New Scottish wildlife crime investigator appointed

Press release from National Wildlife Crime Unit & Nature Scot (formerly SNH), 15 January 2021

Tackling raptor persecution, poaching and hare coursing will be the top priorities for a new wildlife crime specialist covering all of Scotland, appointed late last year.

As the Investigative Support Officer for Scotland for the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), PC Gavin Ross will be a source of expertise in wildlife crime at both the local and national level. He will work with individual police wildlife liaison officers, NGOs, the Scottish Government, NatureScot, RSPB, the SSPCA and Scottish Land and Estates. The position is funded by NatureScot.

PC Ross was the local community police officer for Dunbar, and has 21 years of police service and an extensive background in wildlife crime issues, community policing, problem solving and educational work.

Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Ben Macpherson, said: “Wildlife crime is despicable and tackling it has been a long-standing priority for the Scottish Government. We work closely with a number of agencies to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. The Animals and Wildlife Act, which recently became law, increases the maximum penalties for the most serious wildlife crimes and extends the time available to Police Scotland to investigate.

The work of the National Wildlife Crime Unit is hugely valued by communities across Scotland and we are committed to supporting it. I look forward to working with PC Ross in the future and congratulate him on his new role.

PC Ross said: “When I was in Edinburgh, very early in my service, I became involved in investigating wildlife crime because of my interest and experience in this area. I’ve been a part-time wildlife crime officer throughout my whole service and the new job is the pinnacle of my career. I worked very hard preparing for my interview and was very keen to secure the job, which is a dream post. I am looking forward to settling into the role and working with all the different partner agencies which are so important in the fight against wildlife crime.

In the six weeks I’ve been in post I’ve concentrated on meeting many of the partner agencies we work with in wildlife crime. Unfortunately most of the meetings have had to be done virtually but I feel they have all been really positive and I look forward to building on these initial foundations, especially when we can meet face to face.”

The Head of the NWCU, Ch Insp Hubble said, “I was extremely pleased when PC Ross was successfully appointed as our new Scottish ISO and I am sure he is going to be a valuable asset to policing wildlife crime.”

Andy Turner, NatureScot Wildlife Crime Officer added: “Eliminating wildlife crime is huge priority for us, which is why we’ve provided funding for this post since 2014. Wildlife crime doesn’t just cause irreparable damage to Scotland’s nature: it also affects tourism, which in turn impacts on the economy. We are committed to working with NWCU, Police Scotland and other members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) to tackle this challenging issue.

We worked closely with Gavin’s predecessor Charlie Everitt to prevent wildlife crime and raise awareness.  I look forward to continuing to this important work with Gavin and the NWCU in the future.”

NWCU’s main role is to assist in the prevention and detection of wildlife crime by obtaining and distributing information from a wide range of organisations and by helping police forces investigate wildlife crimes. NWCU also produce analysis which highlights local or national threats.

The appointment of PC Ross comes after the retirement of PC Charlie Everitt, who had spent the last 11 years developing the role of Scottish ISO within the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Charlie furthered countless operations, provided expert advice to police wildlife liaison officers and acted as the key central point of contact between the police and a vast range of partner agencies. Charlie was well known throughout the Scottish wildlife crime arena and his professional knowledge, enthusiasm, and willingness to assist were beyond question. PC Ross recognised he had “big shoes to fill.”


18 thoughts on “New Scottish wildlife crime investigator appointed”

  1. Did I read this right?
    “Tackling raptor persecution, poaching and hare coursing will be the top priorities for a new wildlife crime specialist covering all of Scotland, appointed late last year”
    Top priority but only one singe officer covering the whole of Scotland, just doesn’t seem like top priority to me.

    [Ed: Hi David, I think you may have misunderstood the role, which isn’t helped by the job title. I think Gavin’s main role is to act as a point of liaison between wildlife crime officers across Scotland and partner agencies, i.e. those who are reporting suspected offences, providing intelligence on suspected offenders etc. He can offer specialist advice and provide context and overview to local cops who may not be in a position/have sufficient experience to see the bigger picture]

    1. Like most such bulletins in Scotland, the whole piece inadequately describes the role in favour of bold assertions and expectations.

      1. I am less than clear as to what PC Gavin Ross can realistically be expected to achieve.
        It seems to me that the longstanding failure to make progress in eliminating (Sc. Gov. cannot achieve reduction, never mind elimination) raptor persecution is not down to shortcomings at ground level, but is attributable to “inadequacies” at senior levels within government.

        “Andy Turner, NatureScot Wildlife Crime Officer added: “Eliminating wildlife crime is huge priority for us, which is why we’ve provided funding for this post since 2014.”

        That statement is typical of the trumpery that is churned out. “Eliminating wildlife crime is huge priority for us, which is why we’ve provided funding for this post since 2014.”

        “Huge priority” ………. really ?

        And no, Nature Scotland did not provide funding – taxpayers did that, as they do for just about every other failure.

