Posts Tagged ‘vicarious liability

25
Jan
17

Vicarious liability prosecution: Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate), part 13

Criminal proceedings continued yesterday (24 January 2017) against landowner Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan, who is alleged to be vicariously liable for the crimes committed by gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick in April 2014.

Gamekeeper Dick was convicted in August 2015 of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Mr Dick was sentenced in September 2015 and was given a £2000 fine (see here). Mr Dick attempted to appeal his conviction but this appeal was rejected on 15 July 2016 (see here).

Here’s a quick review of the proceedings against Andrew Duncan so far:

Hearing #1 (18th August 2015): Trial date set for 23rd Nov 2015, with an intermediate diet scheduled for 20th Oct 2015.

Hearing #2 (20th October 2015): Case adjourned. November trial date dumped. Notional diet hearing (where a trial date may be set) scheduled for 18th January 2016.

Hearing #3 (18th January 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet & debate scheduled for 11th March 2016.

Hearing #4 (11th March 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 4th April 2016.

Hearing #5 (4th April 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 3rd June 2016.

Hearing #6 (3rd June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 17th June 2016.

Hearing #7 (17th June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 15th July 2016.

Hearing #8 (15 July 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet scheduled for 2 August 2016.

Hearing #9 (2 August 2016): Proceedings moved to trial. Intermediate diet scheduled for 15 November 2016 and provisional trial date set for 7/8 December 2016.

Hearing #10 (15 November 2016): The case was adjourned for another intermediate diet scheduled for 22 November 2016. Trial date of 7/8 December 2016 is dumped.

Hearing #11 (22 November 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 6 December 2016.

Hearing #12 (6 December 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 24 January 2017. A provisional trial date (this will be the third time a trial date has been assigned) is scheduled for 24 April 2017.

Hearing #13 (24 January 2017): Guess what? The case was adjourned for another intermediate diet, scheduled for 11 April 2017. As far as we know, the provisional trial date of 24 April still stands although this could change depending on what happens at the intermediate diet on 11 April.

Vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of raptors in Scotland (where one person may potentially be legally responsible for the criminal actions of another person working under their supervision) came in to force five years ago on 1st January 2012. To date there have been two successful prosecutions/convictions: one in December 2014 (see here) and one in December 2015 (see here).  One further case did not reach the prosecution stage due, we believe, to the difficulties associated with identifying the management structure on the estate where the crimes were committed (see here).

16
Jan
17

ECCLR review of wildlife crime report: session 1

Last week the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee held an evidence session in which to review the Scottish Government’s 2015 Annual Wildlife Crime Report.

The archived video can be watched here

The official transcript can be read here: ecclr-transcript-wildlife-crime-10-jan-2017

The evidence session took place in two parts: the first session involved witnesses from Police Scotland and the Crown Office, and the second session heard evidence from RSPB Scotland, Scottish Badgers, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Bat Conservation Trust.

This blog focuses on session 1 (we’ll blog about session 2 in another blog).

ecclr1

The witnesses in session 1 were Gary Aitken (Crown Office), ACC Steve Johnson and DCS Sean Scott (Police Scotland). DCS Scott has appeared in front of this committee in previous years (when it was the RACCE committee) but this was a first time appearance for ACC Johnson and Gary Aitken.

Session 1 lasted for about two hours and it’s fair to say these witnesses were given quite a grilling. The ECCLR Committee was extremely well informed and in some cases there was some pretty persistent (but respectful) questioning, notably by Mark Ruskell MSP and Claudia Beamish MSP.

We’ve already blogged about part of this session (see here) in relation to Police Scotland’s inability to answer Mark Ruskell’s question about why some confirmed raptor crimes had been withheld from the Government’s 2015 report. We await Police Scotland’s written explanation to the Committee in due course. A similar problem was raised in this session re: the huge discrepancy between the number of crimes against badgers recorded by Scottish Badgers ( n = 42) and those recorded by Police Scotland (n = 5). Again, Police Scotland has been asked to provide a written explanation to the Committee, which will be important because this appears to be a recurring issue. It was good to hear  though, that Police Scotland has recently set up some new reporting mechanisms with Scottish Badgers, as well as training days for officers. Hopefully this will improve communication and understanding between them.

There was good discussion about increased powers for the SSPCA (Police Scotland appears to have softened its stance on this a bit, although we’re all STILL waiting for the Environment Cabinet Secretary to announce the Government’s position on these increased powers), agreement that increased penalties for wildlife crime would be very welcome, and also agreement on the importance of being able to identify accountable individuals for potential vicarious liability prosecutions. All good.

