Withheld raptor crime data: some info for DCS Scott of Police Scotland

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…..


16 Responses to “Withheld raptor crime data: some info for DCS Scott of Police Scotland”

  1. 1 Secret Squirrel
    January 10, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Smells bad. The estate doesn’t happen to belong to someone well known does it?

  2. 2 Secret Squirrel
    January 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Ah, just realised which estate is near Heriot. Sub judice perhaps?

  3. 5 Paul Tubb
    January 10, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Why does all of this keep coming back to xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    [Ed: good question but we can’t publish it because it amounts to libel]

  4. 6 I C T
    January 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Sounds like an establishment coverup yet again and I do hope all will be revealed.
    Thank you Mark Ruskell and the other MSP’s who performed well. I look forward to learning who they were.

  5. 7 Alan Johnson
    January 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    How much longer is this obfuscation process going to be allowed to continue before Police Scotland, the Crown Service and the RSPB are ORDERED to pick a weekend when they will all agree to be locked in a room until they’ve agreed and specified an achievable and meaningful reporting process. No business sector organisation would allow this rubbish to continue.

    • 8 Iain Gibson
      January 11, 2017 at 3:56 am

      I’m struggling to think of any respectable business sector organisation which would sit in the same room as their sworn enemies, including criminals, and agree a meaningful information exchange process! The endless debate about what is a crime and what isn’t seems particularly muddled in the case of wildlife crime. If someone robs a bank or commits a murder but doesn’t get caught, is the incident then declared “not a crime”? That’s effectively what the Police Scotland reps seemed to be saying in relation to wildlife crimes. It suggests society isn’t quite taking the matter seriously enough.

      There was certainly a bit more cause for optimism in the handling of this subject than in the UK Parliamentary debate on driven grouse shooting, where the outdated conservative attitude towards exploiting wildlife, rather than appreciating and nurturing it, came to the fore. However there is a long way to go before we can be confident that we are winning the argument. A more fundamental campaign against cruelty and exploitation is necessary to complement the excellent work already being contributed against raptor persecution. As the SGA rep said, but in a different context, things are changing, but slowly. Let’s ramp it up.

      • 9 Alan Johnson
        January 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm

        There HAS to be the political will to address the very real obfuscation you’re describing, Iain. I perceive a glint of recognition in the frequently repeated answers from the “PS newbie”. He’s not as daft and “plodding” as Scott & Co pretend to be. But he’s one man…….and he’s English, too.
        The trouble with the SGA responses is that his baseline for improvement is 30 years ago. Again, this should be challenged as a totally inadequate mindset. Forget 30 years ago……..the baseline is NOW!

  6. January 10, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    The tide of public opinion will continue to swing in favour of correct punishment of wildlife criminals which will render driven grouse shooting unacceptable & unviable.
    This is an inexorable process given the requirements for openness in a civilised society.
    Increased tagging & the inevitable publicised destruction of raptors linked to grouse moors is going to be crucial in this area.
    The true figures for eagles , harriers & other species destroyed there must be horrific.
    I suspect that a very significant % of Golden eagle are dying in this way otherwise the non – breeding adult population would fill territorial vacancies before the immatures which are now attempting to breed would get a look in.
    Similarly the falling Hen harrier numbers outside grouse moors must be suggestive of a huge loss on these killing grounds which is now coming to light with tagging.
    Yes, there is great need for politicians to play catch – up but they cannot hide from public anger on this issue.
    Well done RPUK for the continuous drip , drip of information which is invaluable in this fight !

    The times they are indeed a – changing ……[ thanks Bob !]

    Come to think of it we could do with some celebrity back – up since like it or not they bring publicity to whatever they espouse …… less Beefy more beef if you know what I mean…..

    Keep up the pressure !

    • January 10, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      You say “The tide of public opinion will continue to swing in favour of correct punishment of wildlife criminals which will render driven grouse shooting unacceptable & unviable.”
      That would be great but I’m not so sure that will happen, not unless wildlife has a Lech Walesa figure fighting the cause.
      The establishment will continue to hide the facts unless there’s a way of prising the truth out of them.
      Mark Ruskell is one such ‘priser’ – a hero for the UK’s raptors.
      Well done Mark.
      Well done RPUK.

      • 12 Alan Johnson
        January 14, 2017 at 6:42 pm

        I definitely agree, Andy. Mark Ruskell’s probing stood out in the committee. We ALL need to remember that day at Portcullis House and how the views of 123,000 people were just snuffed out in a couple of hours. Why? Because despite the efforts of a couple of determined MP’s, most of us FAILED to get OUR MP even to attend, let alone speak.

  7. 13 Muriel green
    January 10, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Funny that a senior police officer gave evidence in Scottish parliament that water bailiffs rarely use enforcement powers and a TV programme showed this was not the case.

    Now we have police suppressing wildlife crime figures.

    Perhaps this explains why certain police officers objected to the SSPCA being granted extra powers which would have assisted police to investigate wildlife crime.

    Surely it’s time to get behind supporting SSPCA getting increased powers.

  8. 14 Ealasaid
    January 10, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    The ECCLR committee evidence session can be found here if anyone had trouble accessing it and wanted to watch.


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