New specialist prosecutors to be appointed – historic or rhetoric?

The prosecution of wildlife and environmental crime is to be enhanced by the appointment of a team of full-time prosecutors, the Solicitor General Frank Mulholland QC has announced.

A team of three specialists will investigate, mark and prosecute all cases involving crimes against wildlife and the environment in Scotland. Their remit will also include cases of animal cruelty.

The team will be managed by Tom Dysart, Area Procurator Fiscal for Ayrshire, who currently leads the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in this area of law.

They will be supported by Alex Prentice QC, Assistant Principal Advocate Depute. He was appointed Crown Counsel for wildlife cases in February 2010 and will present the Crown case in any criminal appeals.

The appointment of full-time specialists builds on work already undertaken by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to tackle wildlife crime more effectively.

The specialists will be spread across Scotland, but will work together to share knowledge and experience of cases.

The Solicitor General, Frank Mulholland, QC, said:

“COPFS is committed to tackling crimes against Scotland’s precious wildlife and environment.

“Our network of wildlife and environmental prosecutors has already demonstrated the benefits of having specialists deal with this complex area of law.

“We are now appointing a team of three full-time specialists, who will continue to develop the skills and knowledge required to deal with these cases.

“Crimes against our wildlife and environment are important as they affect the environment in which we live, and the legacy we leave to future generations.

“We are aware that serious and organised crime groups may be becoming involved in environmental crime. The new team of prosecutors will work closely with COPFS civil recovery and criminal confiscation specialists.

“I am confident the new team will further enhance the working relationships we already have with investigating agencies, including the police and wildlife organisations.”

Blah blah blah. To read the rest of this press release, follow this link: http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/02/New-team-specialist-prosecutors-be-appointed-handle-Wildlife-and-Environmental-Crime

It would be wonderful if we were all so naive as to believe the content of this press release, word for word. Sadly, I am a little bit too long in the tooth and have developed a somewhat cynical outlook. Interesting to note that the press release did not say WHEN this new team would be appointed. An oversight? Perhaps. Also interesting to note that the success of this new team will depend on the effective investigation of alleged wildlife crime crime offences by ALL the Scottish police forces. That’s not happening now, so why should we believe that will change anytime soon?

Also interesting to note that Alex Prentice QC, mentioned in the press release, has been in post for almost one year now – what measurable impact has he made on the effective prosecution of illegal raptor persecution after 12 months in office? Let’s see what happens with the Moy Estate and Skibo Estate cases – assuming, of course, that they will reach court, and that it will be this year…

Incidentally, a colleague has told me that the Glen Orchy poisoned eagle case was mentioned yesterday at the Scottish Police Wildlife Crime Conference held in Tulliallan. He told me that PC Charlie Everitt, the NWCU’s Investigative Support Officer mentioned it in his round-up of 2010 news. Apparently PC Everitt was using the case as an example of how busy/successful the NWCU has been this last year. He mentioned that the accused had been found guilty of possession of illegal firearms and that he’d received 300 hours community service as a punishment. Oh, three cheers for this “successful” outcome. No mention of the poisoned eagle, nor any forthcoming prosecution case for this criminal offence. Is it any wonder I’m cynical? I hope the COPFS prove me wrong.

16 Responses to “New specialist prosecutors to be appointed – historic or rhetoric?”

  1. 1 SecretScooby
    February 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I’m with you Mr Blogmeister – this is, sadly, just more rhetoric. How many times have we heard about new initiatives to crack down on raptor persecution? Looking back through this blog, plenty of times. Have any of them made the slightest bit of difference? No. Raptor persecution continues and those who do it (mostly gamekeepers – proven fact) continue to escape justice.

  2. 2 Dave Dick
    February 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    And another cynical response from me too Im afraid…this is not a “new initiative”…

    Anyone remember the early 1990s when high involvement by the RSPB [including close working with keen new WLOs and individual PFs]lead to many successful cases against gamekeepers and other “vermin controllers”?

    The same people who destroyed that successful partnership are behind this…there will be no change.

    When wildlife crime is treated like any other crime in Scotland – no special pleading for the killers and their “industry” by Sheriffs, Crown Office, Police, MSPs – then we will see a change. THe Laws are there, they just dont get used.

  3. 3 nirofo
    February 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I’m afraid that unless the police are prepared to do what they are trained and paid for, that is to uphold the law, investigate, gather and present truthful evidence to the courts, then the Raptor persecution will just continue and all this this is just pie in the sky.