On the whole, Police Scotland and the Crown Office were far more circumspect at this hearing than in previous appearances. We were very pleased to hear ACC Johnson acknowledge that the full extent of wildlife crime in Scotland is an ‘unknown’, in complete contrast to his predecessor’s (ACC Malcolm Graham) ludicrous claims that Police Scotland ‘wasn’t missing much of it’ (see here).

We were also very pleased to hear ACC Johnson’s acknowledgement that the scientific / academic evidence [of the effect of persecution on the distribution and abundance of raptor populations] was a “strong part” of the evidence of wildlife crime.  However, none of this scientific evidence had appeared in the Government’s 2015 annual report and Mark Ruskell MSP asked what progress had been made in assessing this evidence; something ACC Graham had committed to doing last year. The responses from ACC Johnson and DCS Scott were utterly astounding. They both said they’d be happy to look at the scientific evidence ‘if it was brought to their attention’.

What? Are they for real? Are they seriously suggesting they’re unaware of the massive body of scientific evidence? They’re having a laugh, aren’t they?

How many peer-reviewed scientific reports and papers have been published on this issue in the last 20 years? Bloody loads of them! Here’s a list of some of them and hereherehere are some more that have been published in the last year alone and here, here are some preliminary scientific results, all widely reported in the media, that are due to be written up as scientific papers in the immediate future.

Sorry, ACC Johnson and DCS Scott, your claimed ignorance of the scientific evidence just doesn’t wash. Especially DCS Scott, who chairs the PAW Raptor Group, where some of these scientific results have been frequently discussed.

So why claim ignorance? Was it to cover up Police Scotland’s inaction on this issue? If so, that’s not nearly good enough. For two years in a row now Police Scotland has committed to assessing the scientific evidence and incorporating it in to its ‘intelligence-led’ investigations. We, and no doubt the ECCLR Committee, will expect to see progress on this when the Government’s 2016 annual report is published later this year.

14
Jan
17

Public funds to promote wildlife criminals in Scotland?

In December 2016 we blogged about the ‘Game for Growth’ strategy, which is a plan to promote Scottish country sports and boost its value to the economy. The strategy, which was launched at a parliamentary reception on 20th December 2016 (here) is being led by the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) and is being part-funded by VisitScotland using tax payers’ money (see here).

You may recall that Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman lodged a parliamentary question about the use of these public funds, as follows:

Question S5W-05930: Andy Wightman (Lothian, Scottish Green Party). Date lodged: 22/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the recipients of financial contributions from VisitScotland to the strategy, Game for Growth Strategy – Country Sports Tourism in Scotland 2016; what information it has regarding how each recipient will use this; what action it has taken to ensure that no money was provided to the owners or managers of landholdings on which crimes against wildlife have been committed; whether it will publish the strategy on its website, and what aspects of this it is supporting or plans to support with public money.

This question has now been answered:

Answered by Fiona Hyslop MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs) on 11/1/2017:

VisitScotland has approved a grant of £17,925 to the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group to promote Scotland as the destination of choice for all country sports. The Group will use this to develop content and supporting digital activity to attract visitors from across the UK and Scandinavia. As this money is for a specific project, no funding will be provided to individual estates or land owners. There is no intention to publish the strategy on VisitScotland’s website and so there will be no funding support for this.

It’s an interesting response. It does clarify that public funds (at least these public funds) will not be given directly to individual estates or landowners, but it is also clear that individual estates will still benefit from this public funding, albeit indirectly, because the SCSTG will use the funds to promote these individual estates as part of an online PR campaign.

In our December blog, we noted that the SCSTG website was promoting the Dunmhor Sporting Agency as a provider of country sports activities in Scotland:

We were surprised to see Dunmhor Sporting being promoted on the SCSTG website because Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December 2015 of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate. We just looked at the SCSTG’s website again and Dunmhor Sporting is still being promoted as a country sports provider.

So much for the game shooting industry ousting its criminal members.

We wonder whether the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, is aware that a now (part) publicly funded organisation (the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group) is promoting a convicted wildlife criminal and if so, whether she thinks this is an appropriate use of public funds?

Emails to: scottish.ministers@gov.scot and mark it FAO Fiona Hyslop

27
Dec
16

Parliamentary reception for group promoting wildlife criminal

Yesterday we blogged about the launch of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s new initiative, Game for Growth, aimed at promoting the value of country sports to the Scottish economy (see here).

