Wildlife crime in Scotland: 2017 annual report

The sixth wildlife crime annual report, with new data from the financial year 2016 to 2017.

6. Police Scotland

Police Scotland

Police Scotland recognises that there remain 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 gains to be made through participation in illegal wildlife activities.

Salmon and freshwater fisheries offences continue to be the most commonly recorded wildlife crimes, although raptor persecution enquiries remain the most challenging in terms of the gathering of admissible evidence and the geographical location. The reduction in the level of recorded raptor crime is noted but this still remains unacceptable. 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 with a further Wildlife Crime Officer Awareness Course held at Tulliallan. The course was attended by 40 officers from across all Divisions and was delivered through a combination of internal and external speakers. The one day course provided a basic introduction to wildlife crime investigation for those officers with little or no wildlife crime investigation experience.

During 2017, Detective Officers on the Initial Investigators course received an input on wildlife crime and this helped to raise the profile of wildlife crime beyond initial responders. The development of the Initial Investigators Programme by Police Scotland and the associated e-learning package which includes wildlife crime, means that wildlife crime will continue to be a part of core learning for future investigators.

A number of local training initiatives also took place in 2017 using partners from SNH, BASC, Scottish Badgers and other partner organisations. Police Scotland officers also participated in training with fishery bailiffs and BASC members. All call handlers in Police Scotland continue to have access to a PowerPoint presentation on wildlife crime which is also available on the Police Scotland intranet page so that it can be accessed by all officers and staff as a support to wildlife crime investigations.

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.

Once again, Police Scotland Officers provided a major contribution to the PAW Scotland presence at a range of events. Key national events included, the Royal Highland Show and the Scottish Game Fair at Scone and at a local level, officers continued to provide a presence at events across the country.

Policing 2026 is a collaborative and strategic programme, led jointly by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Police Scotland, to transform policing in Scotland over the next 10 years.

The strategy identifies ways to create operational capacity for policing to focus on investigations, prevention and protection in the public, private and virtual space. Wildlife Crime remains part of this discussion and as a consequence, is included in the National Strategic Assessment for 2017-20. 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.


Email: Hugh Dignon

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