6. Police Scotland
Police Scotland recognises that there remains a significant number of individuals for whom wildlife crime continues to be acceptable despite the damage to the environment and the reputation of Scotland. Some wildlife crimes continue to be committed within the context of recreational activity, for example deer poaching, hare coursing and badger baiting, whilst for others there is profit or commercial gain to be made through participation in illegal wildlife activities.
Salmon and freshwater fisheries offences and offences relating to wild birds are the most commonly recorded wildlife crimes. Raptor persecution investigations continue to be the most challenging in terms of the gathering of admissible evidence. During the reporting period the wildlife crimes investigated by Police Scotland covered a broad spectrum of offences, including some beyond the recognised wildlife crime priorities.
Police Scotland has continued to provide internal training in the form of a Wildlife Crime Awareness Course held at Scottish Police College, Tulliallan. The course was attended by 40 officers including representation from specialist policing departments and was delivered through a combination of internal and external speakers. The one-day course provided a basic introduction to wildlife crime for officers with little or no wildlife crime experience. A new Wildlife Crime Investigators course with a greater focus on investigative tactics and forensics is currently in development taking cognisance of the exceptionally specialist and challenging area of policing. The new course will commence in early 2020.
A number of local training initiatives took place to increase knowledge and awareness to combat localised wildlife crime trends supported by partners. Officers also participated in a number of sharing good practice events hosted by SNH, covering a vast array of Wildlife topics, raising awareness and knowledge whilst providing networking opportunities and greater collaboration with species experts.
Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Unit successfully secured a Wildlife Crime dog. Deployment of a highly trained police dog in response to wildlife related incidents has obvious positive implications for investigations and is a much-welcomed enhancement to Police Scotland’s ongoing commitment to tackling wildlife crime.
Police Scotland’s response to wildlife crime goes beyond merely the enforcement of wildlife laws and detecting offences committed by criminals. While many offences are committed by those who intentionally contravene the laws relevant to Scotland's protected species, another vital aspect of the organisation's response is increasing people's awareness of the importance of our wildlife and habitats, how they are protected, the serious impact of wildlife crime and how to remain within the law. Police Scotland’s far reaching social media platform is used to raise awareness, educate and promote Wildlife Crime initiatives whilst wildlife officers force wide continue to have an active participation in public engagement activities. Year on year, Police Scotland Wildlife Officers provide a major contribution to the PAW Scotland presence at a range of events. Key national events include the Royal Highland Show and the Scottish Game Fair at Scone.
Emerging issues for the period 2017 to 2020 include the potential impact of Brexit on Police Scotland's policing of wildlife crime, given the significance of key EU legislation relating to the protection of certain UK species and habitats. It is also assessed that cyber-facilitated wildlife crimes will pose a growing issue for policing to tackle, due to the internet's exponential growth and role as a driver for transnational wildlife crime and trafficking.