The Scottish Government has today published its latest Annual Wildlife Crime Report – the 4th one since it became a statutory obligation under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. The current report is entitled the ‘2015’ report, but it actually refers to wildlife crimes recorded from April 2014 to March 2015.
Just like last year (see here), this publication has been issued under a misleading headline, this time with the Government proclaiming a ‘Five year drop in wildlife crime’ (see Scot Gov press release here).
The report provides data on each of the national wildlife crime priority areas, including raptor persecution, but don’t bother wasting any time trying to draw conclusions from these data because it turns out, some has been withheld.
According to a press release by RSPB Scotland on today’s report (here), they say “With regard to raptor persecution incidents, we recognise that a number of confirmed victims of crime are not included in the report as police investigations continue“.
This withholding of data is becoming a regular feature of wildlife crime reporting in Scotland. We blogged about it earlier this year when PAW Scotland published the ‘official’ 2015 raptor persecution report, with a load of information deliberately withheld (see here).
As we said then, what’s the point of publishing some of the data but keeping the rest secret? It completely undermines any confidence in the report’s findings and turns this annual reporting into a meaningless and farcical charade.
It’s not clear whether the raptor persecution data has been withheld by Police Scotland or by the Scottish Government, or by both. If this withheld information relates to confirmed victims of crime, as RSPB Scotland suggests, there’s absolutely no excuse to keep it secret from the public, especially as these crimes took place around two years ago. When can we expect these crimes to be made public? Next year? 2050? Never?
Let’s hope this issue is raised when the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee comes to scrutinise the annual report as they have in previous years. Let’s also hope that this time, the ECCLR invites evidence from a wider circle of contributors, such as RSPB Scotland, SSPCA, Scottish Badgers etc, instead of just listening to the thoughts of Police Scotland, COPFS and the Environment Minister. That way we might get a better idea of the extent of wildlife crime rather than Police Scotland’s estimation of it, which is apparently based on a senior officer’s ‘feeling’ rather than on hard facts (see here).
Download the report here: wildlife-crime-in-scotland-2015-annual-report