Elaine Murray MSP keeps up pressure for greater powers for SSPCA

Back in February 2011 when the Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill was still being debated, Peter Peacock MSP put forward an amendment that would provide greater powers for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) inspectors to investigate a wider suite of wildlife crimes (see here). The SSPCA currently has limited powers that only allows it to investigate certain types of wildlife crime (see here).

Given the concern over public spending cuts that will affect police resources, and the on-going concerns of getting police to even attend wildlife crime incidents (see here for info from SSPCA and RSPB, and info here from OneKind, page 12), Peter Peacock MSP proposed that if increased powers were given to the SSPCA, then perhaps more wildlife crimes (and especially raptor persecution incidents) might stand a better chance of being investigated more effectively.

The Environment Minister at the time (Roseanna Cunningham MSP) said that the proposed amendment raised significant issues of accountability – which seemed a fairly weak argument given that the SSPCA is already empowered to investigate some animal welfare incidents – but she did say that she thought the amendment could be considered, after public consultation, in a future Criminal Justice Bill.

Seven months later and some MSPs may have hoped/wished this proposal was long dead and buried. Not so! Enter stage right Elaine Murray MSP, who lodged the following motion in the Scottish Parliament late last week:

S4M-00932 Elaine Murray: First Dog-fighting Conviction under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006—That the Scottish Parliament congratulates the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) on obtaining the first successful conviction for animal fighting under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006; notes that two brothers received jail sentences of four and six months for being involved in dog fighting involving pit bull terrier-type dogs; regrets that the perpetrators have only received a ban from keeping dogs for five years; notes that the SSPCA were able to achieve this conviction using powers conferred under the act to search and enter homes under warrant to retrieve evidence, and believes that the granting of similar powers to the SSPCA with regard to the investigation of wildlife crime should be considered.

This proposal seems to me to be a complete no-brainer. The SSPCA has been a reporting agency to the Crown for more than 100 years. They are highly effective – in 2009-2010, the SSPCA reported nearly 200 cases for prosecution to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Surely any sensible individual or organisation, who was committed to cracking down on wildlife crime, would support the proposal to widen the powers of these very productive and experienced investigators? Apparently the Scottish Gamekeepers Association doesn’t agree (see here on page 11).

Well done Elaine Murray MSP for keeping up the pressure – it will be interesting to see how this proposal develops over the coming months.

One thought on “Elaine Murray MSP keeps up pressure for greater powers for SSPCA”

  1. I think the MSP supporting greater powers for the SSPCA would do well to so some independent research into how the SSPCA misuse the powers they already have. There are already many instances of bullying, intimidation and harassment by SAPCA Inspectors who constantly display a lack of knowledge and training in areas where they already operate. Animal Welfare is no longer a priority they work to targets for prosecutions which cannot make them fair and impartial. Saving money should not be the priority

    [Ed: Interesting comment. Do you have any supporting evidence to back up these serious accusations?
    Specifically, how is the SSPCA ‘mis-using their powers’?
    Please provide evidence of the ‘many instances of bullying, intimidation and harassment by SAPCA [sic] Inspectors’.
    Please provide evidence of the ‘constant displays of lack of knowledge and training by SAPCA [sic] Inspectors’.
    Oh and incidentally, the SSPCA has no power of prosecution – that lies solely with the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service. The SSPCA can report offences (they are recognised as a specialist reporting agency, along with approx 50 other organisations) but the fiscal is the one who decides whether to prosecute or not. Sounds like you’re the one who needs to do some research].

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