No further General Licence restrictions in pipeline because Police Scotland sitting on evidence

The ability for SNH to impose a General Licence restriction order on land where there is evidence of raptor persecution taking place came in to force on 1 January 2014. This measure, based on a civil burden of proof, was introduced by then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to the continuing difficulties of meeting a criminal burden of proof to facilitate a criminal prosecution.

Whilst these GL restrictions are not without their limitations (because estates can simply apply for an individual licence instead –  see here, and we’ll soon be blogging again about the individual licences issued for Raeshaw & Corsehope estates in the Borders), Wheelhouse argued that as the restriction notices will be made public, they should act as a ‘reputational driver‘ and to us, that’s still where their value lies.

Since 1 January 2014, SNH has imposed two GL restrictions: one for Raeshaw & Corsehope estates, and one for Burnfoot & Wester Cringate estates in Stirlingshire. These restrictions began in November 2015 but as regular blog readers will know, Raeshaw & Corsehope made a legal challenge which ended up with a judicial review in January 2017. The court’s decision was announced in March 2017 and SNH was found to have acted properly and lawfully.

Since imposing those two GL restrictions in November 2015, SNH has not issued any others, presumably as they needed to await the outcome of the legal challenge, which is fair enough. However, now SNH has been given the green light to proceed with these restriction orders, we are expecting a flurry of further restriction announcements. We are aware of at least half a dozen other confirmed raptor persecution incidents that have taken place since 1 January 2014 that are not progressing for a criminal prosecution (and there’ll be more, it’s just that Police Scotland are currently hiding these from public view) and these should be eligible for SNH to consider for a potential GL restriction.

So, soon after the judicial review judgement had been announced, we submitted an FoI to SNH to ask about progress. We received their response last week and it’s staggering. In a nutshell, there aren’t any further General Licence restrictions in the pipeline because Police Scotland hasn’t bothered to pass on the evidence needed by SNH:

This, frankly, is an appalling neglect of duty by Police Scotland. We know that GL restrictions can ONLY be considered by SNH on receipt of evidence from Police Scotland. The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee was told by Police Scotland in November 2014 that Police Scotland would meet monthly with SNH, starting that month, to discuss any potential cases (although in the Scottish Government’s 2015 Annual Wildlife Crime Report it was stated that ‘SNH meet with Police Scotland and the National Wildlife Crime Unit every 3 months to review new information on bird crimes in Scotland and to identify any possible cases for future restrictions’).

So if they’ve been meeting regularly (whether that be monthly or quarterly) since November 2014, why the hell hasn’t Police Scotland provided any ‘formal information packages’ to SNH other than those used for the two GL restrictions that were imposed in November 2015?

SNH’s hands are tied until they receive such packages (so this is definitely not a criticism of SNH) and meanwhile, all those estates where evidence of raptor persecution has been uncovered since 1 January 2014 are allowed to continue without sanction. And that’s all thanks to Police Scotland’s apathy.

Police Scotland might argue that they’ve been waiting for the judgement of the judicial review before spending any time collating formal information packages because the judicial review might have gone the other way and prevented SNH from imposing any more. That would be sort of understandable, although a bit surprising for a police force that claims to take wildlife crime, and particularly raptor persecution, ‘very seriously’. However, SNH’s response to us suggests that these joint discussion meetings have been on-going, even during the lengthy judicial review process, but they can’t do anything because Police Scotland haven’t followed through with the evidence. But even if these meetings had been temporarily suspended, the judicial review judgement was announced at the end of March 2017 – that’s six weeks ago – so why has Police Scotland still not provided any evidence for SNH to consider? How long can it take to put together an information package, especially when in some cases you’ve had about 2-3 years to think about it?

It’s utterly pathetic.

We’ll be bringing this to the attention of members of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee (responsible for scrutiny of wildlife crime policy and enforcement) and also to the attention of Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham as she continues to deliberate (a) increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA and (b) her response to the findings of the raptor satellite tag data review (submitted 6 weeks ago but still to be formally published).

Meanwhile, supposedly protected raptor species will continue to suffer the consequences.

12 Responses to “No further General Licence restrictions in pipeline because Police Scotland sitting on evidence”

  1. 1 Gerard
    May 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Brilliant work RPUK, keep banging the drum.

  2. 2 AnMac
    May 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Perhaps the Scottish Police are too busy having ‘meetings’ with the raptor persecutors after having read that their counterparts south of the border recommend sitting down and discussing the problems of raptor persecution with them.