  4. 4 Stewart Love
    February 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Not all keepers are against Raptors but it just takes a few shall we say bad apples to give them all a bad name. Think if this new law comes in and estate owners get prosecuted more,then that would help a bit, although it does mean that the police/courts have to get their act together. It’s mainly estate owners trying to get as much money out of the estate as possible that is the root cause of all Raptor persecution. Don’t know the history of 1990s but do agree with Dave Dick about the Laws not getting used. As to the solution to that, well the Scottish Government has the power to change that, but will they, I doubt it. To many people with money involved in owning shooting estates and with money there is power. If they would only just look at Mull and the way the White Tailed Eagles have brought money into the island and follow the Islanders example in using Wild Life to bring in the tourists, then there would no need to kill Raptors, people would pay good money to see them take photos but not kill them. Things can’t go on the way they are just now, it must change and will, more and more people will protest about the killing of Raptors until the government is forced to stop it. Thats why blogs like this one are important to raise peoples awareness to what is going on. More power to your typing, Blogmeister.

  5. 5 paul irving
    February 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I must say I’m with the three cynics above and cannot see this making a deal of difference. How will they operate if the police continue to fail in following up cases and collecting proper evidence promptly. Cases will still fail to get off the ground, it looks like a PR exercise sadly.
    Its simple really the police collect proper evidence thoroughly. If that evidence is deemed to be good enough a prosecution should follow. This is all one asks and then if and when some cases fail to make court we will then be sure it wasn’t because somebody swept part of the process under the carpet. Yes specialised prosecutors may be good but proper policing would be better.

    Paul Irving

  6. 6 Dave Dick
    February 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Stewart…Im afraid as long as people repeat the nonsense of it being ” a few bad apples” then we will not solve or even ameliorate this problem. This harrier report and several decades of reports from RSPB and Government Agencies have repeatedly shown the problem is widespread and commonplace on shooting estates.Every County…every year …and thats only the incidents which are found.
    This is an “industry wide” problem…particularly on grouse moors [as opposed to pheasant shoots where persecution with a few inglorious exceptions, is now at a much lower level]..

    Up here in Scotland you would be hard pressed to find a single managed grouse moor where harriers would not be shot on sight.Thats the reality…and if our decision makers [MSPs/Senior Police/Crown Office] believe the “few bad apples” nonsense then their is little incentive to really go in hard.

  7. 7 Stewart Love
    February 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Aye Dave you could be right re the Grouse moor persecution, have certainly never saw Hen Harriers on them lately. Only seen them on high moors mainly in the west and some Islands. It’s really up to our decision makers to stop talking about the problem and really do something, I’m thinking there are to many of them on the side of the Estate Owners and money people who use them. We still have to keep up the pressure through blogs like this one and others, there are Scottish elections coming up to. Politicians should be asked when their party is going to stop Raptor persecution in Scotland. They should be told, if your party is not going to stop Persecution then I am not voting for you. Something makes me think I wont be voting for any of them.

  8. 8 john smith
    February 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    How can grouse moor owners claim that shooting can not take place with hen harriers, when most moors are harrier free? What evidence do they have other than that they have removed harriers have been “removed” and they have more grouse????

    Within the shooting industry there is a real split between Deer[west coast] and Grouse[east coast] managers [something SGA are terrified of] Deer managers [myself included] are sick and tired of being painted with the gamekeeper brush . The deer sector have made great changes in the last few years and have embraced environmental and conservation many are now employed by SNH etc and and have active working relationships with conservation groups.

    The Angus Glens have not only been stripped of raptors in the name of grouse but also Deer and Hares. Where is the ecological balance?
    Gamekeepers are terrified to speak out and the grouse sector is a closed shop with many keepers brought North and given the services of expensive lawyers. One manager is reputed to have said that there are no “decent keepers in Scotland”

    The only way to stop persecution is to hit the owners and hit them hard, if there are no raptors present on a moor then it should be asked WHY not? as they argue that their management increases biodiversity are raptors not included within that????

  9. 9 Dave Dick
    February 27, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    A very interesting post John…if you dont want “dragged down” with the keepers [I for one have never seen deerstalkers in that light] then I suggest that as a body you withdraw from the SGA…which has really just acted as front men for the anti-raptor alliance..its for gamekeepers, the clue is in the name…

    I know a lot of stalkers joined up because of the SGAs pro countryside/anti townie rhetoric….the reality is there is no conspiracy against fieldsports only a growing groundswell against criminal gamekeepers and their bosses and supporters.

