Law society wants more legal powers to tackle wildlife crime
Scotland’s lawyers are pushing for the Scottish SPCA to gain more legal powers.
The Law Society of Scotland said the organisation was ill equipped to adequately investigate growing incidents of wildlife crime and would be more effective if granted more clout.
It made the call in response to a government consultation which closed this week.
In the absence of increased police resources we support the proposal for Scottish SPCA officers to be granted the proposed powers - Jim Drysdale
Poisonings of rare birds doubled last year when there were 12 incidents in 2013, up from six in 2012.
Jim Drysdale, a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s rural affairs committee, said: “Wildlife crime such as the poisoning of birds of prey is a serious issue and causes substantial public concern and it is imperative such incidents are fully investigated and prosecuted when they occur.
“We believe police are best placed to deal with such crime. However, in the absence of increased police resources we support the proposal for SSPCA officers to be granted the proposed powers, which include the ability to search vehicles suspected of carrying illegal carcasses, protected live animals and birds, and illegal traps or poisons.”
The Scottish SPCA has been involved in 37 investigations that ended in convictions in the last five years,
Three were carried out using evidence from the SPCA alone.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "Scottish SPCA inspectors are authorised to help all domestic pets, livestock and captive animals under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which means we can investigate and report suspected cases of cruelty and neglect to the Crown Office. We are the only animal welfare charity in the UK with this status.
"This consultation seeks views on whether our powers to investigate wildlife crimes should be extended.
"If powers are granted, 60 trained Scottish SPCA inspectors throughout Scotland would be able to assist the Scottish government in its commitment to tackle wildlife crime.
“This would complement work on wildlife crime carried out by Police Scotland."