OneKind supports increased powers for SSPCA, but SLE questions the ‘need’

OneKind logoThe Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has published its formal response to the public consultation on whether the SSPCA should be given increased powers for investigating more types of wildlife crime.

It’s an intelligent and coherent response, in full support of the proposed changes. Interestingly, they’ve provided data (sourced from the Crown Office) which show a startling comparison of successful prosecutions and convictions in animal welfare cases investigated by the police and those investigated by the SSPCA. Unsurprisingly, the SSPCA’s performance is significantly stronger than that of the police; exactly what you’d expect from a specialist agency like the SSPCA.

There’s also acknowledgement of the SSPCA’s long-term experience in investigating crimes against animals (since at least 1912) and a strong rebuttal against the accusation that the SSPCA is ‘unaccountable’.

It’s well worth a read: here.

Meanwhile, the Scottish landowners’ representative body, Scottish Land & Estates, has published its concerns about the proposals (here). These concerns centre on seven questions, including whether there’s a ‘need’ for increased powers because “wildlife crime incident [sic] are now lower than when the idea was first put forward“.

Oh dear. Increasingly desperate scrabbling from SLE – not quite as hysterical as the SGA’s response but nevertheless an indication that the game-shooting lobby would not be happy having an additional 60+ highly trained, highly experienced wildlife crime investigators on the ground. Can’t think why.

Neither SLE or the SGA has published their formal response to the consultation but we look forward to reading them, and the responses of other game-shooting organisations such as the GWCT, when the Scottish Government publishes all the responses later this autumn.

The public consultation closes tomorrow (Monday 1st September). If you want to have your say and influence government policy on how wildlife crime is addressed in Scotland, leading to an inevitable increase in the number of wildlife criminals being brought to justice, please click here.


18 Responses to “OneKind supports increased powers for SSPCA, but SLE questions the ‘need’”

  1. 1 Chris Roberts
    August 31, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I would argue that wildlife crime has taken a sharp increase since “the idea was first put forward”. However it is understandable why the SLE and SGA don’t want more officers who would uphold the law on their estates!

  2. August 31, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    In the past, I have tried on more than one occasion to get GWCT to tell me how they can, on the one hand, issue press releases about our lack of knowledge of the sratus of migratory game birds such as woodcock, and on the other hand promote shooting of woodcock in areas where there are both migratory and resident birds. I challenged them to tell me the difference between ‘mixed-stock’ woodcock shooting and the ‘mixed-stock’ netting of salmon which the wealthy owners of lucrative salmon angling beats are forever wheenging about. Never got an answer, so I’ll certainly be interested to see what response (if any) they make to the SSPCA consultation. Not holding my breath for any signs of illumination at the end of the tunnel!

  3. 3 Julie Wright
    August 31, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    They know it’s happening that’s why, got something to hide?

  4. 4 keen birder.
    August 31, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    To me shooting woodcock is a bit like shooting swallows, the poor things come all that way ,we know now thanks to the GWCT satellite radio tracking and research where they go to and come all the way back to Britain, some birds have now clocked up many thousands of miles. I really cringe at seeing woodcock shot and am happy when they get away . Theres very little meat on them, one per person they are very small. I would like to see a ban on shooting them, as well as snipe and teal,

  5. 5 Alister Clunas
    August 31, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    “The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland – PAW Scotland – includes the police, land managers, conservationists and the Scottish Government. We have come together to fight this crime against Scotland.”

    SGA and SLE are members of, but obviously not supporters of this group. Sixty more people fighting wildlife crime – what’s not to like. It’s time PAWS and you parted company.

  6. August 31, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Criminals don’t like watchers and enforcers.

  7. 7 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    September 1, 2014 at 2:12 am

    I have read the response to this Consultation by Onekind, and am very impressed by its craftmanship, as it suitably expresses the mood of the many humane people in Scotland over the issue of the persecution of birds of prey, and the torment suffered by other creatures, having to endure snaring, poisoning, being blasted to bits or coursed for “sport”. Giving the SSPCA greater powers is an important step forward in bringing the time closer, when the humane and sound conservation principles for protecting wildlife, will be effectively installed

    For hundreds of years, those owning land, have used it in a cruel way with savage and excessive hunting of its wildlife. I will never forget a photograph I saw in a museum at Carrbridge, which showed a Victorian hunting party with a huge collection of birds and mammals at its feet, killed for “sport”. Such offensiveness should not be allowed to be found on the landscape of Scotland.

