This has been a traumatic couple of weeks for me. I have no qualifications in Scots Law, which has meant that, although I can understand the general meaning of an Act as well as anyone, and realise that even a minor error may prevent a case from being prosecuted, I do not know how the Scottish legal system works. I have been thinking, incorrectly and only exaggerating slightly, that someone like a lead poisoned grouse shooting Advocate depute paying too much attention to the wishes of ‘The Establishment’ could be behind what I clearly saw as a miscarriage of justice. I was totally wrong. I’m learning fast, but clearly I’m in no way as competent as someone who has studied Scots Law.
The event of the week for me, perhaps, was to issue by the RSPB of
The illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland 2015-17 Report . This is important to me personally because I have been urging the RSPB to be more forthright in their efforts associated with campaigning, whilst at the same time warning of the dangers associated with strong action. I said, for instance that I did not believe the RSPB should have taken out a legal challenge on brood meddling against Natural England currently being heard, but would have been better to state that they admired Mark Avery for his arranging for a Judicial Review and explained to members that doing so themselves may have put the whole future of the RSPB in doubt due to recent legislation enacted by the UK government. I need not dwell on this here, but the strong statements in this report are exactly what I would like the RSPB to do in future on many more issues.
I now feel duty bound to change course on my decision made about my actions in support of the petition. I am now going to act, totally independently of the RSPB, in support of the petition much more aggressively. I appreciate that even the RSPB may not even agree with my position these matters, and I’m not best suited to undertake such a role, but I view the situation in the Scottish Justice system as so serious that I will in this case take as much action in defence of my beliefs as I deem may be effective.
How am I going to achieve that?
- I’m going to admit that I have already written a comment to The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland (IPS). One may believe that this might have an effect until one realises that the IPS has the following functions, to inspect or arrange for the inspection of the operation of COPFS and to report to the Lord Advocate on any matter connected with the operation of COPFS. I’m still not sure if the Lord Advocate is part of COPFS, but it hardly matters; The RSPB report states: “The Lord Advocate replied to us with a somewhat fuller rationale than had initially been provided by COPFS”. Additionally I now know that the Crown Counsel is described on the COPFS website, not as the type of person I suspected of being behind the decision to bring proceedings to an end, but “together the Lord Advocate, Solicitor General and the Advocate Deputes are known as Crown Counsel.” The I in IPS does not stand for independent, unfortunately. I’ll write with my concerns to the Justice Committee in Parliament. I have also found (thanks Mr Google) that I am not alone in my feelings. This BBC article may suggest that COPFS personnel did not on occasion agree with decisions and such decisions may have been imposed. The enquiry by the Justice Committee may be what lies behind this, which I have viewed for a long time as important:
David Harvie, Crown Agent writes to the Justice committee “I was heartened to read that the Committee concluded that the public can have confidence in an effective, rigorous, fair and independent COPFS.” Whether the COPFS is independent depends on whether the Lord Advocate is in the COPFS. If not, the Justice committee is wrong if they decided that. The IPS is not independent despite the statement confirming this on their website, and the Lord Advocate and Crown Counsel are well placed to enforce decisions, stifle or suppress the result any investigation of the matters which concern me. It would only take short interviews of the heads of department in COPFS to establish if they are also concerned. How can the IPS be expected to act if my suspicions relating to the views of the head of department in the wildlife crime unit of COPFS and/or others are correct. I wrote, when I first heard of the Tillypronie case as a comment on Mark Avery’s blog on 3rd April, 2018: “This whole affair stinks to high heaven. As far as the public have been led to believe, two proceeding cases were abandoned by the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service in association with the Scottish Crown Office. These cases were to use evidence from concealed cameras placed by the RSPB. It seemed strange, if not a conspiracy to defeat the course of justice, at the time it was announced. This is a third case where evidence obtained from a concealed RSPB camera not only did not proceed to court but was hidden from the public by SNH. It was dealt with by means of a general licence restriction on an individual, whom you may not know but clearly the police and SNH could readily identify. The legitimate question arises; was the decision not to prosecute influenced by the owner of the estate who could, even without a prosecution, have ended up in court himself, and why was he not prosecuted? We can of course never know if a case was prepared. Conspiracy theorists could also ask the following, with the knowledge, if true, gleaned from the Guardian piece: Did this video evidence have any influence on the decision not to continue with the prosecution of the other 2 cases? Was the Philip Astor factor relevant in this whole sorry saga? Did this have a bearing on the sale of the estate? Is the Scottish Legal System still vastly skewed towards the desires of the large land owners? Will the Scottish Parliament take any concrete steps towards allowing video evidence to be used in such cases?” I made many mistakes in this comment, of which I am now aware, but my feelings of outrage are unchanged.
- I am part way through writing a submission to the Public Petitions Committee which I need to do to ensure that the wrong Act is not amended. I’m now going to introduce the committee members to the Tillypronie case, my concerns about the independence of the IPS, my support for the RSPB document, despite my personal even stronger feelings about the matter, and probably many more issues. I did say in my petition: “This petition seeks to side with those members of the Crown Office who thought these prosecutions should proceed under the present Law.” It would do no harm to give my reasons for making this statement and amplifying it a great deal.
I was going to stay silent on these 2 matters above as I was concerned that it may harm my petition. The RSPB has stepped up to the mark. I, as an individual, can hopefully contribute a great deal and say things which the RSPB will not, for understandable reasons. It may well not harm my petition, but I have decided to take the risk if it does.