Current laws banning fox hunting in Scotland are “unworkable” and should be amended, Police Scotland has said.
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, passed in 2002, lacks clarity, individual accountability and provides exceptions which can be exploited, the force argued.
Police Scotland raised its concerns in a submission to the review of Scotland’s hunting laws by Lord Bonomy.
Its submission was one of hundreds of responses to the review published yesterday by the Scottish Government.
The force said terminology such as “stalking”, “searching” or “flushing” were included in the legislation without being defined, resulting in “a certain degree, a level of confusion which can deflect from the original intention (or spirit) of the legislation”.
It added: “To make this legislation more effective and workable, offences need to be simplified and terms expanded. Exceptions to the offence to ‘deliberately hunt a wild animal with a dog’ are multiple and provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend.
“As a consequence of this lack of clarity, the police are on occasion unable to establish the high threshold of evidence required to prove and, ultimately, report cases.”
Hunts are still allowed to use dogs to flush out foxes and chase them, but foxes should be shot, not killed by hounds. Police Scotland said there are occasions where it is “extremely difficult to have guns in place as soon as a fox is located”.
The force said the “current lack of clarity in the legislation can lead to allegations by those opposed to this form of pest control that ‘guns were not in place’ and this presents significant issues for those undertaking a lawful act, as well as those investigating alleged illegal activity”.
The submission added: “If the legislation necessitated the nomination of certain individuals with strict liability for particular actions on the day and created an absolute offence to ‘hunt a wild mammal with a dog’, with the burden of proof on the suspect to show that person was acting in accordance with one of the current exemptions, this would undoubtedly strengthen the legislation and restore its fitness for purpose”.
Welcoming the submission, Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports in Scotland, said: “The vast majority of Scottish people want fox hunting banned. Now is the time for the law to be strengthened. ”