We mentioned that Andy Wightman MSP had lodged a Parliamentary Question asking whether public funds (via VisitScotland as part of the Game for Growth initiative) had been given to the owners or managers of landholdings where wildlife crime had taken place.

We also mentioned our surprise that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s website is promoting a sporting agent with a current conviction for raptor persecution.

What we didn’t mention was that the launch of the Game for Growth initiative took place at a prestigious parliamentary reception at Holyrood on 20 December 2016, with wide media coverage.

This parliamentary reception was hosted by Edward Mountain MSP (Conservative, Highlands & Islands) and included speeches from Malcolm Roughead, Chief Exec of VisitScotland, and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP.

Here is a photo of some of the attendees: (L-R: Tim (Kim) Baynes from the Gift of Grouse, Malcolm Roughead from VisitScotland, Edward Mountain MSP (host), and Sarah Troughton from the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group).

The revelation that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group is actively promoting a convicted wildlife criminal will probably be a surprise to Edward Mountain MSP, and undoubtedly a source of deep embarrassment; he surely wouldn’t have hosted them had he known. It’s reasonable to assume he didn’t know because his expertise appears to be in fishing rather than gamebird hunting. Sustainable sport fishing does bring in millions to the rural economy and it isn’t underpinned by wildlife crime, so it’s easy to see why he would lend support to the Game for Growth initiative.

Unfortunately for Edward, as well as the sport fishing industry, the Gift of Grouse is also prominently involved with the Game for Growth initiative (check out that banner in the photo) and this isn’t the first parliamentary reception they’ve been involved with that has led to awkward questions being asked.

We await the Scottish Government’s response to Andy Wightman’s Parliamentary Questions about public funding for wildlife criminals with great interest.

26
Dec
16

Parliamentary Question: is public money being used to promote wildlife criminals in Scottish shooting sector?

scstg-logoLast week it was announced that the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) has plans to boost the value of game shooting, stalking and fishing to the rural economy by £30 million, via its new ‘Game for Growth’ strategy.

The Game for Growth strategy document can be read here: sctsg-game-for-growth-strategy-document-dec-2016

It’s a pretty turgid read, full of tedious marketing soundbites, but basically it sets out how the industry plans to promote Scottish country sports over the next four years to reach a wider national and international market. This will be achieved mostly, it seems, by claiming the industry is sustainable with fabulous conservation benefits and ignoring the vast environmental damage and wildlife crime associated with some activities within this sector.

visit-scotland-1Interestingly, VisitScotland (the national tourism agency linked to the Scottish Government) has apparently committed to boosting the country sports tourism sector and has announced a matched ‘Growth Fund’ to help SCSTG develop its marketing strategy and increase its online presence.

We’re not the only ones to raise an eyebrow at this. Andy Wightman MSP has lodged the following Parliamentary Question about it:

Question S5W-05930: Andy Wightman (Lothian, Scottish Green Party). Date lodged: 22/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the recipients of financial contributions from VisitScotland to the strategy, Game for Growth Strategy – Country Sports Tourism in Scotland 2016; what information it has regarding how each recipient will use this; what action it has taken to ensure that no money was provided to the owners or managers of landholdings on which crimes against wildlife have been committed; whether it will publish the strategy on its website, and what aspects of this it is supporting or plans to support with public money.

Expected answer date: 19/01/2017

These are legitimate questions, and especially when you take a closer look at the SCSTG website, which has been developed to connect potential visitors with various country sports providers across Scotland. For example, if you want to pay money to shoot mountain hares in Scotland, you can use the website’s search facility and a number of sporting agents/estates who offer this ‘sport’ will be highlighted.

We used the search facility to look for various ‘sporting’ opportunities and were very surprised to find that sporting agency Dunmhor Sporting was being promoted:

Why the surprise? Well, Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December last year of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate.

Why is the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group promoting an agent who has a current conviction for wildlife crime? And why is VisitScotland providing match funding to an organisation that is promoting a convicted wildlife criminal?

07
Dec
16

Vicarious liability prosecution: Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate), part 12

Criminal proceedings continued yesterday (6 December 2016) against landowner Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan, who is alleged to be vicariously liable for the crimes committed by gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick in April 2014.

Gamekeeper Dick was convicted in August 2015 of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Mr Dick was sentenced in September 2015 and was given a £2000 fine (see here). Mr Dick attempted to appeal his conviction but this was refused on 15 July 2016 (see here).

