We have enclosed the reply sent to one of many concerned members of the public, who signed an open letter sent to Scotland’s Environment Minister by the Scottish Animal welfare charity Onekind following his desision not to prosecute a gamekeeper who had been filmed bludgoning to death several crows which he had trapped inside a crow trap. Stewart Stevenson’s reply is astonishing and could result in many additional witnessed acts of cruelty together with illegal killing of Scottish wildlife captured on film or video being dismissed by the courts simply because they had been witnessed and recorded by a professional individual rather than a member of the public. Just imagine the outrage if at any time in the future an employee of the RSPB recorded an individual in the act of killing a golden eagle; would that evidence also be ruled inadmissible because the person who had witnessed the crime had been employed in a professional capacity? View the ”OneKind” crow killing video here
The minister in his reply to the animal charity stated the following for not prosecuting the gamekeeper, “there is a difference between cases where members of the public come across evidence that seems to point to a wildlife crime, and those cases where a person who is employed as, or is acting in some capacity as, a wildlife crime investigator, reports such evidence.” Can Mr Stevenson please explain what the difference is? Surely a crime is a crime no matter who the witness may have been?
The reply sent by the Scottish Animal Charity Onekind to one of their supporters
Earlier this year, you were kind enough to sign the OneKind open letter to Scotland’s Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, about the killing of seven crows by a man who beat them to death in a cage trap.
Regrettably the Crown Office decided not to proceed with a prosecution in this case, even though it was witnessed and filmed by the OneKind field research and investigations officer. The Crown ruled that the OneKind evidence would be inadmissible.
I wanted to thank you again for your support and give you a brief update. We were delighted to be able to submit our letter with over 2,000 signatures of support. The Minister recently responded with his views on the need for the public to continue to support the fight against wildlife crime.
He wrote: “… the Scottish Government believes it is vital to all our efforts in tackling wildlife crime, for members of the public who come across anything suspicious to report what they have seen to the police.”
The Minister continued: “I would however note that there is a difference between cases where members of the public come across evidence that seems to point to a wildlife crime, and those cases where a person who is employed as, or is acting in some capacity as, a wildlife crime investigator, reports such evidence. It is for the Crown Office to decide on how a court would deal with evidence in either of those cases, and their decision on whether to prosecute a case is final.”
OneKind accepts that the courts may make a difference between a member of the public who comes across a potential offence by chance, and someone who works for an animal welfare or conservation organisation and is actively engaged in looking out for wildlife crime. We’re not so sure that different standards should apply when a field worker from an NGO comes across an incident by chance, just like any other member of the public. Is it unfair on the accused if he happens to be seen by someone with the expertise and equipment to record the evidence of his wrongdoing?
While the outcome of the case is frustrating, with your vital support we did our best to get justice for the crows and we continue to press for greater clarity in the law. The final point in the Minister’s letter was that the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (part of the partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland) is working on guidance for people such as NGO staff or other field workers who come across wildlife crime, and that this might deal with the issues that concern OneKind.
At present the Protocol in question refers only to raptor persecution, rather than all wildlife crime. I have now written to the Group asking for the guidance to be extended to cover offences against all wild animals. Crows may be less glamorous than raptors (to some), but they can suffer just as much.
We’ll keep an open mind, but we do need to remember who is at fault when a crime is committed. It’s the criminal who perpetrates the crime, not the witness. Natural justice for the accused is right and proper, but let’s not do it by blaming the people who are out there trying to protect animals.
Thank you again for your support.
With best wishes,
Policy Director | OneKind