Deer poacher caught with high-powered rifle and carcass in his home

A man from Haddington who illegally hunted and killed a roe deer with a lethal air rifle was found with the animal’s body in his house. He was fined and ordered to do unpaid work by a sheriff who warned him that he could have faced jail time for his crime.

The deadly weapon

John Smedley, 56, pleaded guilty to three charges related to deer poaching at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday. He admitted to killing a roe deer without permission in Morham, East Lothian, and having the animal’s dead body in his possession at a house in North Berwick on April 23, 2023. He also admitted to possessing a Texan Air Rifle Lethal Load weapon without lawful authority in the same month.

The Texan air rifle is a high-powered firearm that can fire bullets with a muzzle energy of up to 600 foot-pounds, which is more than enough to kill a large animal. It is illegal to use such a weapon to hunt deer in Scotland, as it does not meet the minimum specifications for rifle ammunition set by the Deer (Firearms, etc.) (Scotland) Order 1985. The order also requires that deer hunters have a valid firearm certificate and permission from the landowner.

The culture of poaching

Smedley’s defence lawyer, Mark Hutchison, said his client had grown up watching his grandfather and father hunt for deer without any repercussions. He claimed that there was a culture of poaching in East Lothian that was seen as acceptable by some people. He said Smedley had never had a custodial sentence before and worked seven days a week. He added that Smedley had promised to never do it again.

Deer poacher caught

However, Sheriff Matthew Auchincloss rejected the argument that poaching was acceptable in the area. He said he lived in East Lothian and knew that it was not. He also said that the rifle Smedley used looked like a sniper rifle and could have caused alarm to anyone who saw him with it. He said that poaching was a serious offence that harmed the welfare of the animals and the environment. He said that Smedley had crossed the custody threshold, but he decided to impose an alternative sentence as it was a summary matter.

The sentence and the reaction

Smedley was fined £800 and ordered to perform 60 hours of unpaid work within six months. He also had his rifle and ammunition forfeited by the court. Sheriff Auchincloss said that the fine was meant to deter Smedley from hunting deer again, as it would be cheaper to buy a carcass legally.

A source close to Smedley said he hunted the animals for fun and would either give away the meat or feed it to his dog. They said they were surprised that he did not get jailed for his actions and doubted that he would stop. They said that the sentence did not send the right message to other poachers and that there was no justice for the animals.

All four deer species found in Scotland – red, roe, fallow and sika – are protected under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. Anyone who wants to hunt deer must follow the legal and ethical standards set by the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage.

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By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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