Annex C: Wildlife Crime Penalty - Consultation
Question 1: The Scottish Government proposes that the maximum penalties for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing or taking of wild animals should be strengthened. Do you agree?
- Nearly all (97%) respondents agreed.
- The majority of organisations and individuals, and all LA’s agreed.
- Key themes included; the view that the current maximum penalties available are too low; that increasing the maximum penalties would give sheriffs more sentencing options, more enforcement of offences is required and that ultimately the increase in maximum penalties would act as a deterrent. Significant recognition is given to Scotland’s wildlife as a matter of tourism and the negative reputational impact wildlife crime could have on Scotland.
Question 2: Do you agree that the maximum prison sentence available for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, should be increased to five years imprisonment?
- Nearly all (94%) respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; the sentence should reflect the severity of the crime and that perhaps 5 years should be a minimum term; include community payback and education for certain groups of offenders depending on the motivation of the crime i.e. profit v low education.
Question 3: Do you agree that the upper limit on fines for some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, should be unlimited?
- Nearly all (90%) respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; current financial penalties are too affordable for businesses such as property developers/estates; the financial penalty should be proportional to income/profit/wealth; wildlife is priceless so there should be no limit on penalty; alternative penalties including confiscation of licences and land were also suggested; suggestions around guidance for fines to ensure cohesion.
Question 4: Do you agree that the maximum prison sentence available for other wildlife offences including the disturbance of animals or damage of nests/shelters should be increased to twelve months imprisonment?
- The majority (87%) of respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; many of the respondents in support of this increase supported a further increase beyond 12 months maximum, this was also the reason for a high number of responses disagreeing with the 12 months maximum; many respondents noted the long term impact this could have on species and felt the crime could be as serious/more serious in some cases than killing individual animals outright.
Question 5: Do you agree that the upper limit on fines for other wildlife offences including the disturbance of animals or damage of nests/shelters should be increased to £40,000?
- The majority (85%) of respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; the fines for these offences should be unlimited; £40,000 may still be too affordable for property developers/wealthy estates etc. when enforcement is rare; this is a better deterrent for many; an increase would reflect the loss to rural economy and knock on effect on biodiversity; repeat offences should have further penalty.
Question 6: Do you agree that the statutory time limit for wildlife crime offences that may be prosecuted under summary procedure only, e.g. the intentional or reckless taking, damage or destruction of nests under section 1(1)(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, should be increased to six months from which sufficient evidence came to the knowledge of the prosecutor, but no more than three years from the date of the offence?
- The majority (70%) of respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; the additional time for difficult investigations would increase prosecutions; many mentioned an increase in resources for investigations/enforcement would act as a better deterrent.
Question 7: Do you agree that we should allow some wildlife offences, for example the injuring or un-licensed killing, or taking of wild animals, to be tried under solemn proceedings before a jury in court?
- The majority (78%) of respondents agreed.
- Key themes included; all wildlife offences should allow solemn procedure (including disturbance), this should be in line with severity of crime (i.e. for profit/repeat offenders should face jury); Solemn procedure is more reflective of the seriousness of the crime; solemn proceedings has the benefit of no time limit for prosecution; a jury would be more representative of their peers/public.
Question 8: Please use this question to provide any other commentary or observations you have on the proposal to increase the available penalties for wildlife crimes.
- Suggestions included; a register for wildlife offenders; increased use of vicarious liability; stronger penalties for wealthy landowners/estates such as higher fines and confiscation of land; updating of wildlife offences is overdue; more resources for enforcement is required.
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