One man and his eagle – Jonathan Marshall avoids bird for dodgy...

One man and his eagle – Jonathan Marshall avoids bird for dodgy documents



Jonathan Marshall was a man with a dream – he was a falconer and, with his favourite bird Samson (a golden eagle), would go around the country giving falconry displays. Tragedy had struck in 2012 when Samson flew off from a wedding and seemed lost. A Hollywood ending followed however when it transpired he had flown the 107 mile journey home.

The tearful reunion was caught on camera :

Seeking to capitalise on this human interest story, Mr Marshall applied to go on the Alan Titchmarsh show. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the right permit for Samson, and so using an other bird’s certificate as a template, falsified Samson’s permit.

This lead him to being arrested and taken to Court, where he pleaded guilty to “falsifying an endangered species permit and keeping the eagle without registration“. He got 5 months, suspended for two years.


What were the offences?

Well, it’s not quite clear. But whatever it was, it was a pretty dull one we would think…

Our best guess would be that it was one under Reg 4 The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. This creates an either way offence (maximum sentence 2 years) that applies when “A person who knowingly falsifies or alters any permit or certificate”.

Golden Eagles are Part 1, Schedule 1 birds for the purposes of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (that attract the highest protection all year round. On a side note, it’s good to see that no fewer than three buntings make it on to that list – you have been warned). There are also registration requirements for Golden Eagles as they are listed in Schedule 4 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There is an offence of failing to register under s7 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This offence is summary only (s21 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). The sentence was presumably passed for the first offence, under the regulations.


No offence, but that’s rather dull, isn’t it?

Well, yes. Although if you go and look at the Regulations made under the 1981 Act you can see the impact of Welsh devolution – they started back in 1982 as joint between England and Wales but have been diverging in recent years (Rheoliadau Bywyd Gwyllt a Chefn Gwlad (Cofrestru, Modrwyo a Marcio Adar Caeth Penodol) (Cymru) 2011). How long before Wales becomes a separate jurisdiction? A very interesting constitutional question.


Is it so serious you get bird for it?

Apparently so.

The British do like their animals, but it seems hard to imagine that this passed the custody threshold. The fraudulent offence is clearly the most serious, and whilst fraud is fraud, it doesn’t seem to me that this was the most serious. Importantly, there doesn’t appear to be any suggestion that Samson was ill-treated, or any harm was done to the animals.

It may be that there is more to it than in the news reports, at least we hope so, because this does seem over the top. Although the sentence is suspended, it will still cost a lot of money to supervise which is money that could be better spent on more serious criminals.


Bet Samson will be pleased to have Mr Marshall home though, eh?

Ah. Apparently Samson was shot by a gamekeeper last year. RIP.


Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. I’ve always though all buntings should be protected, especially when they prosecute, and I defend my clients.