Tuesday, 10 December 2019

PROPOSED NEW SENTENCES A 'GAME CHANGER' IN WILDLIFE CRIME





The SGA was at Holyrood today in front of the ECCLR Committee for a round-table discussion on proposals contained within Scottish Government's new Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protectionsand Powers) (Scotland) Bill, laid before Parliament in September.
Within the Bill are proposals to increase maximum penalties for the most serious wildlife crime offences to 5 years in jail or an unlimited fine or both.
Maximum penalties for other wildlife offences are to be increased to a 1 year jail term, a fine up to £40 000, or both.
The Bill also extends the time available for enforcement bodies to bring evidence to court.
Crown officials admitted the new measures offer greater flexibility to deal with a wide range of offences and opens up the possibility for persons accused of serious crimes to be tried before a jury.
The 5 year jail term also elevates wildlife crime to the 'serious crime' category, increasing the ability  of the Police to be able to apply to deploy 'intrusive' surveillance in cases where a jail term of 3 years or more could be deemed an expected outcome and there was no other means to gather evidence.
With Scotland already having strict measures in relation to wildlife crime, the SGA said the proposed new penalties will raise the bar to a previously untold level.
Speaking to the Committee in Edinburgh, Gamekeeper Les George said: "The new sentences are a game changer. For a gamekeeper, the levels of fines are not affordable. If a gamekeeper was found guilty of an offence, they would lose their job, lose their home and their firearms. They would never work again as a gamekeeper. It would be over. It's a game-changer."
Les also told the committee that, while the Police deploying covert cameras in serious cases could be justified, their could be serious implications if campaign bodies were empowered to use covert surveillance.
He told the committee he had suffered, personally, from illegal filming.
"We are not against that (Police being able to deploy cameras in serious cases) but we are concerned about the impact on privacy. I have had people filming my house and my wife and daughter caught on camera. Our fear is that it will encourage vigilantes to do more illegal camera work."