Here’s a quick review of the proceedings against Andrew Duncan so far:

Hearing #1 (18th August 2015): Trial date set for 23rd Nov 2015, with an intermediate diet scheduled for 20th Oct 2015.

Hearing #2 (20th October 2015): Case adjourned. November trial date dumped. Notional diet hearing (where a trial date may be set) scheduled for 18th January 2016.

Hearing #3 (18th January 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet & debate scheduled for 11th March 2016.

Hearing #4 (11th March 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 4th April 2016.

Hearing #5 (4th April 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 3rd June 2016.

Hearing #6 (3rd June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 17th June 2016.

Hearing #7 (17th June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 15th July 2016.

Hearing #8 (15 July 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet scheduled for 2 August 2016.

Hearing #9 (2 August 2016): Proceedings moved to trial. Intermediate diet scheduled for 15 November 2016 and provisional trial date set for 7/8 December 2016.

Hearing #10 (15 November 2016): The case was adjourned for another intermediate diet scheduled for 22 November 2016. Trial date of 7/8 December 2016 is dumped.

Hearing #11 (22 November 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 6 December 2016.

Hearing #12 (6 December 2016): The case was adjourned for yet another intermediate diet, scheduled for 24 January 2017. A provisional trial date (this will be the third time a trial date has been assigned) is scheduled for 24 April 2017.

Vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of raptors in Scotland (where one person may potentially be legally responsible for the criminal actions of another person working under their supervision) came in to force nearly five years ago on 1st January 2012. To date there have been two successful prosecutions/convictions: one in December 2014 (see here) and one in December 2015 (see here).  One further case did not reach the prosecution stage due, we believe, to the difficulties associated with identifying the management structure on the estate where the crimes were committed (see here).

23
Nov
16

Statement from Wildlife Estates Scotland on membership status of Newlands Estate

Those of you who’ve been following the long drawn-out saga of prosecutions relating to the wildlife crime that took place on Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire in 2015 will know that we’ve been asking questions of various organisations associated with this estate.

One of those questions has been about the membership status of the Newlands Estate in the ‘Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES)’ scheme, administered by Scottish Land & Estates. Since Newlands Estate gamekeeper Billy Dick’s conviction (for killing a buzzard) was upheld in July this year, we’ve asked this:

‘Will the Newlands Estate’s accredited membership of Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) now be revoked? The conditions of membership of this scheme include: “the requirements to maintain best practice standards of animal welfare and comply with all legal requirements and relevant Scottish codes of practice”. At the time of Mr Dick’s conviction, a spokesperson for WES said the Newlands Estate’s membership and accreditation of WES had been ‘voluntarily suspended’ pending the outcome of legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question?’

Four months on, and thanks to blog readers for writing to WES, the following statement has appeared on the WES website this morning:

wes-statement-newlands

So, Newlands Estate is still a member of WES, albeit in a suspended state. Presumably, WES is waiting to find out whether the allegation of vicarious liability is proven against landowner Andrew Duncan during forthcoming legal proceedings.

That’s an interesting position for WES to take. A wildlife crime did take place on Newlands Estate and a Newlands Estate employee was convicted for it. Why isn’t that sufficient cause for WES to expel Newlands Estate? Two conditions of WES membership were clearly breached (“the requirements to maintain best practice standards of animal welfare and comply with all legal requirements and relevant Scottish codes of practice“). Whether Mr Duncan is subsequently convicted or acquitted of vicarious liability is irrelevant and will not erase these facts.

Let’s imagine, for example, that Mr Duncan is exonerated and WES decides to lift the suspension on membership. WES will still have a wildlife crime estate on its membership list. How does that ‘protect the reputation of its membership, as well as the integrity of accreditation itself’? Here’s a hint, WES: IT DOESN’T.

Other questions we’ve been asking since Newlands Estate gamekeeper Billy Dick’s failed appeal in July 2016 are yet to be answered:

  1. Is/was criminal gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association? The SGA refused to comment on Mr Dick’s membership status at the time, saying they ‘wanted to wait until the legal process had concluded’. Well, now Mr Dick’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to: info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk
  2. Will Scottish Land & Estates now expel the Newlands Estate from the ranks of SLE membership? SLE said at the time that Newlands Estate’s membership of SLE had been ‘voluntarily suspended’ pending on-going legal proceedings. Well, now the gamekeeper’s criminal conviction for wildlife offences has been upheld, how about answering the question? Emails to: info@scottishlandandestates.co.uk



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