A Lake District farmer convicted of "recklessly disturbing" an osprey nest has had his conviction quashed.
Paul Barnes had vehemently denied two charges. These alleged he intentionally or recklessly disturbed a male and female osprey which were in a nest at Bassenthwaite on June 13 2017.
On that day, 59-year-old Mr Barnes, of Braithwaite, near Keswick, drove a tractor and a trailer containing children close to the nesting site as he conducted one of many educational agricultural visits which have become a regular part of his farming business.
The two protected adult ospreys were said to have left their nest for around 20 minutes.
Mr Barnes was convicted on both charges after a magistrates’ court trial in August. His appeal began at Carlisle Crown Court in January and, after two adjournments, concluded last week.
A judge and two magistrates ruled the case should be stopped - and Mr Barnes’ appeal upheld - following legal submissions made by his barrister, Peter Glenser QC.
Judge James Adkin - sitting with two magistrates - summed up the three main strands of Mr Glenser’s submissions.
"An individual in authority told Mr Barnes to carry on farming as usual," noted Judge Adkin.
"Observations had been undertaken of (nest) disturbances not wholly dissimilar to the current circumstances - in some cases arguably worse. They are characterised as agricultural disturbances and not criminal offences.
"Combined with these features there has been a lamentable failure by the prosecution to adhere to the (legal document) disclosure regime."
In response, Mr Barnes - a farmer for 35 years and a trained primary school teacher who has won national awards for conservation and children’s education - spoke of "emerging from 18 months of turmoil" which had a "massive impact on family life".
"I’m pleased with the outcome; relieved. But I wasn’t totally disappointed after the trial because I knew that all the evidence hadn’t been heard," he said.
Mr Barnes spoke of hosting 500 popular educational visits to Blackwood Farm during the past decade.
"It’s all a bit of a mission. I know I’m giving something back," he said.
Of the protected ospreys, he explained: "I make maximum effort to disturb them as little as possible."
Mr Barnes also stated: "If I hadn’t had some good farmers’ insurance and been able to get a top barrister and a good legal team, I would have had to accept that original verdict."
Moving forward, Mr Barnes said he looked forward to developing a "fruitful partnership" with all groups and individuals who had a genuine osprey interest.
Delivering the appeal panel’s judgement, Judge Adkin had said: "The evidence in this case is that communication between farmers and the Forestry Commission and the police is essential so that all know the boundaries of what is considered acceptable, and all can work together to promote the interests of the nesting birds. That did not happen here, and that is very regrettable."