RACCE committee writes to new Environment Minister re: wildlife crime

RACCEYou’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 blogged about the evidence given by Police Scotland and the Crown Office (here) and the evidence from (now former) Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse (here).

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

4 thoughts on “RACCE committee writes to new Environment Minister re: wildlife crime”

  1. I’ve had no reply to my letter to the politzei either. So he’s ignoring everyone – should we organise a concerted reaction to this? As a journalist, I scent a wee news story here. Let me know what you think, and I can call some of my contacts if that’d help. Best regards Fiona

    Sent from my iPad


  2. This is surely a significant and welcome step forward in our fight, and should be applauded. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but the first sighting always gives us hope that more will soon follow. RPS, please keep any eye on progress and inform us ‘southerners’ of any attempted response from the great unwashed. You are doing a great job.

  3. I’ve watched the whole 2 hours RACCE committee session with ACC Malcolm Graham, DCS Robbie Allan and PF Patrick Hughes which was informative and interesting.

    There is a reply from Patrick Hughes in relation to the percentage of cases where no further proceedings were taken forward: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_RuralAffairsClimateChangeandEnvironmentCommittee/General%20Documents/2014.11.12_-_COPFS_wildlife_crime_response.pdf
    According to him only in two cases of the 27 did the procurators fiscal exercised their prosecutorial discretion to mark the case “No Action”.

    The admissibility of video evidence is mentioned in the letter from the RACCE Committee:
    “The Committee also shares the view of the COPFS that there should be no endorsement of any conduct which attempts to circumvent the provisions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (RISPA).”

    I’m aware that both RSPB Scotland and SSPCA employs surveillance techniques, and that these techniques are most likely being authorised by senior persons (who are in a position comparable to a chief constable). Under RIP(S)A only certain “individuals holding such offices, ranks or positions with relevant public authorities” are entitled to grant authorisation of surveillance and CHIS. This, quite clearly means that members of the public or employees of NGOs are not entitled to grant such authorisations. But I would argue that this does not mean that members of the public or indeed employees of NGOs cannot themselves carry out surveillance or be Covert Human Intelligence Sources. By doing so they would might risk breaking other relevant criminal laws (or the Human Rights Act 1998), but I’m struggling to see how could they “circumvent” RIP(S)A. And in any case, the question of admissibility of evidence acquired by non-police agencies who use such techniques has very little to do with RIP(S)A and I believe Patrick Hughes was quite clear on this point when he said that it’s a “balancing exercise”, and that “RIPSA applies only to public authorities such as the police. For our purposes, the police are the only reporting agency that is in a position to use RIPSA”

  4. There were number of claims that were very obviously incorrect:
    ” water bailiffs rarely use their powers and rely on the police”

    ” police report most instances of crimes involving animal welfare”

    What an utter load of nonsense.
    Waterbailffs use their own powers in almost all instances.

    Sspca report the most cases involving the welfare of animals.

    These claims are obviously intended to misguide the committee and the public in an attempt to pretend the crown office and police are able to deal with the current levels of crimes against wild animals.
    How can they possibly qualify these claims.
    Honesty ,accountability and transparency who are they trying to kid.
    Things are broken and need fixing why try and pretend otherwise.these claims only result in further distrust and dissatisfaction.
    Police absence of results speak for themselves.

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