Law Society Scotland supports increased powers for SSPCA

Law Society Scotland logoThe Law Society of Scotland has published its formal response to the consultation on whether the SSPCA should be given increased powers to allow them to investigate a wider suite of wildlife crimes.

In broad terms, the Law Society says it would be ‘appropriate’ for SSPCA Inspectors to be given the proposed powers, given the absence of necessary Police resources to tackle this area of crime.

Jim Drysdale, a member of the Law Society’s Rural Affairs Committee said: “Wildlife crime, such as the poisoning of birds of prey, is a serious issue and causes substantial public concern, and it is imperative that such incidents are fully investigated and prosecuted when they occur. We believe police officers are best placed to deal with such crime, and increasing the presence of uniformed officers in remote areas where these crimes occur will assure the public that combating wildlife crime is being taken seriously.

“However, in the absence of increased police resources we support the proposal for SSPCA officers to be granted the proposed powers, which include the ability to search vehicles suspected of carrying illegal carcasses, protected live animals and birds, and illegal traps or poisons. SSPCA officers would require specialist training and should be accompanied by a witness when exercising their powers under the new legislation. We also believe there should be a review in two to five years’ time to ensure powers are being appropriately enforced”.

It’s a well-reasoned response. Yes, ideally we’d all be happy if Police Scotland could effectively investigate wildlife crime but the evidence demonstrates that they can’t, and so an alternative approach is required. Putting more uniformed police officers “in remote areas where these crimes occur” is wholly impractical – we’d need a uniformed police officer on every driven grouse moor and lowland pheasant/partridge shoot 24 hours a day.

The Law Society also recommends that SSPCA Inspectors should be required to pass an examination prior to exercising the new powers. That’s also a reasonable suggestion and given that SSPCA Inspectors are already exercising similar powers under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, they shouldn’t have any difficulty passing the test. Perhaps a requirement to pass an examination should also be applied to police officers who have been appointed as Wildlife Crime Liaison Officers and/or Wildlife Crime Officers. Police officers are required to enforce much wider legislation than SSPCA Inspectors and so it stands to reason that they may not have the required specialist knowledge to effectively tackle wildlife crime. Why not enhance their training and then measure their understanding by introducing a specific wildlife crime-related examination before they’re given such a specialist role?

Download the Law Society’s formal consultation response here: Law Society Scotland SSPCA response

4 Responses to “Law Society Scotland supports increased powers for SSPCA”

  1. 1 nirofo
    August 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Let’s hope the Scottish government trakes heed of what The Law Society of Scotland has said and does the right thing for once, are you listening Paul Wheelhouse !!!

  2. 3 Dave Dick
    August 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Wildlife officers have been getting training in wildlife and wildlife investigation techniques since the early 1990s…by their own colleagues but more usefully by RSPB and SSPCA staff…not that it did much good…

    The reason we need SSPCA to take over this area is because, even when they had the resources, the police performed so badly – mainly because of the lack of direction and encouragement from their own senior officers for reasons impssible to list on this public site.

    While I welcome the Law Society “approval”…what is needed is a root and branch change not the same old tinkering with a rotten system.

  3. 4 Circus maxima
    August 30, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Its only logical…..with more criminals being caught there will be more work for them!

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