Gamekeepers come under fire in the Scottish government’s review of wildlife crime in a new document entitled Natural Justice – A Joint Thematic Inspection of the Arrangements in Scotland for Preventing, Investigating and Prosecuting Wildlife Crime.

The report was launched on 16 April in response to several high-profile wildlife crime incidents last year. Jointly published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Inspectorate of Prosecution, it recommends all police forces should appoint a full-time wildlife crime officer and the Scottish government should create a wildlife crime reduction strategy.

Environment minister, Mike Russell, commented: “I very much welcome this forward-looking and constructive review. I have no doubt this review will help greatly in getting to grips with the unacceptable level of wildlife crime across Scotland.”

However, shooting organisations are concerned the review pins too much blame on gamekeepers.

Speaking to Shooting Times, BASC Scotland’s Colin Shedden, outlined his fears: “The review does say one of the most contentious issues was that of birds of prey in areas managed for grouse shooting, but it goes on to highlight much has been done to combat this behaviour in areas where a partnership approach has been taken.

“I think a lot of us have been aware of a lack of desire to provide information to the police about rural crime because of the feeling the shooting community is being persecuted. Hopefully we can overturn this attitude for the good of the countryside.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association’s Alex Hogg, pointed out: “Worryingly, this review found that in a substantial number of cases – 29 out of 80 investigated there had been a failure to comply with agreed protocols. It also found that in some cases the views of various partner agencies were not always given equal weight and partnerships with key agencies such as the police were not always appropriately balanced.”

The Scottish Countryside Alliance’s (SCA) Ross Montague agreed the handling of wildlife crime is a highly contentious matter: “The SCA has had concerns in the past about the handling of investigations into wildlife crime, particularly when allegations have been made based on scant evidence. It is important that punishment is only dealt once guilt has been proven.”

The rest of this article appears in 24 April issue of Shooting Times.

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