SSPCA investigations lead to two poisoning convictions

sspca logo 2Eight and half months after the close of the public consultation on whether the SSPCA’s investigatory powers should be increased (see here) and we’re still waiting for a decision from Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod.

Regular blog readers may recall that those against an increase of powers included Police Scotland and many organisations with vested interests in game shooting. They gave a variety of reasons for their opposition, which can be read here. They include issues about ‘accountability’ and ‘lack of training and competence’, amongst others.

Interesting, then, that in the last couple of months, criminal investigations led by the SSPCA have resulted in the conviction of two poisoners. In both cases, the poisoners had targeted cats by laying poisoned baits laced with antifreeze (see here and here).

Apart from the obvious point that cats are not raptors, what is so different about the principle of investigating cat poisoning crimes and raptor poisoning crimes? The principles seem pretty similar – somebody deliberately laces bait with poison and then deliberately lays it out to target an animal. The investigators need to identify who laid out the poisoned baits and thus who was responsible for the crime.

The Crown Office didn’t seem to have any issue with the standard of investigation in the two cat poisoning crimes, otherwise they wouldn’t have decided to prosecute.

The Sheriffs didn’t seem to have any issue with the standard of investigation in the two cat poisoning crimes, otherwise they wouldn’t have convicted the offenders.

The main difference between cat poisoning crimes and raptor poisoning crimes is the politics. One offence typically involves ordinary members of the public (as far as cat poisoners can be described as ‘ordinary’), while the other offence typically involves those associated with game shooting.

Interesting, isn’t it?


11 Responses to “SSPCA investigations lead to two poisoning convictions”

  1. May 15, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Yet more proof of protecting the rich criminals in lofty positions. Sickening. Why should they be above the law?

  2. 2 steve macsweeney
    May 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Interesting? It’s a tragedy in our time. Until the lawmakers realize the implications of crimes against wildlife, it will go on and on and on and on…..You cannot educate the braindead, much as we wish we could, so prevention is the only option. Stiff custodial sentences for ALL involved, or we’ll continue to push water uphill.

    • 3 Dougie
      May 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      I suggest that part of the problem is that the lawmakers are only too aware of the implications of crimes against wildlife and that, of course, begs the question why is the current situation permitted to continue.

      No prizes for providing a correct answer.

  3. May 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Engrossed in the story, almost as good as thrones! A troubling time, but at least it is here in writing, a display of time consuming effort, a seriously important issue kept in the spotlight… lets hope for eventual justice

  4. 5 dave angel
    May 15, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Not sure that being able to secure convictions against a 74 year old and a 76 year old in the circumstances narrated in those links is evidence that the SSPCA is going to be any more effective in dealing with raptor persecution than the police have been. It appears that both men pled guilty so there would have been no judicial scrutiny of the performance of the SSPCA.

  5. 6 conor mcleod
    May 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm


    i don’t think anyone is saying the sspca are going to be any more effective than the police when dealing with raptor crime, It was my understanding that granting sspca increased powers was going to assist the current situation and that would include assisting the police ( if they are willing to accept assistance which appears to be part of the problem)

    And as for the the ages of the two convicted persons, since when did age have any bearing whatsoever, it certainly didn’t matter to the cats that were killed nor would it matter to any raptor.

    Are you suggesting that persons who engage in poisoning for sporting motives are all young……..because that’s nonsense.

    And perhaps the fact that in both cases the poisoners pled guilty reflects the level of investigation and the strength of evidence. I am presuming that a person would be inclined to plead not guilty if the evidence was weak or had a flaw, as might happen with a poor investigation.

    I for one applaud the efforts of the sspca and hope that in the future they will given extra powers and help reduce such a difficult and serious problem.

    Unless of course you have a better alternative?

    • 7 dave angel
      May 16, 2015 at 8:33 am

      My impression is that the two accused in these cases were easy targets. Elderly, isolated individuals of limited means who didn’t have the legal resources or network of support available to them that you typically see in raptor persecution cases.

      As for a better alternative, I’d prefer to see SNH involved, fulfilling a similar role to that of SEPA in pollution cases.

  6. 8 David
    May 16, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Even if accept that the ‘principles seem pretty similar’, the circumstances are not: the pet poisoning crimes were committed in towns (which can mean more witnesses and shorter response time from the investigating agency), concerned with the killing of someone’s pet (i.e. someone’s ‘property’) and in one of the cases accused was known to the owner of the cat and admitted the crime.

    Raptor poisoning crimes are – in most cases – the total opposite: rural areas (less or no witnesses, longer response time), wild birds (not anyone’s property), no easily identifiable suspects (arguably). Obviously I’m overgeneralising, but there are some significant differences between cat poisoning and raptor poisoning investigations.

    I assume that, because of the above mentioned differences, investigating crimes committed against pets (or farm animals) can be more straightforward than investigating wildlife crime.

  7. 9 conor mcleod
    May 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    it stands to reason the the more isolated the location of a crime potentially the more difficult it can be to trace witnesses. No one is claiming otherwise.

    Thats not the issue, the issue is ………. will giving the sspca increased powers help reduce or solve wildlife crimes. I can’t see what’s not to like. They have a proven track record and their help is free.

    If the poisoning of domestic animals is not similar enough to the poisoning of raptors,

    I found this case which highlights sspca ability to successfully investigate the poisoning of raptors, i note the person was convicted of not only possessing poison ( as is often the case) but also of actually poisoning raptors which appears to be extremely unusual.


    If you truly want to improve the investigation and enforcement the law in relation to wildlife crime then its a no brainer,

    Unless of course you know something I don’t?

    • 10 David
      May 18, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I responded to the blog post’s claim that “the main difference between cat poisoning crimes and raptor poisoning crimes is the politics”.

      Thanks for the link. Here is another case just to show how difficult it can be to investigate wildlife crime (or any crime):
      (In short: it was held that the interview with accused was inadmissible because the caution the SSPCA Inspector administered was not sufficient.)

      I agree that the enforcement regime currently in place is inadequate. I’m not against the extension of powers to inspectors, but having read most of the responses to the consultation I can’t really disagree with some of the issues raised. Perhaps the (perceived) lack of accountability is the most serious one. I believe that it’s far from a “no brainer”.

      Recommended reading to everyone interested in wildlife crime:
      Repainting the Thin Green Line: The Enforcement of UK Wildlife Law

      Policing Wildlife: Perspectives on Criminality in Wildlife Crime

  8. 11 dougie
    May 20, 2015 at 9:16 am

    dave angel wrote:
    “Not sure that being able to secure convictions against a 74 year old and a 76 year old in the circumstances narrated in those links is evidence that the SSPCA is going to be any more effective in dealing with raptor persecution than the police have been”

    I see that three of the suspects arrested for the Hatton Garden burglary were aged 76, 74 and 67, not sure your age theory holds much water.

    Instead of looking for non existent negatives why not look for positives.

    SSPCA appear to have been a reporting agency to the crown for approximately 140 and currently report many hundreds of cases per year, I have looked and I cannot see one example of where the accountability of the SSPCA has ever been questioned……..unless you know different.

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