Review will target wildlife crime

THE Scottish Government yesterday confirmed a review of the way wildlife crime is investigated and prosecuted is to be carried out.

The review, revealed in The Scotsman yesterday, was announced at Holyrood by Michael Russell, the environment minister.

There were 275 wildlife crimes committed across Scotland last year. The review will also look at how such offences can be prevented in the first place.

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The review will be led by Paddy Tomkins, Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, and Joe O'Donnell, Chief Inspector of Prosecution in Scotland, who will report their findings next spring.

Mr Russell said: "The time is right to look at how crimes against wildlife are dealt with and what we can do to stop them. Wildlife crime is an issue which is becoming increasingly significant in this country, not least the persecution of birds of prey."

He added: "A few weeks ago, I had to hold the corpse of a golden eagle, the victim of a sickening poisoning in Peebleshire. Sadly, that case is just one of a number of recent incidents across Scotland which has appalled the public.

"However, other issues such as poaching, the illegal fishing of pearl mussels, hare coursing and the importation of rare and protected species - dead or alive - also need our attention.

"We are all victims of wildlife crime in that it threatens to diminish the rich natural heritage for which Scotland is world famous, and which is of great importance to our economy."

Mr Russell said the review would "look at how such crimes are investigated and prosecuted and ultimately, how they can be prevented".

The Scotsman has been at the forefront of the fight against wildlife crime and recently joined forces with the SSPCA for the Stop Them Now campaign to tackle the poisoning of eagles.

Frank Mulholland, QC, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, welcomed the review, which he said would provide "unparalleled insight" into wildlife crime.

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He said both he and Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate, Scotland's top prosecutor, would consider its findings carefully. He also told MSPs that they were "committed to acting on the recommendations made".

Mr Mulholland explained that the prosecution service had a dedicated team of specialist wildlife prosecutors across Scotland.

And he added: "The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service take crimes against Scotland's natural heritage seriously.

"We recognise the importance and particular challenges of tackling wildlife crime. That is why the service established a network of wildlife crime specialist prosecutors three years ago.

"I welcome this review as a useful way of looking at what we have achieved, and how we can continue to improve and develop our approach in this area."


THE Scotsman is committed to helping the SSPCA catch those responsible for killing birds of prey and other wildlife. Information about raptor poisonings and other incidents of wildlife crime can be passed to police on 01620 893607.