Cabrach hen harrier shooting reaches First Minister’s Question Time

Today at First Minister’s Question Time, Richard Lochhead MSP (Moray, SNP) asked the following question:

The First Minister may be aware that there is huge disappointment and some shock following the decision by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service after a prolonged police investigation—and I am told, nine separate court hearings—to drop the case relating to the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier in the Cabrach in my constituency in 2013. The Crown Office appears to have taken the view that the video footage supplied by the RSPB Scotland was inadmissible, despite such evidence being accepted in the past. Notwithstanding the progress that has been made by ministers in recent years to tackle wildlife crime, will the First Minister acknowledge that that case represents a serious crime against a threatened species? Given that wildlife crime is very difficult to detect, because most often it takes place in remote areas, will she acknowledge that the law and the approach of the Crown Office must take into account such factors? I ask the First Minister whether she would be willing to investigate this case, with a view to ensuring that the justice system does not miss any opportunity to hold to account those who illegally kill our endangered species?

The First Minister responded:

I agree with Richard Lochhead. As he well understands, decisions about the prosecution of crime are, of course, decisions for the Crown Office and in that respect law officers act independently of ministers. However, it is important that we take wildlife crime very seriously indeed, particularly in cases where, as Richard Lochhead has highlighted, it threatens a threatened species. I will be happy to ask the relevant minister, Roseanna Cunningham, to meet with Richard Lochhead to look at what more we can do, particularly taking into account his point about those crimes often taking place in remote areas and, therefore, being more difficult to detect. It is important that we make sure that the policy framework, the law around this and the decisions that are taken by the Crown Office in respect of prosecutions—although, as I say, it is independent of ministers—do everything possible to crack down on those kinds of crime. I assure Richard Lochhead that we will continue to do everything that we can to make sure that that is the case.

Well done, and thank you, Richard Lochhead. More of this, please.

21 thoughts on “Cabrach hen harrier shooting reaches First Minister’s Question Time”

  1. Sadly, the only action that will stop the continued illegal persecution of our raptors is a mass walk over grouse moors on August 12th on certain estates, other days also targeted when scheduled driven shoots are planned. As guests understand their ‘sport’ will be disrupted, their aborted shoots will result in less finance for these estates. Of course, the loss in revenue would be more than compensated if such estates provided facilities for twitchers who would flock to see and record such rare fauna. The complex management of grouse moors, including selective burning to produce the required mix of different aged heather, is heyond the comprehension and ability of those who only understand destruction. Taxation and grant removals from estates which show an absence or low level of raptors w.r.t. an audit for the size of the estate, habitat availability, and its expected representation of various other fauna and also flora would be of immesurable help. Biodiversity shows sound management rather thsn the dearth of certain species whose low representations act as indicators of very poor and abusive management.

    1. Agreed. Direct action is the only viable course for change right now. Maybe that will change in the future, but right now it is direct action or no action.

      1. Tempting though it might seem, I believe this kind of action would be a godsend to ‘the opposition’. I’m quite sure they would happily infiltrate such occasions, and cause heaven-knows what kind of damage, which would be blamed on the raptor supporters. (Think coal-miner strikes, football ‘supporter’ fights) There are now far more people talking about these crimes than ever before, both public and in governments. Slow though it might often seem, continually chipping away at the base of these ‘traditions’ and educating our youngsters properly, is gradually showing just what cruelty and crimes are the backbone of these ‘sports’. People who do the investigating, such as this site, are the lynch-pin to provide the evidence needed to back up our case. They are fantastic!

  2. I wrote to some of my MSP’s after the RP UK blog and have received replies from Claudia Beamish and Finlay Carson. The former said that the Env. Committee was due to discuss the situation and the latter has told me he WILL raise the issue with the Justice Minister. I have asked for a reply given the strong public anger felt about the reluctance to properly account for the outcome. We’ll see!

  3. Well done to Richard Lochhead for raising this issue with the Nicola Sturgeon. May this be the first of many questions on raptor persecution to the First Minister.

  4. Well done to Richard Lochhead and all those concerned.

    At the risk of repetition, I repeat NS’s words “Well done, and thank you, Richard Lochhead. More of this, please.”

    The law is for the public benefit of the many not just the few? So maybe pushing water uphill in a colander is beginning to be heard in the corridors of power?

    More of this, please and keep up the excellent work RPUK.

  5. I’m sorry but I’m going to repeat it again. Thank you Richard Lochhead, a big well done.
    Now lets get shooting estates licensed, give the SSPCA the extra investigation powers and for goodness sake allow video evidence in these cases.

  6. I think the First Minister’s response is interesting and encouraging too. “I agree with Richard Lochhead….It is important that we make sure that the policy framework, the law around this and the decisions that are taken by the Crown Office in respect of prosecutions …. do everything possible to crack down on those kinds of crime. I assure Richard Lochhead that we will continue to do everything that we can to make sure that that is the case.”

    I know that we can all get frustrated at times but the pressure is beginning to produce incremental change, albeit glacially, in Scotland. We just have to keep up the constant pressure using good science, reasoned argument, a measured tone and the power of social media and we will eventually achieve the change that we all crave. Chin up girls and boys!

    1. Agreed, however the week link in that chain is going to be Roseanne Cunningham who has remained embarrasingly quiet throughout theis whole sad incident, as has the Hen Harrier Champion (dont make me laugh) Mairi Evans, the sooner she gives that back the better.

      1. I agree Rosanna Cunningham has been quiet not only on this issue but on wildlife crime in general.

        Up to now has failed to deliver.

        SNP have done very little on environmental issues……

        The Greens are increasingly becoming a better proposition.

  7. Well Ms First Minister you can start by making it illegal for the person from the Crown Office who deals with the case, to have ever have had any contact whatsoever with the accused or their lawyers.

  8. Encouraging that Richard Lochead has brought the issue to the Scottish Parliament, but the Crown Office should be accountable to the electorate. You know the ones who pay their nice salaries and pensions.

  9. I remember speaking to the RSPB’s Roy Dennis, back in the late-70’s, to report the use of poisoned bait against Golden Eagles in the Durness area. I am dismayed to see, 40 years later, the extent to which the battle is still on-going.
    The fact is, it is extremely difficult to take on any strands of intertwined establishment power, especially those who have, for so long, fostered a policy of perpetuation in covering each other’s backs.
    Ultimately what’s needed is a comprehensive programme of land reform, to open up the numerous protected playgrounds of the privileged. These areas can then be used to develop and promote more diverse and ethically run land use, while still retaining their intrinsic importance as part of our national environmental heritage. I don’t know about general MSPs … but has anyone sought to engage the support of high profile and active campaigners in this field, people such as Andy Wightman and/or Lesley Riddoch …?

  10. The owner of Cabrach Estate Christopher Moran moves in the right circles this is the bottom line [Ed: thanks, Tracey but the rest of this comment has been deleted as potentially defamatory]

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