This morning the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee heard evidence on the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report.
The archived video can be viewed here.
The official transcript can be read here: ecclr-transcript-wildlife-crime-10-jan-2017
The session was dynamite and there are many things to discuss – we’ll be blogging a lot more about this in the coming days but we wanted to start with the issue of withheld raptor crime data.
As some of you may remember, we criticised the Government’s annual wildlife crime report when it was published in November, precisely because we knew that several confirmed raptor crimes had not been included in the data presented to the Government by Police Scotland (see here). At the time, we didn’t elaborate on which specific crimes had been withheld from the report but we argued that the withholding of data completely undermined the public’s confidence in the report’s findings.
We were delighted to see this issue raised at this morning’s evidence session by Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens), and with devastating aplomb.
In the video link above, the discussion starts at 1:06:31.
Mark asked the Police Scotland representatives (ACC Steve Johnson and DCS Sean Scott) why some raptor crimes that had been recorded by RSPB Scotland had been excluded from the Government’s report. DCS Scott looked blank, and then mumbled something about perhaps the crimes weren’t actually crimes at all so they wouldn’t have been recorded. Mark pressed on and gave DCS Scott specific details about the crimes in question and even showed him a photograph of one of the illegally set traps involved, to check that it was indeed an illegally-set trap and thus a confirmed crime. DCS Scott maintained he didn’t know about these specific crimes, even when Mark gave him more detailed information about the location. This went on for some time and it was excellent to see Mark’s persistence and his unwillingness to be fobbed off. Eventually, DCS Scott committed to finding out about these specific crimes and gave assurance that he would later write to the ECCLR Committee to explain why these data had been withheld from the Government’s report.
To help DCS Scott, here’s some background about these specific crimes:
If you look at Table 19 in the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report, there is a list of raptor persecution crimes and the data are attributed to Police Scotland. Listed under Lothian & Borders, Police Scotland recorded the following incidents between April 2014-March 2015:
Peregrine shooting (Sept 2014)
Attempted trapping (species not identified) (Sept 2014)
Buzzard shooting (October 2014)
Tawny owl shooting (Dec 2014)
Now, compare the Police Scotland data with the data published in Table 4 in the RSPB’s annual report – ‘The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland, 1994-2014, A Review‘. In that report, listed under Scottish Borders, the RSPB has recorded the following additional confirmed crimes for the same time period, that were excluded from the Police Scotland data in the Government’s annual report:
Crow trap baited with 2 live pigeons, surrounded by 4 set spring traps, nr Heriot (May 2014) – there is even a photograph of this illegally-set trap on page 16)
4 x shot buzzards, nr Heriot (May 2014).
It was later revealed during the second part of the ECCLR Committee evidence session this morning, in evidence given by Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) that the above offences were uncovered during a Police Scotland-led multi-agency raid on this estate ‘nr Heriot’, so it is somewhat surprising that DCS Scott claimed to have no knowledge about them.
In due course we look forward to reading DCS Scott’s written explanation about why these data were withheld from the Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report.
In the meantime, kudos and thanks to Mark Ruskell MSP, who was one of several MSPs who performed exceptionally well at this morning’s evidence session. More on that in later blogs…..