You’ll recall last month that the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment (RACCE) Committee took evidence on wildlife crime, following the publication of the Government’s 2013 annual report on wildlife crime in Scotland.
We said at the time that the RACCE Committee were a pretty well-informed bunch and, with the publication of their letter to the new Environment Minister Aileen McLeod, we continue to be impressed.
It is clear from their letter that they are no push-over, and that they intend to hold the Minister, as well as Police Scotland and the Crown Office, to account. Good on them!
The letter sets outs their views on the issues that were discussed during the two hearings. These include their continuing concerns about the inconsistent presentation of data in the annual wildlife crime reports; their concerns about recorded wildlife crimes being ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and how this needs to be addressed; continuing concerns about police under-resourcing; and a suggestion that PAW Scotland should include incidents of poison baits and illegal traps in their annual wildlife crime mapping exercise. Excellent stuff.
There is a rather pointed comment about Police Scotland’s last press release on the Ross-shire Massacre, basically agreeing with the general view that their press release was ridiculous (although they’re a bit more diplomatic than that, obviously). Talking of that press release, has anyone had a response from Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham about his claim that other agencies had supported that press release (see here)? We haven’t heard a word from him, even though he was asked for information on 31st October – we’d be interested to know if anyone else has received a reply or if ACC Graham is ignoring everyone? If he is, then we’ll be encouraging you to contact the Information Commissioner to seek a review.
Staying on the Ross-shire Massacre for a minute, there’s also a claim in the RACCE’s letter that Police Scotland undertook “a full review” of the inquiry, including the investigative approach, the media strategy and the forensic investigation, and that “this process has involved partners including RSPB Scotland and the SSPCA”. Really? Disppointingly, the RACCE Committee didn’t ask to see the results of that “full review” and instead just commented that “once the case has concluded, Police Scotland and PAW Scotland are asked to consider what lessons are to be learned for the future”. Let’s be realistic here – this case isn’t going to ‘conclude’ – it’s been nearly nine months since 22 raptors were killed in a mass-poisoning with a banned poison and nobody has been arrested, let alone charged. The lessons need to be learned now, not in three years time when everyone has forgotten about it.
The letter also includes the Committee’s concerns about the poor detection and conviction rates associated with wildlife crime, and suggests that these crimes are “insufficiently prioritised” by COPFS. We’re greatly looking forward to the publication of a forthcoming report that will examine, amongst other issues, the detection and conviction rates of some wildlife crimes in Scotland. The report is due out shortly and apparently there’ll be a presentation on its findings at the BAWC Wildlife Crime Conference in March. Should be interesting.
All in all then, a promising letter from the RACCE Committee and we’ll wait with interest to read the new Environment Minister’s response.
Download the letter here: RACCE letter to Env Minister re Wildlife Crime Dec 2014