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Preventing wildlife crime

03/11/2010

Proposals to tackle wildlife crime by making employers responsible for their employees' illegal poisonings have been outlined.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced the Scottish Government's intention to bring forward a Stage 2 amendment to the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, when giving evidence to the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee earlier today (November 3).

She told the Committee that the amendment would create a new 'vicarious liability offence' that would target those who control or manage others who are involved in criminal bird persecution. Those found guilty could face six months in jail, be fined up to £5,000 pounds. There will be a defence for those who can show that they took steps to prevent persecution.

Ms Cunningham said:

"Increased awareness and condemnation appears to be doing little to bring down the number of illegal bird poisonings in Scotland. Official figures show that 16 birds of prey were poisoned in the first six months of this year and I find this extremely disappointing.

"We have robust legislation in place to tackle this sort of crime but tougher action has to be taken to deter those who think that they can get away with persecuting our wildlife.

"I don't want to unfairly target any particular group and I will be engaging with stakeholders over the coming weeks to make sure that they know what we are trying to achieve with this amendment.

"We have a duty to protect our birds of prey as they are an integral part of our national identity. They also help our economy by attracting tourists from across the world and we cannot afford to have our international reputation tarnished by the few who continue to target them illegally."

Statistics published by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture show that in the first half of 2010 there were 13 poison abuse incidents with 16 bird of prey poisoned and a 30 per cent increase in all types submissions to the lab for testing.

The 16 birds of prey were three buzzards, five red kites, four golden eagles, two peregrine falcons, one sparrowhawk and one sea eagle. The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on June 9, 2010. It covers a range of subjects from game to invasive and non-native species. The Bill is currently being considered by the Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee.