A consultation was launched on 19 July 2019, closing on 16 August 2019 entitled Wildlife Crime Penalties. I have spent some time already trying to justify adding exactly these changes in a further submission to my petition. I am personally delighted that making some wildlife crimes ‘serious’ appears to be now Scottish Government policy. The consultation may be accessed via this page: https://www.gov.scot/publications/wildlife-crime-penalties-consultation/
Here are my proposed responses, not yet finally submitted:
1. The Scottish Government proposes that the maximum penalties for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing or taking of wild animals should be strengthened. Do you agree?
The government has carried out research which clearly shows that wildlife killing is still going on, likely associated with driven grouse shooting and possibly other shooting interests. The deterrent effect of increased penalties, together with the increased police powers of investigation when a crime is serious, may well help to bring this dreadful situation to an end, eve without convictions.
2. Do you agree that the maximum prison sentence available for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, should be increased to five years imprisonment?
As this is above the threshold for making a crime serious, 5 years is at a reasonable level.
3. Do you agree that the upper limit on fines for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, should be unlimited?
Most of those convicted of wildlife offences are gamekeepers. Clearly there is no need for unlimited fines in these cases. As the same crime may be perpetrated under vicarious conviction, and the responsible person may be receiving over time millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, a large fine may well be appropriate.
4. Do you agree that the maximum prison sentence available for other wildlife offences including the disturbance of animals or damage of nests/shelters should be increased to twelve months imprisonment?
This is a reasonable compromise.
5. Do you agree that the upper limit on fines for other wildlife offences including the disturbance of animals or damage of nests/shelters should be increased to £40,000?
There is a case to be made that the fine should be unlimited in the case od vicarious liability, but the figure of £40,000 is not unreasonable.
6. Do you agree that the statutory time limit for wildlife crime offences that may be prosecuted under summary procedure only, e.g. the intentional or reckless taking, damage or destruction of nests under section 1(1)(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, should be increased to six months from which sufficient evidence came to the knowledge of the prosecutor, but no more than three years from the date of the offence?
7. Do you agree that we should allow some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, to be tried under solemn proceedings before a jury in court?
This is a necessary consequence of the increase of maximum sentence.
8. Please use this question to provide any other commentary or observations you have on the proposal to increase the available penalties for wildlife crimes.
I am pleased that the Scottish Government is taking some action in relation to the continued persecution of wild animals.