I have summarised the changes in the general licences to be added as amendments to relevant pages for those who have a copy of Wildlife and the Law (see Wildlife and the Law – text changes). Most of the changes relate to the control of birds that would otherwise be protected (mostly certain species of corvids, gulls and pigeons), and to the use of certain traps to carry out such control. Most trapping is carried out within the law and the general rule is that traps should not be interfered with. Suspected breaches of the law should be reported to the police. To assist with this I have included part of the chapter Reporting wildlife crime to the police from Wildlife and the Law:
‘Police have a duty to investigate crime and all forces have an officer who co-ordinates the investigation into wildlife offences. Each force also has a number of wildlife crime officers specially trained to deal with wildlife offences in a manner consistent with legal prosecution procedure. This includes knowledge regarding relevant legislation, power to enter and search land, authority to seize evidence, requirements for corroboration (the requirement for corroboration is being reviewed by Lord Carloway and may change), safeguarding chains of evidence and forensic capabilities. Consequently, all suspected wildlife offences or related suspicious activity should be reported to the police. After the amalgamation of the eight Scottish police forces into one in April 2013 the basics for reporting, and the response given, should remain the same.
In any crime that is in progress or has just been committed, or where the suspect(s) is still in the vicinity, the police should be contacted (if possible) using ‘999’. In non-urgent cases the caller should contact their respective (or nearest) police call centre (when the eight forces are amalgamated it is likely that a single generic telephone number will direct the caller to the nearest police control centre). In most wildlife crime reports to the police, it is advisable to speak with a wildlife crime officer, though most call handlers in police control rooms now have sufficient knowledge to note and pass on details for investigation. Crimes against wildlife require more specialist investigative experience than a beat officer normally possesses, and in many cases they also need urgent attention. If a wildlife crime officer is not immediately available to respond, another officer may attend under his or her remote direction. Control rooms also have electronic guidance and mapping they can access to assist whichever officer is attending.
A witness may also want to report the circumstances of a wildlife crime to another agency, such as reporting a bird-related crime to the RSPB (who do not investigate crime but on many occasions are of valuable assistance to the police). This should be done after the report to the police’.
In this, the Year of Natural Scotland, might it to too optimistic to hope 2013 reflects a turning point in wildlife crime? In any case it should be a target that everyone attempts to influence.