Moray SNP News
At First Minister’s Questions today, Richard Lochhead MSP raised the disappointment at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s decision to drop the case relating to the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier in the Cabrach in 2013.
Mr Lochhead outlined the shock expressed by those who had contacted him about the issue, that the Crown Office have taken the view that video footage supplied by RSPB Scotland was inadmissible despite such evidence being accepted in the past.
Moray’s MSP acknowledged in the chamber the progress that has been made by the Scottish Government in recent years in tackling wildlife crime, and asked the First Minister to recognise that this case represents a serious crime against a threatened species. He also asked that she acknowledge that the Crown Office must take into account how difficult it can be to detect wildlife crime given that it most often takes place in remote areas. Mr Lochhead asked the First Minister to investigate the case with a view to ensuring the justice system doesn’t miss opportunities to hold to account those who illegally kill endangered species.
Mr Lochhead will now meet with the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, to explore what more can be done.
Speaking after FMQ’s, Richard Lochhead MSP said:
“The public in Moray and throughout Scotland want to see endangered species like our local hen harrier populations protected and anyone who intentionally kills such wildlife brought to justice.
“Many people have been in touch with me in recent days to express their shock and disappointment at the decision to drop this case. It is particularly disappointing that the RSPB’s video footage of the alleged illegal killing of the hen harrier in The Cabrach was considered to be inadmissible despite similar evidence being used in the past.
“When so much progress has been made in recent years to tackle wildlife crime and to ensure it is taken seriously, I can understand why people are upset that the footage has not been used in this case. Ultimately, wildlife crime tends to occur in remote areas, in this case the alleged crime took place in The Cabrach, making it incredibly difficult to detect. That is why I, and many others, believe that the Crown Office must take evidence such as the film provided by the RSPB into account when dealing with these cases. It is absolutely vital that the justice system does all it can to hold to account those who illegally kill our endangered species.
“I welcome the comments made by the First Minister in response to my question today and I look forward to meeting with the Environment Secretary to discuss in greater detail how we can do more to catch the culprits of wildlife crime and to protect our endangered species.”
Below is the text of Richard Lochhead’s question and the First Minister’s answer:
Richard Lochhead (Moray) (SNP):
The First Minister may be aware that there is huge disappointment and some shock following the decision by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service after a prolonged police investigation—and I am told, nine separate court hearings—to drop the case relating to the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier in the Cabrach in my constituency in 2013.
The Crown Office appears to have taken the view that the video footage supplied by the RSPB Scotland was inadmissible, despite such evidence being accepted in the past.
Notwithstanding the progress that has been made by ministers in recent years to tackle wildlife crime, will the First Minister acknowledge that that case represents a serious crime against a threatened species? Given that wildlife crime is very difficult to detect, because most often it takes place in remote areas, will she acknowledge that the law and the approach of the Crown Office must take into account such factors?
I ask the First Minister whether she would be willing to investigate this case, with a view to ensuring that the justice system does not miss any opportunity to hold to account those who illegally kill our endangered species?
The First Minister:
I agree with Richard Lochhead. As he well understands, decisions about the prosecution of crime are, of course, decisions for the Crown Office and in that respect law officers act independently of ministers. However, it is important that we take wildlife crime very seriously indeed, particularly in cases where, as Richard Lochhead has highlighted, it threatens a threatened species. I will be happy to ask the relevant minister, Roseanna Cunningham, to meet with Richard Lochhead to look at what more we can do, particularly taking into account his point about those crimes often taking place in remote areas and, therefore, being more difficult to detect.
It is important that we make sure that the policy framework, the law around this and the decisions that are taken by the Crown Office in respect of prosecutions—although, as I say, it is independent of ministers—do everything possible to crack down on those kinds of crime. I assure Richard Lochhead that we will continue to do everything that we can to make sure that that is the case.