A SHERIFF has demanded to know how exactly much money a part-time gamekeeper and his son gained from being involved in the illegal trade of peregrine falcon chicks before imposing a sentence.

Forty-eight-year-old Timothy Hall and his son Lewis, 23, built up a lucrative operation in taking eggs from nests in the wild before selling the endangered species abroad.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court was told some of the sales were lawful but both men admitted they had not declared that income to HM Revenue and Customs.

Sheriff Peter Paterson said: “This simply adds to the seriousness of these offences. I am now told there is further criminal activity in that none of this has been declared to the Inland Revenue.

“I want to know what these figures are and the money that you have made from this trade.

“I am told you have limited funds but that does not make sense given what we have heard.

“I will be informing the Inland Revenue and it can be decided what charges should be brought either criminal or financial.”

Sheriff Paterson said it was a “wholly unsatisfactory situation” and referred to information that the practice had been going on for a lengthy period and on a “great scale”.

Iain Batho, head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit at the Crown Office, said the matter was first brought to the attention of the authorities in April 2021 by George Smith, of the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group.

They accessed known nests in the Duns and Hutton areas of Berwickshire and noticed that eggs were missing.

Police found a number of birds when they searched Timothy Hall’s home in Berwickshire in May 2021.

The door was answered by his wife Suzanne, a serving police officer, who had her not guilty pleas to charges relating to the case accepted at a previous hearing.

Timothy who has been described as a part-time gamekeeper; and his son, Lewis, previously pleaded guilty to charges relating to 22 peregrine falcons, including being involved in the illegal sale of the endangered species.

Timothy Hall also admitted being in possession of the birds – which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act – and failing to provide clean water and adequate perches for them; as well as a breach of the Firearms Act, by not properly securing a shotgun in his property.

Mr Batho said evidence was uncovered during a search which showed large financial transactions involving thousands of pounds involving the sale of the birds being paid into Lewis Hall’s bank account, who then transferred money into his parents’ joint account.

Mr Batho told the court that Scottish peregrine falcons are highly-sought after in the Middle East where they are used for racing.

In this case, the alarm was raised about potential egg and chick thefts from wild nests in the south of Scotland by Mr Smith.

He had grown concerned that several nests had failed to produce any offspring when they had previously done so.

Police visited several sites with Mr Smith, including one at Borthwick Quarry in Duns, which had four eggs in the nest in April 2021.

They spotted marks in the gravel that someone had recently climbed up to it.

Similar evidence was found at a separate nesting site in Hutton.

Mr Batho told the court that officers and the SSPCA had carried out a raid at the Hall residence in May 2021 after intelligence showed their potential involvement.

Mr Batho explained how DNA evidence was taken from a number of birds found at the home – including seven newly-hatched chicks. Unhatched eggs were also found in two incubators.

Both men claimed the babies were bred in captivity but tests showed they were not related to any of the adult peregrine falcons owned by the men.

But two chicks were later found to match the DNA of an adult bird from the quarry site, while one was linked back to the Hutton nest.

Mobile phones and a drone were also examined which showed that it had been used on 20 separate occasions to fly to known nest sites.

Addressing historical falcon sales, which date back to 2019, Lewis Hall was paid £2,500 for one female chick.

He then transferred £1,875 to a joint bank account belonging to his parents.

A second chick was sold in 2020 for £2,000.

Four more were sold for £10,964 in June that year.

And just days later, eight chicks – who were just days old – were sold for £25,700.

Lewis Hall later transferred £1,500 to his parents’ account, along with an additional £13,500.

Records showed Timothy Hall had swapped a female peregrine falcon for another bird of prey which can cost up to £10,000.

Details of the duo’s attempts at disguising their criminality through official channels were also detailed in court.

Mr Batho explained: “On May 11, 2020, Lewis Hall registered three separate clutches of eggs – consisting of 14 chicks – to the Animal Health and Plant Agency.

“He gave the hatch date and details of who their shared parents were.”

But he then declared that each of the three clutches – allegedly laid by the same female falcon – had hatched 22 days apart which is biologically impossible.

Mr Batho said that Hall was able to obtain the official certificates meaning he “was able to sell to legitimate buyers”.

An examination of their records showed that Hall had registered several chicks using parent birds that were either already dead or belonging to a third party.

Timothy Hall also previously admitted leaving a loaded shotgun on the floor of a bedroom at the family home – breaching the conditions of his licence.

The father-of-two also admitted a further charge of failing to meet the needs of an animal after adult birds were found without access to water and “unsuitable” housing.

Before lawyers representing the Halls could put forward their pleas in mitigation, sheriff Paterson said had wanted to know the exact scale of the financial income from the sale of the peregrine falcon chicks.

Sheriff Paterson deferred sentence until February 12 for the financial information to be provided and continued the bail for both men.