    If the shooting of birdlife is to continue, then those organising that activity, will have to operate at a lower level than they have been doing; they will have to concede that there should be no more killing of birds of prey, and that landscapes have not to be disfigured and so damaged to make access easier. Subsidies and other benefits and concessions will be withdrawn for breaches of the new code, and very heavy fines along with prison sentences should follow. It should be understood that the public in Scotland has become more informed about conservation issues, and most definitely do not want so much of the country to be owned and under the control of an “industry” that employs people to break the law, and a possibly compliant law enforcement system will have to be monitored for its effectiveness. The Onekind submission clearly brings out the fact that SSPCA investigations have lead to more prosecutions than that of the police. This is the era of more and more people joining conservation and animal welfare charities. Scotland has to play its part in world wide efforts to prevent many species from becoming extinct through habitat loss; trophy hunting; bushmeat trade; pet trade and the ivory and rhino horn poaching holocausts. Those who destroy our Eagles, Kites, Harriers, Peregrines and Buzzards, are not wanted in this more aware age.

  8. 9 nirofo
    September 1, 2014 at 3:26 am

    PAWS, who are they? Have they ever done anything worthwhile in the fight against wildlife crime, NO, I didn’t think so.

    How can they include members of shooting estates and other shooting interests when they are the main culprits of wildlife crime !!!

  9. 12 secret shooter
    September 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I am a regular follower of this website and do believe that it has done a great deal to expose some shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution of offences relating to raptor persecution. There has been much comment on the Scottish Governments consultation to provide powers allowing SSPCA Inspectors to more effectively investigate wildlife crime with many commenters suggesting that this will do much to address the issue of raptor persecution. Maybe it will, but personally I have my doubts.

    So does the Scottish Government wish to provide these powers in order that SSPCA Inspectors can investigate wildlife crime or is it in order that they can investigate raptor persecution? The Scottish Governments (and indeed the UK’s) wildlife crime priorities are persecution against six specified species of raptor, the illegal trade in endangered species, bat persecution, freshwater pearl mussels, badgers and poaching. Whilst the Scottish Government in their consultation paper talk of providing SSPCA Inspectors with powers to investigate wildlife crime the proposals only extend to powers under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. So the SSPCA will not have powers to investigate wildlife crimes involving a number of species collectively known as European Protected Species, poaching offences, offences relating to endangered species or Pesticide offences where powers of stop and search etc, come from different legislation. From this I conclude that actually the Scottish Government is not actually looking for the SSPCA to investigate wildlife crime but only to investigate raptor crime. That may be quite a reasonable proposal but if so should they not clear in what they are suggesting?

    I have seen yesterdays blog commenting on the response to the consultation made by OneKind. I find it interesting that comparisons are being made in relation to conviction rates between SSPCA cases and Police cases. Interesting because is it not the Crown Office who prosecute cases bought by both. If the standard of investigation in cases submitted by the Police is that much lower than in cases submitted by the SSPCA then surely the Crown Office would be asking for further enquiries to be undertaken! Cases do not proceed to court unless the prosecutor feels there is a reasonable prospect of conviction so I think that trying to draw comparisons between cases prepared by the Police and cases prepared by the SSPCA is of little or no consequence.

    It is perhaps worthwhile just reminding people that the SSPCA are an animal welfare organisation. The legislation they usually deal with is welfare based whereas the majority of wildlife crime is conservation based. Welfare based offences seldom require the guilty state of mind (intent or recklessness) needed to prove conservation based legislation and the fact is generally they are easier to prove to the required criminal standard. I intend no criticism of the SSPCA when I ask if their Inspectors have the required investigative skills, resource and experience to undertake investigations into serious wildlife crime? Such investigations will usually require in depth interviews (Inspectors will have no powers of arrest so cannot compel suspects to be interviewed), computers may have to be examined, financial investigations may have to be undertaken and enquiries may have to be undertaken throughout the UK, in particular if vicarious responsibility is being considered. Will the extent of their investigations also be constrained by budget?

