New powers to tackle wildlife crime
New powers to crack down on criminals who poison rare birds of prey were announced today.
The possession of a range of specified pesticides will become an offence punishable by fines of up to £5,000 and/or jail sentences of six months from March 14.
The new law offers greater protection to birds such as the golden eagle, buzzard, red kite and sea eagle. The provisions will protect not only wildlife but also potential victims of accidental poisoning such as children and domestic pets.
Deputy Environment and Rural Development Minister Lewis Macdonald said:
"Banning the possession of these pesticides will further strengthen available powers to fight those committing these offences. The eight ingredients listed have all been used in the recent past to kill wildlife.
"The Executive is committed to protecting Scotland's natural heritage. As we have said before, wildlife crime is serious crime and I am delighted that the police and the courts are now armed with the means to ensure it is being dealt with effectively.
"The new powers which come into force on March 14, 2005 will lead to more effective enforcement and help to stop further persecution of Scotland's wildlife."
The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act was introduced in October 2004 and saw an increase in fines and a new custodial sentence for wildlife crime. The new measures take this further and will now provide that any person in possession of a pesticide containing named active ingredients commits an offence.
The eight active ingredients listed in the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005 are:-
The new offence does not prevent the possession of pesticide products such as those commonly available at garden centres etc by householders and amateur gardeners, nor their normal use for the approved purposes as stated on the product label.
Advice on the disposal of any old pesticides which do contain the 8 substances in question can be obtained from local authorities.
In August 2004 a gamekeeper was fined £5,500 for what was described at the time as Scotland's worst wildlife crime. The defendant admitted killing 20 birds of prey, including buzzards, a goshawk and a tawny owl, by laying poisoned bait on a hillside. He was suspended by the Barns Estate near Kirkton Manor, Peebleshire, which had publicly condemned his actions.
A persistent egg thief was jailed for four months and fined £5000 in December 2004 at Oban Sheriff Court. This was the first time a custodial sentence was imposed in Scotland for wildlife crime. The defendant pled guilty to stealing the egg of an Arctic tern, possessing 30 wild birds eggs and possessing equipment capable of being used to commit wildlife crime offences.