Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill
On the 17th June the Scottish Parliament passed the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) Bill.
This Bill was originally conceived to:
- increase the maximum available sentences in relation to a range of offences concerning animal health and welfare and wildlife;
- provide regulatory powers for the issuing of fixed penalty notices; and to
- provide authorised persons with new powers regarding animals taken into their possession.
That has undoubtedly been achieved with the maximum penalties for certain wildlife crimes being increased to 12 months’ imprisonment and a £40,000 fine and for those offences considered by the Scottish Government to be the most serious the maximum sentence is increased to 5 years imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine.
What was not part of the original drafting but was introduced during the final stages of the Bill’s parliamentary process were two unexpected amendments. The first was to introduce the concept of vicarious liability for offences relating to the illegal use of traps and snares. The second was to afford full protection to mountain hares so that they will in future only be able to be shot with a licence whereas at present they can be shot during their open season between 1 August and 31 January.
In the case of the illegal use of traps and snares it will now be the case that where a successful prosecution can be brought against the individual that committed the crime that prosecution can now be turned on the employer of that individual or those for whom that individual is providing a service. This is something that landowners and land managers will need to consider very carefully and ensure that the necessary training and other steps are taken to provide the necessary defence should they be exposed to a rogue individual who commits such a crime.
In the case of mountain hares it remains to be seen what will transpire in terms of a licensing regime. SNH will have responsibility for introducing and administering the scheme and it is understood that the relevant section of the Bill which changes the legal position will not come into force until the licensing scheme has been devised.
The full details of the Bill can be found here
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