ANNEX D: UPDATE ON WILDLIFE CRIME
A report compiled jointly by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland on the arrangements for preventing and investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime was published in April 2008.
This joint report had been commissioned by the then Minister for the Environment Michael Russell and supported by Frank Mulholland, the Solicitor General for Scotland. It was subject to a debate in the Scottish Parliament in May 2008.
It followed widespread concern about increases in wildlife crime in Scotland particularly in relation to the killing of raptors.
24 recommendations were made in the report, seven of which related to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Again all these recommendations were accepted by the respective parties and it was decided that both inspectorates would do an update for Ministers. This was reported to Ministers in November 2009.
The update reflected good progress being made by the Scottish Government and key partners in developing an effective national structure - PAWS (Partnership Against Wildlife crime in Scotland) to deliver a national strategy. Considerable work had been undertaken to raise awareness of wildlife crime which had involved the media and the creation of a PAWS website. The media remained an important conduit for getting messages about wildlife crime across to the public.
In relation to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service it was found that their champion maintained a high profile nationally both within the COPFS and with other relevant agencies. The follow up inspection found that there had been further implementation in relation to specialist wildlife prosecutors which had been highly commended in our original report and better communication with wildlife enforcement agencies was noted. A training needs assessment had been carried out in accordance with our recommendations and a number of the specialists reported that they were benefiting from increased and improved training.
The follow up report again highlighted the difficulties in successful prosecution of many kinds of wildlife crime which take place in geographically remote areas where the early discovery of the crime and consequential safeguarding of evidence or indeed availability of eyewitness evidence are difficult or unlikely. The evidential difficulties concerning this type of illegal activity remain a high hurdle in securing successful prosecution. In this context the follow up report noted that the legislation, regulation and guidance sub-group of PAWS was intending to take forward a review of the law of vicarious liability. This followed one of our recommendations. The sub-group considered whether it would be appropriate to place any provision for criminal vicarious liability before Parliament for its consideration on this matter.
In general good progress had been made by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in implementation of those aspects of the joint report which related exclusively to the Service.