Remember, ignorance is no excuse.

Land Agent Charlotte Gilfillan urges landowners to remain vigilant against wildlife crime

One could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about.  Despite the initial panic, in the seven years since the introduction of Vicarious Liability for relevant wildlife crime offences, through the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, there have only been two successful prosecutions. It could be argued that the legislation is not as big a threat to landowners as first anticipated. 

Despite the low conviction rate, the legislation is being hailed a success with the number of poisoning incidents falling consistently over the last five years.  The ‘Wildlife Crime in Scotland: 2017 Annual Report’ showed that the number of poisoning incidents had decreased by a third last year, with only three incidents involving birds of prey. Raptor persecution offences also fell by 56% in this period from 25 in 2015-16 to 11 in 2016-17.

However, given the current political climate, now is not the time for complacency.  The potential for licensing of grouse moors, the creation of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group and pressure from charities and campaign groups ensure the spotlight remains firmly on landowners and their agents.

“…the spotlight remains firmly on landowners and their agents.”

Historically ignorance of the crime being committed was a defence, but now Landowners are expected to proactively manage their land and take reasonable steps, exercising all due diligence to prevent an offence being committed.  The stakes for complacency are high with the threat of large fines, prison sentences and withholding of farm subsidies following a successful conviction. 

Bell Ingram were the first land management firm to produce guidelines designed to help protect landowners who may become vicariously liable for wildlife crimes under the WANE Act.  We offer a fully bespoke Due Diligence service which includes assessing potential risks to a landowner on their farm or Estate and developing policies and procedures to help mitigate these risks. It is important to note though, that just simply putting these in place is not enough to warrant a defence, you must prove that they are actively managed.  This is also something Bell Ingram can assist with.

Some important things to consider:

  1. Are you aware of the relevant offences?
  2. Have you risk assessed your farm/estate in relation to the relevant offences?
  3. Do you have an Estate Policy detailing a zero tolerance to wildlife crime?
  4. Are staff aware what they should and should not do and do and has that been recorded?
  5. Have relevant staff contracts and sporting leases been reviewed and updated accordingly in line with the Estate Policy?
  6. Have gamekeepers received appropriate training?
  7. Have relevant contractors been advised of the policy and planned works risk assessed? Eg. Forestry contractors
  8. Do you keep a record of meetings with gamekeepers, contractors, sporting tenants?

Remember, doing nothing is not an option.  For more information please contact Charlotte Gilfillan on 01307 462516 or email charlotte.gilfillan@bellingram.co.uk.

Published on 31st January 2019