Last month we blogged about the failure of the Crown Office to initiate a vicarious liability prosecution in the Kildrummy case (see here).
A quick re-cap: in December 2014, Kildrummy Estate gamekeeper George Mutch was convicted of a series of wildlife crime offences that took place on Kildrummy Estate in 2012, including the trapping of a goshawk which he then beat to death with a stick (see here). In January 2015, Mutch was sentenced to four months in prison – the first gamekeeper in the UK to receive a custodial sentence for raptor persecution crimes (see here).
In September 2015, the possibility for a vicarious liability prosecution against Mutch’s employer became impossible as the case had become legally time-barred (i.e. three years had elapsed since the commission of his crimes). We wanted to find out why a vicarious liability prosecution had not been brought in this case so we asked the Crown Office for an explanation. They responded by saying that as nobody had been reported to them for consideration, they couldn’t take forward a prosecution. We speculated (here) about the reasons why nobody had been reported, and thought that it probably had something to do with the fact that Kildrummy Estate is registered as an off-shore company (in Jersey) and thus identification of the actual owner was well hidden; this situation had been expertly uncovered by Andy Wightman’s research earlier this year – see here. However, to find out if this really was the reason why nobody had been reported to the Crown Office, we really needed to hear from Police Scotland, so last month we asked them why they hadn’t reported anyone from Kildrummy Estate to the Crown Office for consideration of a vicarious liability prosecution.
Police Scotland has now responded with a cryptic masterpiece, but if you look closely at their carefully-worded reply it is actually quite revealing:
“Police Scotland is committed to tackling wildlife crime whilst recognising that these investigations can often be challenging and prolonged. In 2013, a report about George Mutch was submitted to the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit (WECU) at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) alleging the unlawful taking and killing of birds of prey at Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire in 2012. Following a criminal prosecution Mr Mutch was convicted and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment in January 2015.
In parallel with the investigation surrounding the activities of George Mutch, enquiries were made to establish whether any further charges could be brought in terms of Vicarious Liability legislation (Section 18A of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981). However, this legislation does require an offence to have been committed and therefore charges can only be formally libelled once a conviction has been confirmed. Significant international investigations were undertaken by Police Scotland but after consultation with COPFS it was established that due to insufficient evidence the additional charge of Vicarious Liability could not be libelled.
I hope the above information addresses the issue raised by you in your correspondence.