A SHERIFF is expected to hear this afternoon the first evidence in the trial of an Inverness man facing charges of being involved in the illegal trade of rare birds’ eggs.
The trial of Keith Liddell of Holm Dell Drive, on 16 charges under the Control Trade of Endangered Species and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, was due to start yesterday.
But Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood had to consider first defence submissions about the competency of three of the charges.
Liddell (42) denies 13 charges contrary to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997 relating to the illegal trade of birds eggs.
Species include a number of European raptors including peregrine, red kite, merlin, snowy owl, Egyptian and griffon vulture.
He has also pleaded not guilty to three charges contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Two of these alleged he was in unlawful possession of 338 birds’ eggs including a number of rare breeding species such as osprey, peregrine falcon, blackthroated diver, and Slavonian and black-necked grebes.
He also denies being in possession of a range of items for keeping and trading birds eggs.
The offences are alleged to have taken place between 27 August, 2004, and 24 June, 2009.
The case follows an investigation by North Constabulary and RSPB investigators.
Yesterday, defence solicitor Pauline Chapman objected to the competency of three of the charges.
She claimed that she had only received disclosure of the transcripts of police interviews with Liddell on these allegations last Wednesday.
She said this should have happened at a much earlier stage.
But Kate Fleming, Procurator Fiscal from the Wildlife Environmental Crime Unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscals Service, told Sheriff Fleetwood these documents had been given to Liddell at an earlier stage of proceedings when he was represented by another solicitor.
The Sheriff over-ruled the objection and Liddell will go to trial on all 16 charges.
At an earlier hearing, the Sheriff was told by Ms Fleming that the case would involve more than 190 productions and 40 witnesses have been cited by the prosecution for the case.
Many will travel from as far afield as England to give evidence.
Sheriff Fleetwood told the fiscal and Mrs Chapman he had business in Fort William Sheriff Court this morning and he hoped the could begin hearing evidence in the afternoon.
A witness is travelling from County Durham to given evidence today.
The trial has been set down for five days.