MSPs call for improved detection rates of wildlife crime

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Red kiteImage source, dean bricknell
Image caption,
Sixteen red kites were found dead in the Highlands earlier this year

Rates of wildlife crime detection and prosecution must be improved, MSPs have said.

The rural affairs, climate change and environment committee held an inquiry scrutinising the Scottish government's 2013 annual report on offences.

The committee members said the evidence it heard included Police Scotland's belief that there were crimes happening that were not being reported.

The MSPs said they welcomed government efforts to better protect wildlife.

The committee has sent a six-page letter to new Environment Minister Aileen McLeod setting out key issues from the inquiry. They include:

  • Concerns that criminal proceedings only appear to be taken in around one fifth of the instances of wildlife crime reported to police, and of these 20.7% are then marked for "no action" by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • The concern of former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse that certain species are almost entirely absent in areas of Scotland where it is expected they would be present
  • The need for the location of wildlife crimes, including locations of illegally placed poisons and traps, to be effectively and consistently mapped
  • The committee's welcoming of steps being taken by Scottish Natural Heritage and police to restrict general licences to trap and shoot wild birds

Incidents of wildlife crime that MSPs discussed included the deaths of 22 raptors in the Highlands earlier this year.

Committee convener Rob Gibson, who described the killing of the 16 red kites and six buzzards as "appalling", said: "As awareness of the scope and complexity of wildlife crime increases, we strongly believe there is no room for complacency from any of us in tackling this important issue.

"We questioned whether wildlife crime is sufficiently prioritised by Police Scotland and the Crown Office.

"We heard that the answer is 'yes', therefore we expect to see an improvement in the detection and prosecution rates for wildlife crime in future years."

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