    It has I think been suggested that SSPCA involvement will see closer working between the SSPCA and the Police. In my experience the two organisations do work together, often very effectively, but let us not pretend that there will be a free and unrestricted flow of information between the two. It will I suspect be very much one-way traffic. The SSPCA will be able to legally direct information to the Police but data protection law, as I understand it, prevents the Police from passing personal data to the SSPCA. Will it not need new legislation to allow the Police to pass data to the SSPCA? You might tell me of instances where information has been passed between the Police and an NGO, it does happen I know but not legally. If the SSPCA are not to be given access to intelligence held by the Police then there will be a risk of investigations being compromised, the left hand not knowing what the right is doing.

    I think it is very likely that the SSPCA will be provided with the powers suggested in the consultation. Once this is done to whom should I report wildlife crime? How do you explain to the public that if it’s a domestic animal or a bird of prey or a red squirrel then perhaps you should report the matter to the SSPCA – or the Police. But if you want to report offences relating perhaps to Great Crested Newts or deer poaching well that’s definitely a Police matter, but wait, perhaps not if a deer has been caught in a snare. At the moment if you try and report welfare issues involving domestic animals to the Police they will refer you to the SSPCA perhaps in future they will start to do the same in relation to incidents of wildlife crime. But what then happens if the SSPCA find they cannot attend incidents or do not have the resources to undertake a full investigation, will they then try and hand matters back to the Police or advise their callers to contact the Police. I’ll make a bet the Police will be reluctant to take things from an agency who have been provided with the powers to do the job! What a mess.

    In my view it is the Police who should be investigating wildlife crime. They have the budget, the resources and the expertise to do it. I know that many who make comments on this site disagree with that view but I would have to say that on the whole they come from those who seem not to understand and apparently make no effort to understand rules of evidence and the criminal justice system. Sadly the Scottish Government are stitching conservationists up. When the SSPCA get these powers and in due course we make further claims that raptor persecution is still not being effectively addressed they will every right to say that have listened to and reacted to suggestions to improve enforcement.

    Instead of tinkering around with powers of entry and search the Scottish Government should instead be telling the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to get his act together and sort the problem out. These may not be easy offences to evidence to the required standard but make no mistake the Police could do it if there was the will to do so.

  10. 13 joke tamsun
    September 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Secret shooter or is it ‘secret policeman’

    I think you are missing the point here. As I see it giving the SSPCA additional powers will take nothing away from the police, it will however bring much needed resources, expertise and assistance to what is obviously a very difficult crime to investigate.

    SSPCA have a proven track record in investigation. I have looked on their website and can see they have successfully investigated very serious offences including badger baiting and dog fighting as well as many other crimes involving wildlife.

    I looked on line for police successes and it appears to feature mainly poaching cases, surely you are not comparing these to dog fighting and badger baiting in terms of complexity.

    Maybe part of the problem is not just the obvious shortage of police resources but also their precious and defensive attitude.

  11. 14 Libby Anderson
    September 1, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    The point being made in the OneKind response is not that the Scottish SPCA is so much “better” than the police – it’s not a competition – but that the organisation is simply extremely good at gathering evidence and reporting cases, and has a long history of doing so. The Crown Office presumably takes these forward precisely because there is a reasonable chance of conviction. As we pointed out, too, there is regular cooperation between the Scottish SPCA and the police. So to add a further 60+ experienced inspectors with knowledge of animals and the law must offer benefits all round.

    Don’t quite follow the point about WCA only covering raptor persecution, Secret Shooter? Surely WCA covers all wild birds and various other protected species as well as illegal snares, traps and other methods. If I have misunderstood the proposed extent of powers, happy to call for more ….

    We will also happily support further resources for police to investigate wildlife crime – no disagreement there. Only tonight we read of a disgusting incident of badger baiting in Edinburgh. I’ m sure all local officers will make strenuous efforts to bring those responsible for such savagery, within their community, to justice. SSPCA bound to be involved too.

