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Protecting our wildlife

01/01/2012

The latest reforms to modernise the management of wildlife in Scotland come into force today.

The second commencement order of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 introduces a new offence of vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of wild birds.

This offence allows for the prosecution of those minority of landowners or managers who fail to take the appropriate steps to ensure their employees and contractors act within the law.

The legislation also includes measures for a new hare close season, changes to the deer act and snaring law.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The introduction of vicarious liability highlights the importance of landowners and managers who run shooting businesses taking a proactive role in ensuring that their employees and contractors are aware of the law and their responsibilities for wild birds on the ground they manage.

"Guidance being developed by Scottish Land and Estates, which I was pleased to contribute to, will help their members take the right approach. Most such businesses already do act responsibly, but the small minority of managers and owners who don't will be at risk of prosecution if their employees are found to have broken the law in this area. It is very important we get this right, alongside the other elements of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act, in order to safeguard some of our most spectacular wildlife."

Luke Borwick, Chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, commented:

"Scottish Land and Estates understands the motivation behind the Scottish Government's vicarious liability measures and is fully committed to stamping out wildlife crime. From the outset we have made clear our reservations about the necessity for a statutory approach but it is now important that there is absolute clarity for landowners, managers and gamekeepers on how the legislation will be enforced.

"We are already very active within the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland and have founded the Wildlife Estates Scotland scheme. Through joint working mechanisms such as these we hope to now ensure that it is only those who are actually culpable who are affected by this legislation rather than the vast majority who could potentially incur additional cost burdens."

Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit said:

"This landmark legislation highlights the significance of the role of the landowner/manager in ensuring their employees manage their land to the highest of standards. Vicarious liability will serve as a deterrent to those owners and managers who turn a blind eye to questionable practices on their land, whilst also providing law enforcement with much needed powers to target the minority of land owners and managers who are content to benefit from offences committed by their employee rather than acting as custodians of our natural environment."

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2011.

The second commencement order comes into force on January 1, 2011 bringing into effect vicarious liability, new close season for hares and changes to the Deer Act and snaring law.

The first commencement order came into force on June 29, 2011 bringing into effect game law reforms and species law licensing orders.

Scottish Natural Heritage are responsible for implementation of many of the elements of the WANE Act including species law licensing and the Deer Management Code.

Vicarious liability

  • New criminal law provision makes shooting business land owners and managers responsible for certain crimes committed against wild birds on their land by their employees, contractors and agents. However there will be no conviction under vicarious liability unless it can be shown that a crime was committed and that it was the owner's or manager's employee, contractor or agent who was responsible.
  • Defence to vicarious liability for a land owner/manager to show he/she did not know about the crime and took all reasonable steps and due diligence to prevent it.

New close season for hares

  • WANE Act introduces a new close season for brown hares and mountain hares. The close seasons are February 1 to September 30 for brown hares and March 1 to July 31 for mountain hares. It will be an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, take or injure a hare during the close season. The first close seasons for hares will start on February 1 2012 for brown hares and March 1 2012 for mountain hares.
  • The close season is intended to provide protection for hares during the period when the are most likely to have dependent young.

Changes to the Deer Act

  • The majority of the deer provisions come into force on January 1 2012, including measures in relation to deer management and provision of a Code of Practice on Deer Management. There are provisions on competence in deer stalking linked to a review by SNH planned for 2014. The exemption to allow the despatch of deer due to suffering is also clarified.

Changes to snaring law

  • The majority of the snaring provisions, which includes the setting of snares, duty to inspect, record keeping, and the compulsory training course which operators must successfully complete, will come into force on January 1 2012.
  • The requirement that all snares must be fitted with an ID tag and number is not expected to come into force until early 2013 to allow snaring operators sufficient time to successfully complete the compulsory training course which is a prerequisite for getting an ID number from the police.