    I would be interested to know what other groups of recidivists in England sit down with the police to discuss their daily task of being involved in criminality whether it be shoplifting, drug dealing, domestic violence, etc etc.

    I would imagine the crime rate would be falling immeasurably now that they have given up on actually going after the criminal fraternity and taking them to court for their dastardly deeds.

    It looks like our police force have similar intentions.

  3. 3 crypticmirror
    May 10, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Told you all the cops are corrupt. Deeply in the pockets of their lairdships.

    • May 10, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      What a ridiculous statement.

      There are some excellent police officers. The ones we’re blogging about here are just a handful of senior officers who continue to disappoint (note: there is no evidence of corruption).

    • 5 Anon
      May 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      It’s the same old story. Many police officers have an unofficial omerta code in much the same way the gamekeepers do. To give evidence against a colleague who is corrupt would see most who might do so heavily discriminated against in the workplace, making the job almost impossible to do. Do I feel sorry for them? Not a bit. They get good money for which they take an oath. They should live up to it.
      “I, … of … do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law”

  4. 6 lothianrecorder
    May 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they just did their jobs, without the need for people like you to be constantly chasing after them, trying to find out what they have done or not via FOIs and then flagging it up via posts like this (credit to you for your hard work to this end). That’s the way most of us operate in the workplace – you are paid to do a job and if you refuse to do it you are liable for disciplinary action and/or made redundant. Giving benefit of the doubt maybe they simply don’t have the resources (but then would not have staff for meetings either?) but the impression it gives is their heart is not in it..

  5. 7 Billy
    May 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Wonder why it is ONLY information from the police that can be considered by SNH

    I have looked at the Scottish Governments wildlife crime report and see that SSPCA investigate wildlife crime and report cases to the COPFS. Badger baiting, snaring and trapping wildlife.

    Wonder why SNH do not want this information

  6. May 10, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    So the folk in SNH who watch the hen harrier being blown out the sky cant see the hen harrier being blown out the sky until the police say “guess what, there is a video of a hen harrier being blown out the sky that you guys should really have a look at”…..? Really?

  7. 9 Iunderstandbetterthanyou
    May 11, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Billy and circusmaxim – you don’t understand these things but it’s okay I’ll explain it simply for you.

    SNH do not have the powers to investigate crimes, never have and never will. They rely on the police to provide the evidence to make a general licence restriction happen. Even if an SNH staff member witnessed the shooting of the hen harrier in person, it would not be enough to make a restriction happen.

    If SNH did push ahead and put a restriction in place without any input from the police and thus proper evidence, they would lose a judicial review and the taxpayer would have to pay not only for the SNH legal time but that of the person that took them to court. On top of that they could then claim damages based on loss of earnings. Each case has to be 100%.

    The burden of proof is at a civil level but it’s still about proof. SNH cannot just push ahead without the police giving the evidence because it would not stand up in court.

    It’s terrible that the hen harrier footage got thrown out of court but this was PRE general licence restriction time and so can’t be considered for a restriction.

  8. 10 Gerard
    May 11, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    The drug squad regularly discuss operations with drug dealers, that’s the function of the police, the management of crime. I am sure huge sums of money are exchanged and a few minnows (small local dealers who threaten the business of this large scale organised crime) are earmarked for police attention. The grouse shooting industry is analogous to this. The police meet the grouse moor owners and get freebies, maybe a meal at an exclusive club, reports about poachers (vicious wildlife criminals) are exchanged and they both go home feeling a little glee, the policeman because he thinks he is being accepted into the club of the uber-rich and the moor owner because it gives him great satisfaction, to know that he has successfully manipulated someone who is aspiring to his company which gives him a great sense of power. They want their bloody heads banging together.

  9. 11 Mel Greenhalgh
    May 12, 2017 at 8:14 am

    MelG . I follow this blog religiously and like most environmentally concerned people am appalled at what is going on , and what is allowed to go by seemingly unconcerned police forces.
    With regards to GL licence restrictions are the SNH allowed to ask the police for these information packages, and if so have they asked, or do they share the same passive ineptitude.

  10. 12 Alex. Milne
    May 12, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    We are where we are but we have to keep plugging away against a the forces who support the organised criminals in the grouse shooting industry. I’d be only mildly satisfied if at their next monthly meeting the SNH and police agreed to proceed to remove the general licenses without adding any individual licences to the 2 estates seen to be acting on a criminal way, never mind to a lesser standard. These licences could be removed in weeks. If not, why not, and who is behind it? The present position is not defendable in any way.

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