  12. 15 secret shooter
    September 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm


    You are quite right Libby this is not a competition between the SSPCA and the Police, so personally I do not understand why OneKind chose to identify which cases had been investigated by the Police and which had been investigated by the SSPCA. But that’s by the by, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that all cases are prosecuted by the Crown Office as I suspect that the statistics might otherwise be taken as evidence to the perception often aired on this site that if the SSPCA get additional powers then detection rates for raptor persecution will improve.

    I am not calling for other powers to be given to the SSPCA. Instead I am merely pointing out that if the proposals in the Scottish Governments consultation are implemented then SSPCA officers will have powers to assist them in the investigation of raptor crime (and indeed as you point out all wild birds and schedule 5 species). What it will not do is to provide them with powers to investigate offences under legislation specifically protecting badgers, bats, cetaceans, deer, dormice, great crested newts, otters and wildcat to name just a few. Those species have either never been protected by WCA or have had their protection under schedule 5 repealed and placed elsewhere. So are the Scottish Government looking to award powers to SSPCA inspectors to allow them to investigate wildlife crime or are they only interested in those inspectors investigating a more limited range of offences? It matters not to me I only suggest that the Scottish Government be open in what they are consulting on.

    On the issue of Police successes I wonder if you are aware of the RSPB’s Legal Eagle publication. If not you might like to have a look at some of the issues. It is available on the internet.
    Otherwise just google RSPB Legal Eagle.
    Or the National Wildlife Crime Units website
    I would be interested in hearing from you further when you have had opportunity to have a look.

    Finally on the issue of SSPCA expertise, again I have to say that I am not intending to knock the society but it is important to realise that any significant operations are unlikely to be undertaken without Police involvement. A simple health and safety risk assessment would conclude that SSPCA should not be trying to apprehend criminals without Police assistance. If the going gets tough nobody expects SSPCA staff to address violent offenders. At present the SSPCA have limited powers under welfare legislation but cannot obtain and execute search warrants, undertake searches, seize evidence (except in limited circumstances), make arrests or compel suspects to be interviewed. These are crucial elements of any investigation so the Police have to have been involved.

  13. 16 Paul
    September 4, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    I note that SLE feel that the SSPCA should not have these powers because they are a charity and not publicly accountable. Is this the same SLE whose members up and down Scotland run District Salmon Fishery Boards and appoint bailiffs with substantial powers to protect their fisheries? Perhaps they will be dismantling the DSFB system shortly now that they are so keen on accountability

  14. September 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    SSPCA will be watching you.

    Criminals don’t like watchers and enforcers.

    If not a criminal then why the concern?

    This is the wording of an email I sent to the Scottish Land and Estates.

    Tim Baynes answered.
    Dear Douglas, thank you for your email.
    Can you please explain who you are and the purpose of your email, and I can then respond?
    Is this you https://www.facebook.com………

    He clearly did some searching!!!

    My answer.
    I am a concerned member of the public. Particularly about the persecution of birds of prey on shooting estates, an illegal and far too frequent act..

    I am pleased to see that there will, probably, be the chance of greater scrutiny and prosecution of the criminals that run and work on the shooting estates.

    The gamekeepers and estates don’t want people watching their activities and this is a clear indication to me that criminal activities against birds of prey are too often part of their land management schemes!

    If of course there is no crime committed then why be concerned about being watched? Most human activities are scrutinised for efficiency, legality and correctness, so why not scrutinise the shooting estates? The estates receive huge amounts of subsidies from the EU and the State, I contribute, unwillingly, through my taxes, to fund the archaic and cruel killing of game and much other wildlife. I have studied the same hunting techniques used by prehistoric man but for them it was a way to live and feed their families, not a “jolly” activity by a few rich folk.

    Before I retired I was a teacher and endured great scrutiny frequently, why not you and your members?.

    Of course asking your members for a response to the proposal of SSPCA being granted greater powers to investigate and prosecute wildlife crime may be just a paranoid reaction!

    The Scottish Gamekeepers Association request for a response from their members is clearly troubling to them.

    Tim Baynes responded.
    I did find your original email slightly threatening given that we had no previous contact and I did not know who you are. It implied that I am a criminal but I trust that was not intended! We are very happy to discuss issues with anyone who has identified themselves, although we do not engage with anonymous people or websites).