    The people you mention re the Angus Glens [also involved in other places such as Leadhills in Lanarkshire, Derbyshire and right down to pheasants in Buckinghamshire] are of course not owners…but managers…

    As Ive repeatedly said these crimes involve the entire hierarchy on estates…dont just go for the owners…its also shoot managers, factors, head keepers, under-keepers and some individual shooters who are behind the killing.

  10. 10 paul irving
    February 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I must say John that I too have never felt that those involved in deer management should be tarred with the same brush as those on grouse moors, although we do not have deer estates here in England. I would certainly encourage deer people to separate themselves from the SGA and NGO, all you presence does is to bolster the criminals and potentially criminalise you by association. Persecution is rife here in England on most grouse moors with few exceptions, that is why our harriers are at such a low ebb ( we have little other habitat for them). There is some persecution on low ground shoots here but it is not as yet anywhere near the level on grouse moors, nor I suspect does it have such a dramatic impact on the species concerned as a result. The criminals, be it keepers, agents, managers, shooting tenants and owners should be brought to book, targeting just the lower levels ( keepers ) has not and will not work. However just imagine the impact if one of the people already mentioned or an aristocratic owner were jailed for an offence. The impact would be enormous, that is what we need but in the mean time we should encourage people like yourself to isolate the criminals.

    Paul Irving

  11. 11 jock scott
    February 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    I know a lot of keepers, stalkers etc that are members of the SGA not because they agree with the views of this association or Alex Hogg’s rantings but because of the free insurance cover that comes with membership.

    Membership benefits include and are available to all full & part-time keepers, stalkers, ghillies and related professions. Membership also includes a firearms insurance policy, covering legal expenses for help with firearms licensing and revocation issues, insurance cover for public liability to others for up to £10 million, and an Employer’s Liability extension for keepers engaging beaters. £35 per annum.

    As many shoots and stalking grounds insist on shooters having insurance this membership represents excellent value.
    The support that Alex Hogg and his cronies have is very much exagerated by these benefits of membership.

  12. 12 Dave Dick
    February 28, 2011 at 11:20 am

    That explains a lot!..

    But didnt [doesnt?] BASC offer the same thing without helping encouraging the more tainted end of shooting?

    Sometimes a clear conscience can be expensive….

    or Maybe you should use “people power” to get rid of your unpopular leader?..

    all conservation has ever asked for is for folk to obey the Law…the day we start getting information about the barrels stuffed full of “bad apples” out there, from SGA members…then everyone’s reputation goes up.

  13. 13 Stewart Love
    February 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Dave. Have just googled B.A.S.C. and yes the British Association for Shooting and Conservation do insurance for their members. Just click on members insurance and it’s all there.

  14. 14 jock scott
    February 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    I don’t really understand what the relevance is of the comments regarding BASC membership insurance cover and I would hope that no one would be as naive to believe that BASC are a pro-raptor or even raptor tolerant association!

    I would suggest that there is very little difference in the policies of the SGA and BASC. Although BASC have glossier booklets and are obviously much slicker in their administration, their objectives are very similar.

    BASC’s policy regarding raptors can be read here –
    and contain the following recommendations –

    “An immediately-responsive licensing system for the destruction or
    Removal / translocation of specific problematic adult raptors, their nests or eggs,
    be put in place by appropriate government agencies for those situations where
    Serious damage cannot otherwise be prevented”
    “That further research is urgently conducted on the impact of high density
    buzzard populations, as well as goshawks, on gamebirds”

    The National gamekeepers Organisation also offer insurance to attract membership and appear to have similar objectives regarding raptors.

    My advice to anyone who requires insurance for fieldsports and has an interest in the welfare of our birds of prey would be to seek cover elsewhere. It may cost a few quid more but they’ll probably sleep with a clearer conscience !


  15. 15 Dave Dick
    March 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Thanks Jock – I am a bit out of touch with the BASC position on all this – there was a time when they were seen as the responsible face of shooting…but it sounds like they have been bending to the pressure of their more rabid members – or are scared by competition from SGA.

    Wonder if any of their staff read this Blog…they ought too.

  16. 16 john smith
    March 1, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I know a few BASC employees and they are very much on the right side of the law. I think they are very keen to distance themselves from SGA. SGA did take a few keeper members in the start but not enough to do any damage

    The SGA is a keepers/stalkers org, why should I leave it, I am a Professional. I feel we need to oust/reject the present committee.

    I have been trying to drum up support but it is difficult to find a replacement for Hogg as I think he might be subsidised 3 days a week [paid].

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