Tough wildlife laws must be brought in now, but don’t expect any action from the Westminster government.


Cop and kite cropped

Police officer Sgt Phil Canning holding an illegally poisoned red kite.

?RSPB Scotland and OneKind call for full implementation of wildlife crime review findings. Charities are demanding the Scottish Government take urgent action to tighten up punishments for wildlife crime.

A high level report has made 10 recommendations for dealing with the problem – and MSPs have been urged to translate the findings into law as soon as possible.

The Scottish Government commissioned review of wildlife crime reported back this week.

Among the remedies recommended were the greater use of forfeiture, systematic use of impact statements in court, new sentencing guidelines and consolidation of wildlife legislation.

The report recommends increasing penalties on summary conviction to £40,000 and up to 12 months in prison, or five years in prison on indictment. 

It concludes that penalties for wildlife crimes have fallen behind those for other types of environmental crime, and that fine levels for many of these crimes have not kept pace with inflation. For too long, wild animals have been categorised in terms of pest species or populations to be managed

For example, one of the most common fines for wildlife crime was set at £5,000 30 years ago and it has remained at this level.

Accounting for inflation alone it should have increased to over £17,000. In comparison, the maximum penalties for many pollution offences have increased 20 fold.

RSPB Scotland welcomed the review, but urged action.

The charity’s head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said: “Scotland has some of the best wildlife protection laws in Europe, but in recent years, the penalties imposed by the courts, when prosecutions have been successful, have been inconsistent for similar offences.

They have also largely failed to reflect the actual or potential conservation impact of the offences, and whether the offending was carried out in the course of employment, often with the aim of financial gain.

“We wholeheartedly support the recommendations made in this review and hope these are implemented in full.”

The report also recommends that people convicted of wildlife offences should be referred to educational programmes. This was a suggestion made by Scottish group OneKind.

Policy Advisor Libby Anderson said: “We are very pleased to see these recommendations, and hope that the government will implement them quickly. They would do much to deter wildlife crime and animal cruelty and are long overdue.

“As well as increasing the level of fines, the group has recommended that support for education and training in empathy for those convicted of crimes to animals. For too long, wild animals have been categorised in terms of pest species or populations to be managed, without acknowledging that they are sentient individuals with capacity to suffer.

“While stronger penalties will undoubtedly have a deterrent effect, OneKind is convinced that teaching people the inherent value of wild animals, and the impact of human actions on their welfare, is also needed if we are to end wildlife crime.”

Scotland’s environment minister Aileen McLeod, who is also chair of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, said: “Wildlife crime poses a real risk to our natural heritage and has a detrimental effect on the people of Scotland who want to enjoy seeing Scotland’s wildlife on their doorstep, but also more widely to Scotland as a whole.

“It is vital that the available penalties are an adequate deterrent and properly reflect the impact these crimes can have on Scotland’s environment and wildlife tourism industry.

“The Scottish Government has already taken action to put an end to the illegal poisoning and killing of birds of prey, and I will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to see an end to these unacceptable activities, targeting our wildlife, which continue to take place.

“I will carefully consider all the recommendations and will make a further announcement on how we intend to take this work forward.”


5 comments to Tough wildlife laws must be brought in now, but don’t expect any action from the Westminster government.

  • The law should be enforced and that enforcement has to be employed to make those thinking of breaking the law to reconsider their intention

  • keith mills

    Whilst whole hardheartedly agreeing with the above article, i think the British public not just members of this site need to keep things in perspective. Is it right that someone can be punished far more severely for a wildlife crime eg, shooting a buzzard for example, than beating up an old lady! The whole justice system in my opinion is far to soft with its punishments generally. Perhaps like when CB Radios were illegal (subsequently legalized) there is a case to de criminalize certain aspects and re look at the actual needs and seriousness of certain crimes. There are good arguments for certain species to be down listed, good arguments from several quarters to allow control of certain species, not that i agree, but holding on to this protect at all costs attitude quite obviously isn’t working, their has to be some middle ground! hundreds if not thousands of raptors are destroyed every year in the uk illegally, perhaps if rigorous licensing was allowed to remove “problem birds” or relocation into falconry, then the behind the scenes persecution might not be quite so bad. Holding on to a protect at all costs whilst admirable, just isnt working and never will.

