-makers, who reported Jones to the UK Wild Otter Trust and to the police.

otter in net
otter in net

Jones admitted he had shot the otter despite knowing they were protected.

He pleaded guilty to setting an illegal trap and to killing a protected wild animal on 10 February 2020 at Weymouth Magistrates' Court.
 
On Friday 6 March he was sentenced to 2 months in prison and CPS prosecutors are pursuing a confiscation order to deprive Jones of the money he saved by shooting the otter instead of building a fence to keep them out.
 
Mark Gammon of the CPS said:

"Otters are a well-loved and important part of British wildlife and Jones knew that when he shot the animal he was killing a protected species.
 
"Jones had plenty of options to stop the otter from eating his fish, but he decided that he would save himself the expense of a fence by shooting the otter.
 
"He did this with no regard for the otter or the holiday-makers who were witness to this traumatic incident.
 
"In addition to time in prison, we are looking to get a confiscation order for the cost of the fencing, which he had saved by acting illegally."

Lyons Gate Caravan Park and Fishery

Police Constable Claire Dinsdale, the Wildlife Crime Officer for Dorset Police who attended the site, said:

"Jones denied the allegation of killing an otter on our arrival and consequently I spent time searching a large area of woodland adjacent to the lakes looking for the body of the animal. 

"The cage trap used had no support and it is highly likely any otter entering the trap would have drowned. Otters have the highest level of protection under UK and European legislation and this is there for a reason. 

"I would urge anyone with a fishery business who has concerns regarding otters to make contact with the Angling Trust, which has predation advisors that can visit your sites."

Dave Webb, founder and chair of the UK Wild Otter Trust, said:

“This sentence demonstrates that the illegal persecution of any protected species will not be tolerated and heavy penalties will be handed out."