So long, Sheriff Drummond

DrummondOne of the most influential figures in the world of Scottish wildlife crime enforcement, and particularly in relation to raptor persecution, has finally retired. There are some who will be delighted with this news, others not so much.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond QC left office this week after 13 years in the Sheriff courts of the Scottish Borders. In addition, he’d played a significant role on various PAW Scotland committees, including Chair of the Legislation, Regulation and Guidance Sub Group (see here), and was a member of the high-level PAW Scotland Executive Group (see here). He was also heavily involved in the provision of ‘mock trials’ as part of a training programme for police wildlife crime officers and procurators fiscal to help prepare them for dealing with wildlife crime trials. Prior to being appointed Sheriff, he had worked as a leading defence QC whose clients included gamekeepers accused of wildlife crimes. His own reported hobbies include shooting and fishing (see here).

An article in the Selkirk Advertiser reporting his retirement (see here) describes the Sheriff as ‘well-respected’, ‘fair and consistent’ and ‘kind and approachable’. We’d agree with ‘consistent’ at least. In a number of cases over which Sheriff Drummond presided around 2006-2007 there was opportunity to sentence the convicted gamekeepers in his court to jail time – a provision that had at the time been recently introduced in an attempt to crack down on raptor persecution. Disappointingly, Sheriff Drummond decided that community service orders were adequate punishments for these convicted poisoners, including one case that had been described by one RSPB investigator as ‘the worst he had seen in 20 years’. This reluctance to send convicted poisoners to jail is still very much in evidence in Sheriff courts right across Scotland – there still hasn’t been a single one.

Sheriff Drummond held strong views against the introduction of vicarious liability – his visibly agitated performance in front of the WANE bill committee in 2010 was quite a display – and he also strongly opposed the concept of increasing the investigatory powers of SSPCA inspectors to allow them to take on raptor persecution cases (e.g. see here).

There were calls for the Sheriff’s dismissal from the PAW Scotland group following another of his outbursts at the Police Wildlife Crime Conference in 2010 when a wildlife investigator asked whether there should be tougher sentences for wildlife criminals. Sheriff Drummond’s reported response, “Get a life“, was met with ‘shock and bewilderment’ by conference delegates but was later defended by then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham (see here).

Many years earlier RSPB Investigator Dave Dick also found himself on the receiving end of one of the Sheriff’s seemingly characteristic tantrums. Here’s an excerpt from Dave’s 2012 book, Wildlife Crime: The Making of an Investigations Officer:

Thursday 20 June 1991. Jedburgh Sheriff Court and Jimmy [a gamekeeper] has got himself a QC – or more correctly, Jimmy’s boss, a wealthy Austrian banker, has got Jimmy a QC. Kevin Drummond, QC, who walks into the Fiscal’s office just before the trial is due to start, where I am having a last-minute conference as was the normal, efficient practice by 1991. Kevin announces that he is going to win this case because Section 19 of the 1981 Act does not permit a constable to enter land and search for evidence. The Fiscal may have been used to this robust, even arrogant approach but I wasn’t and in my naivety, combined with experience of Section 19 in court, I blurted out, “Do you really think that’s what Parliament thought, when they drew this up?” The resulting angry out-burst (‘You may be very good at what you do out there, Mr Dick, but in here, I’m in charge!’) was my first sight of an apparent lack of control which I have since witnessed many times“.

It is without question that Sheriff Drummond has had considerable influence on the approach taken to tackling wildlife crime in Scotland, at both a strategic governmental level as well as on the front-line level in court. That influence has been welcomed by some, while exasperating others.

Today is his 70th birthday and we wish him a long and enjoyable retirement – here’s hoping he doesn’t ‘do a Dysart‘ – we’re all hoping for the start of a new era.

5 thoughts on “So long, Sheriff Drummond”

  1. I’ll restrict my comment [and thanks for the “book plug” by the way!] to saying that I always saw this man as part of the problem, not the answer to wildlife crime. He was an excellent advocate for the shooting community in Scotland. Be aware that there are other Sheriffs in Scotland with a different point of view – those with influence should be actively seeking one out, to take this man’s place in wildlife crime committees.

  2. Good riddance to him, he obviously didn’t believe in true justice, allowing criminals to get away with their crimes.

  3. He will not be sorely missed, in Raptor protection circles anyway! Let’s hope he’s replaced by someone who cares for wildlife and the environment and is willing to see true justice brought against wildlife persecuting criminals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s