River keeper cleared of destroying swans' eggs

A MAN accused of destroying eggs of swans nesting by the River Test in Whitchurch has been cleared of any wrongdoing by magistrates.

Charles House, river keeper for the stretch of river between Fullings Mill and The Lawns, was on trial at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, accused of intentionally destroying three eggs of mute swans, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

Prosecuting, Fiona McMurray said Mr House had been seen by a witness, a Mrs Swansea, using his scythe to push two swans off their nest, taking three eggs from the nest and throwing them in into the river at 8.40am on April 24.

The prosecutor said another couple, Mr and Mrs Spooner, went down to the river after being approached by Mrs Swansea and had also seen Mr House holding the swans back from the nest with a scythe.

Cross-examining Mr House, she said: “If you could discourage them from nesting, you would . . . swans could be damaging the weeds.”

Mr House, of North Acre, Longparish, strongly denied the allegations.

The 54-year-old said he was trying to help the swans and had found the eggs in the river.

He said: “Anyone with half a brain, anyone who cares for what they do . . . I would never have harmed them.”

Defending Mr House, Erica Foster said there was no evidence of how viable the eggs were.

She said: “Honest witnesses can be mistaken. We all know how as we rehearse things mentally, things change.”

Magistrates took only 10 minutes to make the decision to find Mr House not guilty.

The presiding magistrate said to Mr House: “It is disputed whether you took the eggs and threw them into the water to intentionally destroy them.

“We prefer Mr House’s evidence – that you picked the eggs out of the water . . . we are not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that you intentionally destroyed the eggs.”

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