I gave a presentation on the new general licence conditions to the annual training course for police wildlife crime officers on Wednesday. This one-day course is held at the Scottish Police College and was attended by nearly 50 wildlife crime officers – around half of current strength in Scotland. Most of the officers have considerable experience of dealing with wildlife crime under their belt, many having been wildlife crime officers for more than a decade. The experience, professionalism and enthusiasm of these officers probably makes this one of the best specialist units in the police. (While they have worked together for several years now, giving cross-border assistance to other Scottish forces when necessary, they will in fact be a unit in the proper sense after the eight forces merge on 1 April.)
The agenda for the day mainly covered new provisions emanating from the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, with presentations in addition to mine covering
- new snaring provisions
- the introduction of non-native species
- the additional protection given to brown hares and mountain hares through the new close seasons
- vicarious liability, which seems already to be making a reduction in crimes committed against birds of prey, though there is a clear realisation amongst the officers that even one bird of prey illegally killed is one too many
- the legal issues surrounding the use of video and surveillance, which differs, rightly or wrongly, from that in England and Wales, and
- clarification of fishing legislation, which although not altered by the WaNE Act, was augmented by the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007, in particular giving protection to the European eel.
The day was incredibly interesting with discussion that demonstrated the depth of knowledge of the wildlife crime officers. The range of experience within the police in dealing with every type of wildlife crime they might encounter has moved on leaps and bounds since I took on this role within Tayside Police in 1993.
The seminar was organised by my good friend Charlie Everitt, who is the investigation support officer with the National Wildlife Crime Unit. For those who are unaware of the remit of this small and extremely hard-working unit, it is an intelligence-gathering and disseminating facility for the whole of the UK, serving primarily police wildlife crime officers and the UK Border Agency. It is not an investigative unit, though Charlie’s role is to assist police officers in the various Scottish forces with their investigations. Keeping on the subject of Charlie, he is a fantastic wildlife photographer, with a wide range of subjects, and his photography can be seen on his website http://charleseveritt.com/