    Before coming onto the substantive issues, I have the impression from your email that you are against game shooting on principle. I can understand and respect that, just as I hope that you respect that many people do not share your views, indeed they see the management and harvesting of organic game as preferable and more morally justifiable than some types of farming and slaughtering.

    Those who manage land have many pressures to balance and you might be surprised at the constantly increasing regulation they have to work with, and the constant surveillance. Anyone on a sporting estate has to work on the assumption that, especially with well developed public access rights, they are being constantly watched by someone and must behave accordingly. As well as a raft of legislation, regulation and inspection to observe, there are also voluntary schemes to keep developing best practice in sporting management, such as the Wildlife Estates Scotland accreditation scheme that we run. Can I suggest that you look at http://www.wildlife-estates.co.uk/ to get an idea of the type of self imposed third party checking that an increasing number of estates are putting themselves through. The inspection is something akin to OFSTED which no doubt you had to deal with when you were a teacher!

    You have made some strong statements about bird of prey persecution and ” the criminals that run and work on the shooting estates” which are offensive to the vast majority of rural estate managers. It is an easy scatter gun accusation to make but is not proven by official statistics, especially in recent years . It is true that birds of prey are found illegally killed in rural areas from time to time, and much of rural Britain is managed for sporting, but that does not mean that “shooting estates” are necessarily to blame. Occasionally gamekeepers are convicted, but such cases are now very rare, and game shooting interests now account for a relatively small proportion of the recorded raptor incidents. The official information from the Scottish Government implies a range of other motives which include protection of livestock such as lambs and free range poultry, protection of racing pigeons, and protection of other rare native birds such as waders which some people value more highly than increasingly common raptor species. While there is inflexible legislation giving absolute protection to all raptors, there will continue to be such incidents, although they are strongly condemned by all land management and sporting organisations. It is a highly complex area and, with respect, I suspect that you have gained a lot of information from anonymous websites and commentators whose predominant interest is raptors but who take no responsibility for land management and maintaining a wider balance of species. They have a one sided and it often comes from an instinctive anti-shooting perspective or a general anti landownership bias.

    May I correct you about subsidies. Farming businesses and some nature conservation operations receive subsidies but you will no doubt be pleased that there is no taxpayer help for sporting management! Farming, conservation and sporting work concurrently on the same land but the terms of subsidies are very clear.

    You are also incorrect about “a few rich folk”. Shooting is done by many people from all walks of life – you may be interested to read the recently published study http://www.shootingfacts.co.uk/ and directly or indirectly many ordinary families are being fed by the employment and business opportunities that come from shooting, especially in remote rural areas.

    On the main point about the SSPCA consultation, this is a link to our recent statement. http://www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3731:police-rather-than-charities-should-tackle-wildlife-crime-say-landowners&catid=71:national&Itemid=107 We make it very clear that we work with SSPCA closely in many respects, not least in the prevention of some horrific illegal coursing and poaching incidents on our members land. But there is a serious issue of principle with devolving law enforcement to any private organisation and there is sufficient evidence from recent legal cases to know that such powers for SSPCA could actually be counterproductive in the long term.

    Going back to the title of your email, most sporting estates are very happy to engage with concerned members of the public such as yourself, and explain what they are doing and why. I do not know where you live but I could put you in touch with some people with whom you could discuss your concerns, or with one of the rural organisations in your area.

    Lastly, I attach a pdf of a “Welcome to the Moor” information board that our members have developed, this particular one in conjunction with Cairngorms National Park. I can think of no better way to demonstrate that outside interest in sporting estate management is actively encouraged. We are happy to be watched!

    End of Tim Baynes message.

    Apart from the typical denials, I don’t agree with Tim’s statement, “there is no taxpayer help for sporting management!” when the government has introduced an almost doubling of the estates subsidy.
    My thoughts are that closer scrutiny from an organisation that challenges the shooting of animals for sport would be a good thing. Driven shoots are cruel and produce high numbers of wounded animals. It is an archaic practice that started with prehistoric man for a need. It has no place in modern society.

    Aside from that there are the crimes committed on and around the shooting estates. Trapping, poisoning and shooting of anything perceived to be a threat to the game.

  15. September 16, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Well done, Douglas. Nothing unexpected there from Baynes.

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