Further to today’s news that illegally-set traps have been found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we are interested in the SSPCA’s role in this investigation.
As you’ll recall, RSPB Scotland notified the SSPCA about the severely injured gull caught by both legs in two spring traps. An SSPCA Inspector attended the scene (utilising powers under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act) and was able to put the poor suffering bird out of its misery. However, the SSPCA Inspector did not conduct a wider search of the area for evidence because their current powers do not permit that.
Instead, the wider search was delayed until Police Scotland could attend (Police Scotland does have the authority to undertake searches of land to look for evidence of offences committed contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act). Now, this delay is NOT a criticism of Police Scotland’s actions in this case (they were on site relatively swiftly and invited both the SSPCA and RSPB Scotland Investigations to assist with the search. That’s a big improvement on some previous cases).
But, the problem of the SSPCA’s limited powers are clear in this case.
When the multi-agency search did take place ‘a few days later’, ‘clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.
Whichever criminal had set these two traps that caught the gull was given the time to remove those further eight traps before the Police turned up.
How ridiculous is it that the SSPCA Inspector wasn’t allowed to walk two hundred metres across the grouse moor to retrieve those eight additional traps (and any other evidence that the criminal may have left lying around)? It’s plainly bonkers! Instead, there was an inevitable delay while the Police sorted themselves out (again, not a criticism in this case), allowing the criminal to distance him/herself from the crimes.
As many of you will know, on 1 Sept 2016 it will be two years since the closure of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA. Three Environment Ministers later and we’re still waiting for a decision (see here). It’s pathetic.
More on this Invercauld case shortly…..