Wildlife crime in Scotland: 2015 annual report

The fourth wildlife crime annual report, this highlights new data from the financial year 2014 to 2015.

5. PAW Scotland

The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime ( PAW) Scotland consists of law enforcement bodies, wildlife and animal welfare charities, land management organisations and government agencies, working together to fight wildlife crime.

The partnership is supported by the Scottish Government. Its work is overseen by an Executive Group, comprising representatives of selected stakeholders and the chairs of PAW Scotland sub-groups and wildlife crime priority groups based in Scotland. A wider Plenary Group, made up of representatives of all PAW Scotland member organisations, meets to give an opportunity to all members to comment on PAW projects and raise any wildlife crime issues. Both these groups are chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

The Executive group met twice in 2015, while the Plenary group met once. The latest information on the activities and membership of the partnership is available on the PAW Scotland website at www. PAW.Scotland.gov.uk.

PAW Scotland Sub-Groups

PAW Scotland operates a number of sub-groups focusing on a particular aspect of wildlife crime work. A summary of the 2015 work of these groups is provided below.

Legislation, Regulation and Guidance Sub-group

The group met in April and November 2015. It has been following the progress with the first instances of SNH exercising in areas with a record of wildlife crime, its power to remove the capacity to rely on general licences to authorise certain activities.

The group has been following three major reviews of wildlife law and is likely to be more actively engaged in any actions that flow from them:

  • Wildlife Penalties Review undertaken by Professor Poustie for the Scottish Government published November 2015; the Government responded in February 2016, stating an intention to implement many of the recommendations.
  • Law Commission's Report on Wildlife Crime (England and Wales); this recommended substantial reforms to the law, including ones to ensure compliance with EU provisions, but there is no indication of imminent legislative measures.
  • EU "Fitness Check" of the Birds and Habitats Directives; the Commission has not yet completed its work, but the process attracted unprecedented levels of public participation, with strong support for the current framework.

Other issues that the group have discussed include:

  • Studies into the use of corvid traps (led by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture with support from SNH and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
  • Disturbance of ground-nesting birds by dogs not a lead and the guidance offered by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Training and Awareness Sub-group

With partner organisations already working closely together to deliver wildlife crime training, the group agreed that its focus should remain on identifying any gaps in partner training, supporting/reporting on police training, and on face to face awareness raising and provision of advice for the public and stakeholders.

Police Scotland introduced a Wildlife Crime Officer Awareness Course in 2015 and further developed the input to officers undertaking detective training. The establishment of a dedicated intranet page on wildlife crime also allowed a number of guidance documents (such as the Wildlife Crime Guidance Booklet, PAW Forensic Guide, PAW Scotland Science Group Guidance on the Handling and Recovery of Evidence from Spring Traps) to be housed in one easily accessible place. In addition, inputs were delivered to a range of non-wildlife crime continuous professional development events. In September 2015, a specific law enforcement conference was held at the Police Scotland College, Tulliallan, with more than 80 attendees from across a range of organisations.

Partners including Bat Conservation Trust, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds amongst others, continued to assist with the delivery of training to Wildlife Crime Officers across the Divisions in Police Scotland. In addition, SNH delivered a wildlife crime input to Hydro / Wind Farm developers, whilst wildlife crime inputs were also delivered as part of a training day for SNH bat workers.

The group also considered future options for wildlife crime conferences, information sharing events and the organisation and staffing for the PAW Scotland stand at outdoor summer shows. Specifically, a decision was taken to postpone the proposed Sharing Good Practice event and this was rescheduled for September 2016.

Funding Sub-group

In 2015 the PAW Funding Sub-Group provided 3-year funding until 2018 to support the ongoing work of both the National Wildlife Crime Unit's Scottish Investigation Support Officer, and the RSPB's Investigation Team. In addition, a grant was awarded to the RSPB for a project involving the satellite tagging of golden eagles.

Outwith the PAW Funding Sub Group, SNH provided a contribution to Abertay University enable further research into the recovery of finger marks from bird feathers.

Several other grant applications were received by the PAW Funding Sub-Group, however priority was given to those which best met the funding criteria and the objectives of PAW Scotland.

Media Sub-group

The media group led or contributed to a number of media articles in 2015, including:

  • Targeted articles for industry/trade/regional publications on managing developments around bat roosts; avoiding illegal disturbance during wildlife photography; and the recording and reporting of poaching or coursing incidents.
  • The publication of new hotspot maps showing suspected incidents of crimes against freshwater pearl mussels
  • News releases on raptor crime hotspots, the SG pesticides disposal scheme and updates from the hen harrier action plan.

It was agreed that the PAW Scotland web pages were becoming dated and in need of a refresh, but this work was put on hold pending a planned major revamp of the whole Scottish Government website. The group also reviewed the PAW Scotland media protocol and discussed best practice in media handling when details of high-profile wildlife crime incidents were issued.

Scientific Sub-group

The PAW Scotland Scientific Sub-Group met in March and August of 2015. The group welcomed a new representative from Moredun, Dr Tom McNeilly. Key activities included:

  • Distribution of a guide to recovering fingerprint and DNA evidence from Spring Traps to Police Scotland and Scottish Police Authority
  • Casework review with Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer - identifying areas where science could assist with investigations
  • Provided input to the Scottish Government's Environmental Science & Analysis Unit raptor poisoning analysis.


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