We’ve talked quite a bit on the issue of withheld raptor crime data from the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual Wildlife Crime report. We blogged about it when the report was published in November 2016 (here) and again earlier this month when Mark Ruskell MSP asked for an explanation from Police Scotland during the recent ECCLR Committee hearing on wildlife crime (see here).
This issue was raised again on Thursday during a general question session at Holyrood. The topic of ‘crime recording’ was being discussed and Mark Ruskell took the opportunity to ask a supplementary question:
“The cabinet secretary might be aware that “Wildlife Crime in Scotland—2015 Annual Report” came under scrutiny recently in the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. It was revealed that a number of bird of prey persecution incidents from two years ago were withheld from the report despite details from other sources being in the public domain. Will the cabinet secretary undertake to investigate why that information was withheld, and will he say what Police Scotland can do to ensure that wildlife crime reporting is transparent, accurate and has the confidence of the public?”
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, responded as follows:
“Classification and the way issues are recorded in the statistics are developed by statisticians, and the approach must comply with the code of practice that is applied to recording of crime statistics. I have no doubt that if the Scottish crime recording board believes that there is a need for any alterations, it can consider that issue, as we move forward with any changes that could take place. However, I will ensure that Mark Ruskell receives a full and detailed response on the specific nature of wildlife crimes”.
The withholding of the raptor persecution data probably wasn’t due to a faulty classification system developed by statisticians. The missing data included incidents that were very clearly crimes – there’s no ambiguity about whether 4 shot buzzards, a trap containing a live pigeon decoy, and spring traps set in the open, were crimes. They obviously were crimes, even though the police-led investigation didn’t identify the person(s) responsible for those crimes.
We await Police Scotland’s explanation for why these crimes were withheld from the Government’s annual report.
Thanks to Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens, Mid Scotland & Fife) for his persistence on this issue.