Rates of wildlife crime detection and prosecution must be improved, following an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE).
The Committee is convinced we cannot be complacent and is calling on the Scottish Government to consider what more can be done to increase reporting and detection rates.
In evidence scrutinising the Government’s Wildlife Crime Annual Report 2013, the Committee was concerned to hear Police Scotland’s belief that there are wildlife crimes which are not reported and therefore go unrecorded.
Convener of the Committee Rob Gibson MSP said:
“As awareness of the scope and complexity of wildlife crime increases, we strongly believe there is no room for complacency from any of us in tackling this important issue. We questioned whether wildlife crime is sufficiently prioritised by Police Scotland and the Crown Office."
“We heard that the answer is yes, therefore we expect to see an improvement in the detection and prosecution rates for wildlife crime in future years.”
In its letter the Committee also raised concerns on Police Scotland’s release of information on a recent investigation into deaths of twenty-two birds of prey in Ross-shire. The Committee welcomed confirmation that the Scottish Government, in partnership with the police is now trying to achieve a degree of consistency in how information is released to media.
Mr Gibson explained:
“The Committee was appalled by the recent poisoning of twenty-two raptors near Conon Bridge. We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to bring forward a pesticides disposal scheme focusing on the removal of illegal substances most commonly used in wildlife crime. Recent events have demonstrated only a small amount of these poisons can have catastrophic consequences for our wildlife.”
In a six-page letter to the new Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen MacLeod MSP, the Committee highlights key issues, including:
- Criminal proceedings only appear to be taken in around one fifth of the instances of wildlife crime reported to police, and of these 20.7% are then marked for ‘No Action’ by COPFS (compared to 9.5% of other crimes).
- The concern of former Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, that certain species are almost entirely absent in areas of Scotland where it is expected they would be present.
- The Committee welcomes confirmation that steps have already been taken to set up an information sharing protocol between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland in relation to the restriction of general licences to trap and shoot wild birds.
- The option of making greater use of SSPCA staff to support Police Scotland in their work. Although the Committee highlights that it is critical public confidence in the measures are proportionate and the SSPCA is properly accountable.
- The need for the location of wildlife crimes, including locations of illegally placed poisons and traps, to be effectively and consistently mapped.
- Concerns about the clarity of wildlife crime data, the mixture of calendar year and financial year information, and the lack of availability of data for 2013-14.
*Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
The letter to the Scottish Parliament’s new Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen McLeod MSP can be accessed via this link.
The Crown Office and senior police officers gave evidence in public to the Scottish Parliament on 29th October 2014 on the Scottish Government’s Wildlife Crime in Scotland Annual Report 2013.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) scrutinises policy proposals relating to rural affairs, climate change, food and the environment.
Photographs of the Committee and Convener are available free of charge. An audio clip interview of Convener of the Committee Rob Gibson MSP, is also available on request.