    Editor’s Comment. If god forbid, licenses were introduced on a wider scale allowing the removal of as you say ‘problem birds’ then all the birds nesting or attempting to breed on or close to game shoots, would quickly become a problem. Where do you stop?

    Let us put it another way, for far too long estates for example who employ gamekeepers to protect and manage grouse moors already use a form of raptor control, its called persecution, and its illegal. This must stop before licenses should even be considered. Should we consider licensing bank robbers to
    carry on their illegal activities, but in a controlled form? Of course not. Both activities are illegal, so why should specific criminals be permitted to use a licence to allow them to carry out their illegal activities legally?

  • Albert Ross

    I agree with Hon Editor. Permission to destroy a wild creature should be used very sparingly if at all.
    We are not dealing with isolated ‘problem’ creatures here but the natural acts of wildlife into whose natural behaviour we are attempting to intrude for our own unnatural acts for financial gain.

    I do agree with Keith that the punishment for illegal killing of a buzzard should not equate that for beating up an old lady. The answer is NOT to reduce the penalty for the former but to increase the penalty for the latter. Courts are far too soft on ‘anti social crime’ and need some backbone.
    Perhaps the SNP with its much increased strength in both Parliaments could show a lead and provide Alean McCleod with the powers to translate her fine words into action!

    Editor’s Comment. We were talking last week with a pheasant gamekeeper, what he told us was very revealing. Of all the pheasants released on his estate to be shot, as a rule of thumb there would be at least 30% of those birds released left over at the close of the shooting season. We agree this figure may be lower on some estates and higher on others. In addition he also informed us any gamekeeper worth his salt, could with a little work protect the majority of his poults inside their pens.

  • keith mills

    I didn’t put my point across particularly eloquently did i?
    The point i was trying to make was, most raptors in the UK today are commoner than ever before, goshawks once considered extinct in the uk are now flourishing in good numbers every where, Peregrines are now a common site in most cities, never ever known before. nesting on virtually every cathedral, open cast, quarry and in the most unlikely/unsuitable places. it is in the traditional strongholds where they are doing badly. ie shooting estates. But to my mind there are other people with other interests, such as shooters, pigeon fanciers etc.. Who have a grievance with these birds. To totally dismiss their point of view to me is not helpful. I do not and will not condone the killing of a single raptor, legally or illegally, but the total protect at any cost attitude is not helpful or useful, there has got to be a better way! i haven’t got the answers but we need to think outside the box on this one as everything else we have tried just hasn’t worked?

    Editor’s Comment. Keith you are incorrect about the status in England of the goshawk. The goshawk continues to be heavily persecuted throughout most of its range, particularly close to grouse moors, both in the Forest of Bowland, Cumbria in particular in the northern Pennines. In some regions of the highlands persecution is still a real problem as recent RSPB video footage taken at a goshawk nest demonstrated.

  • keith mills

    I have to agree but at the same time disagree with you. Goshawks considering they were extinct in the UK a hundred years ago, are wide spread and doing very well. Yes they are widely persecuted, probably more than any other species in my opinion, they are a killing machine and all game keepers hate them. because of their habitat and habits their destruction probably go’s more under recorded than any other species, You say “particularly close to grouse moors” well that says it all dosnt it! However they are nesting in lowland areas but when i have attempted to report sites i have been told that the authorities are only monitoring upland species? Their not common in south east Northumberland where i live , but there are still quite a few pairs, and are not that an uncommon site around here. This site seems to be fixated on the forest of Bowland! understandably considering whats happening there. But i don’t think it is particularly exceptional in the level of persecution being witnessed there, it is a nationwide problem being played out nationally. As far as the goshawk is concerned, if the “experts” who do the surveys were to open their eyes and minds, look where they would least expect to find them, i think they might well get a pleasant surprise.