Scotland’s plans to toughen up on wildlife crime have come under scrutiny at a round-table discussion in Holyrood.
The proposals, made as part of the Animals and Wildlife (Protections, Penalties and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, would increase maximum penalties for the most serious offences to five years in jail or an unlimited fine or both.
The five-year jail term elevates wildlife crime to the ‘serious crime’ category, which means the police could deploy ‘intrusive’ surveillance in cases where a jail term of three years or more could be expected and there was no other means to gather evidence.
Maximum penalties for other offences are to be increased to a 1 year jail term, a fine up to £40,000, or both. The Bill also extends the time available for enforcement bodies to bring evidence to court.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association attended the round-table and warned against any unintended consequences of the Bill for gamekeepers. Les George, an SGA member, said: “For a gamekeeper, the levels of fines are not affordable.
“If a gamekeeper was found guilty of an offence, they would lose their job, lose their home and their firearms. They would never work again as a gamekeeper. It would be over.
“We are not against [police being able to deploy intrusive surveillance] but we are concerned about the impact on privacy. I have had people filming my house and my wife and daughter caught on camera. Our fear is that it will encourage vigilantes to do more illegal camera work.”