At present there is a report available from a Review Group which was set up in the context of a Ministerial commitment to enhance the enforcement of wildlife crime particularly in relation to the level of penalties imposed. The Group, chaired by Professor Mark Poustie of Strathclyde University reported in 2015.
It is expected that at some stage the penalty for wildlife crime will be increased to 2 years.
This is not enough. If the penalty is less than 3 years it is not regarded as a serious crime and the police are limited in what action they can take in respect of a reported possible crime. They cannot, for instance, set up covert video cameras, and the searches they can undertake in detection of crime are more limited unless a crime is considered serious. The petition requests that the offence for wildlife crime be increased to 3 years. If this petition is much more delayed then it could be that the recommendations of the report will be enacted and a chance will be lost to put it through the Scottish Parliament without much delay.
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLRC) held a meeting on 16th January 2018 at which the Wildlife Crime Annual Report 2016 was discussed. The excellent discussion covered this aspect of this petition.
Detective Chief Superintendent Sean Scott stated: “It is worth pointing out that our operational activity in the deployment of cameras and directed surveillance is clearly bound by strict legislation. Any activity that we might want to carry out in that regard—in relation to any type of crime, and not just wildlife crime—is bound by that legislation. Under the serious crime test and so on, a three-year sentence would have to be applicable, so there are a number of factors before we can even consider deploying cameras in an investigation.” This statement confirms that there are serious difficulties in allowing the police to use or deploy video cameras and conduct some searches in wildlife crime cases unless wildlife crime can be included in the definition of serious crime.