Those of you who’ve been following the long drawn-out saga of prosecutions relating to the wildlife crime that took place on Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire in 2015 will know that we’ve been asking questions of various organisations associated with this estate.
One of those questions has been about the membership status of the Newlands Estate in the ‘Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES)’ scheme, administered by Scottish Land & Estates. Since Newlands Estate gamekeeper Billy Dick’s conviction (for killing a buzzard) was upheld in July this year, we’ve asked this:
‘Will the Newlands Estate’s accredited membership of Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) now be revoked? The conditions of membership of this scheme include: “the requirements to maintain best practice standards of animal welfare and comply with all legal requirements and relevant Scottish codes of practice”. At the time of Mr Dick’s conviction, a spokesperson for WES said the Newlands Estate’s membership and accreditation of WES had been ‘voluntarily suspended’ pending the outcome of legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question?’
Four months on, and thanks to blog readers for writing to WES, the following statement has appeared on the WES website this morning:
So, Newlands Estate is still a member of WES, albeit in a suspended state. Presumably, WES is waiting to find out whether the allegation of vicarious liability is proven against landowner Andrew Duncan during forthcoming legal proceedings.
That’s an interesting position for WES to take. A wildlife crime did take place on Newlands Estate and a Newlands Estate employee was convicted for it. Why isn’t that sufficient cause for WES to expel Newlands Estate? Two conditions of WES membership were clearly breached (“the requirements to maintain best practice standards of animal welfare and comply with all legal requirements and relevant Scottish codes of practice“). Whether Mr Duncan is subsequently convicted or acquitted of vicarious liability is irrelevant and will not erase these facts.
Let’s imagine, for example, that Mr Duncan is exonerated and WES decides to lift the suspension on membership. WES will still have a wildlife crime estate on its membership list. How does that ‘protect the reputation of its membership, as well as the integrity of accreditation itself’? Here’s a hint, WES: IT DOESN’T.
Other questions we’ve been asking since Newlands Estate gamekeeper Billy Dick’s failed appeal in July 2016 are yet to be answered:
- Is/was criminal gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association? The SGA refused to comment on Mr Dick’s membership status at the time, saying they ‘wanted to wait until the legal process had concluded’. Well, now Mr Dick’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Will Scottish Land & Estates now expel the Newlands Estate from the ranks of SLE membership? SLE said at the time that Newlands Estate’s membership of SLE had been ‘voluntarily suspended’ pending on-going legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to: email@example.com