    2. Hi, thank you for the clarification. From what I have seen and read so far, he’s going to be a very busy person! Let’s hope he is successful in getting more prosecutions. Does the same position exist in England?

  2. I cannot help bit wonder if this guy was hand picked rather like the unatural scotland ,engish nature and such seem to have been (for their co-operration with the land owners and such).

    [Ed: Alan, how about giving him a chance instead of damning him as soon as he walks through the door? For the record, he made a point of making contact with RPUK and we had a long conversation about a lot of things. He’d clearly done his homework and was incredibly well informed. I’m aware he’s had similar conversations with all sorts of people. If liaison is his objective then he’s off to an excellent start]

    1. Lets see if this makes any difference nothing has so far and you will have to excuse my pessimism but I do not think this appointment will make one jot of difference because the political will to sort this issue does not exist. I hooted with laughter not long ago when a pal of Boris said natural England was underfunded . No matter how much money is said to habe been spent until the political will is there to enforce the law nothing will change.

    2. Agree with the Ed on this one..I remember Gavin from his early days as a Wildlife Liaison Officer…a long time back but the fact Ive got positive memories is a case for optimism. I wish him the best of luck..he sounds keen.

  3. Good luck – but sadly not holding my breath unless all the devolved Governments and Westminister get a grip of the problem.

  4. A new officer is assigned to an old role because of a retirement so the pots, pans and whistles are banged and blown with it being presented in a form that is over the top to say the least. This might raise the expectations of a few but i have to comment that this role, present for a number of years now, has saw very, very little change in catching, bringing to court and securing a convictions of those involved in raptor persecutions.
    The cynic in me sighs when I see “poaching and hare coursing will be the top priorities” stressed as I had always thought that the case. Poachers of that nature tend to be local and well known and, accordingly, not that difficult to catch so why local police are experiencing any difficulties in that area God only knows.
    Strangely enough those who persecute raptors also tend to be both local (at least temporarily) and well known too but very difficult to catch.
    What is the difference?
    The relationship of the criminal to the landowners who have great power locally.
    Nuff said!

  5. Sad to hear Charlie Everitt has retired. He gave a talk on wildlife crime to a photography club that I was a member of, which was very well received. He is also a talented and published wildlife and landscape photographer. Personally I found him very responsive on the couple of occasions I sent him information. Good luck to the new officer.

  6. Coming from Dunbar is one good thing. If he’d done all his years of community beat work in say, Lauder or Kelso, then the cynic in me wouldn’t be too optimistic of his following up reports against the big and influential Estates with much vigour. Good luck to him anyway.

    1. Is poaching such a problem are poachers involved in the persecition of raptors the grouse shooting industry is glad of a bit pf poaching after all they are trying to elimate mountain hares by any means for their bloody money making schemes so catching some poachers would not impress me at all this new appointment may well be a nice sincere guy BUT without the backing of the lawmakers he will make no difference at all.

  7. I am sure this officer will be well meaning, dedicated and work with enthusiasm.
    But he will be operating within the constraints of a system that is both prejudicial to bringing the wildlife criminals to justice and really protecting raptors and other wildlife.
    Without changes in legislation, and giving the police better investigative powers when dealing with wildlife crimes, the appointment will make little difference to the current state of affairs.

    Raptor crimes occur on remote bits of moorland, away from the gaze of potential witnesses.
    It doesn’t really matter what is discussed in partnership meetings, as it will never be possible to adequately police all the areas where the crimes are occurring.

    The real long term solution to the raptor crime problem will only truly come about when there is a fundamental shift in how moorland is managed, so that any moor managed for grouse shooting becomes a financial millstone to any landowner.
    This could easily be achieved through taxation and applying a heavy land tax to grouse moors which would make owning one financially disastrous.
    This would force landowners to use the land for other purposes.
    (The way to destroy any industry is to price it out of the market.)

    This won’t happen, because there is no political will to implement such a fundamental change.
    Politicians can’t even put in place the necessary legislation to make national parks a safe place for wildlife, so what hope is there of anything so radical as taxing grouse moors.

    48 hen harriers, ‘missing’ or confirmed illegally killed since 2018 suggests to me that despite all the work which has been undertaken, we are barely the scratching the surface of the raptor persecution problem.

    The appointment of a dedicated and committed police officer into a system which isn’t fit for purpose isn’t going to solve the fundamental problems associated with wildlife crimes.

    This isn’t pessimism, this is just being a “realist”.
    And I wish the officer all the best in his new role.

  8. John L (at 0918 is perfectly correct)

    “……………… This won’t happen, because there is no political will to implement such a fundamental change.
    Politicians can’t even put in place the necessary legislation to make national parks a safe place for wildlife ………”

    That is at the root of the problem.
    Those who are running (or is ruining) the show are hypocrites and hoodwinkers. For years the great pretenders have tried to paint a picture of being hard on the criminals, but have succeeded in letting them flourish. 👎

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