News In Focus
MSPs call for more effective action on wildlife crime
Rates of wildlife crime detection and prosecution must be improved, according to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment Committee (RACCE).
Following an inquiry, the MSPs have written to the new minister responsible, Aileen MacLeod, calling on the Scottish Government to consider what more can be done to increase reporting and detection rates, having heard evidence from Police Scotland that there are wildlife crimes which are not reported and therefore go unrecorded.
Key issues highlighted in the letter include that criminal proceedings only appear to be taken (by which the committee may mean that reports are made for prosecution) 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.
It further highlights the concern of the former minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, that certain species are almost entirely absent in areas of Scotland where it is expected they would be present; and notes the option of making greater use of SSPCA staff to support Police Scotland in their work, while emphasising that it is critical to public confidence that the measures are proportionate and the SSPCA is properly accountable.
There are further 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.
Convener 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.”
Click here to view the letter.