Wildlife crime penalties to rise sharply

Scotland is to introduce some of the toughest penalties in Europe for crimes against wildlife, but Westminster’s control of gun law is preventing the Scottish Government going further.

Golden eagle chicks have been victims of wildlife crimes

A review group chaired by Professor Mark Poustie of Strathclyde University made numerous recommendations for increased fines and penalties for wildlife crime and the Scottish Government has accepted nearly all of them.

The major recommendation that cannot be proceeded with at present is the proposal to withdraw firearms or shotgun certificates, because that legislation is reserved to Westminster.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod nevertheless accepted most of the recommendations from the review group and the Government will now aim to introduce tough new maximum penalties for those who commit crimes against wildlife.

Subject to the necessary legislative steps this could mean fines of up to £40,000 and 12 months imprisonment for certain offences.

The Scottish Government will also take forward a number of other recommendations including greater use of alternative penalties such as forfeiture of equipment used in offences.

There will be greater use of impact statements and there will also be a look into the creation of new sentencing guidelines.

Dr McLeod said: “Wildlife crime has no place in modern Scotland, this is why I have decided to increase the maximum available penalties to bring wildlife offences into line with other environmental crimes.

“It is important we have appropriate penalties that deter criminality but also reflect the impact these crimes can have on our environment and Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination.”

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, welcomed the announcement saying: “Scotland has some of the strongest wildlife legislation in the UK but, ultimately, we need wildlife crime to be seen as completely unacceptable so that gamekeepers, landowners and countryside bodies do not tolerate it.”

Article taken from: http://www.thenational.scot/news/wildlife-crime-penalties-to-rise-sharply.14199

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