Cheryl Hogg: Wildlife crime legal update

Cheryl Hogg: Wildlife crime legal update

Cheryl Hogg

Cheryl Hogg details new wildlife crimes under consideration at Holyrood.  

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament. This means it has been introduced to the Parliament and is now being examined by committees before the MSPs debate the bill. There has been much publicity surrounding its provisions relating to the licensing of land for killing and taking red grouse, as well as licensing for muirburn. However, if passed in its current form, it will also:

  • create new wildlife crimes; and
  • allow for the extension of the investigative powers of inspectors with the aim of supporting the prevention and prosecution of wildlife crime.


Currently, the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 provides that certain investigative powers may be granted to ‘inspectors’ who may be appointed by the Scottish Ministers or a local authority (individual inspectors of SSPCA are authorised as such by Scottish ministers). The purpose of such investigation is to ascertain compliance with certain animal welfare laws. The new bill allows for regulations to be made giving new powers to inspectors for the investigation of offences created in this new bill as well as offences contained in Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (certain offences relating to wild birds).

Trap offences

If the bill is passed into law, it will be an offence to use glue traps (a trap designed to catch an animal which uses an adhesive substance as a means, or one of the means, of capture), without a reasonable excuse, to kill or take an animal other than an invertebrate. It will also be an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to use a glue trap in a manner that is likely to cause bodily injury to any animal, other than an invertebrate, that comes into contact with it. It will also be an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to purchase (or otherwise acquire) a glue trap (unless the glue trap is purchased (or otherwise acquired) for use out-with Scotland and is to be delivered out-with Scotland. A person who commits one of these offences could have to pay a fine in excess of £40,000 and/or face up to five years in prison in the more serious of cases.

The bill does not specify how the ‘reasonable excuse’ criteria will be applied but the explanatory notes accompanying the bill do specify some circumstances where such a defence might be appropriate.

Spring traps

The bill also provides for an increase in the sentencing limits for convictions related to spring traps including convictions for:

using or knowingly permitting the use of any spring trap other than an approved trap (being a trap of a type and make for the time being specified by order of the Secretary of State. Currently the only order under this provision is the Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Order 2011. The order lists each model of spring trap that has been approved, the manufacturer, and the conditions under which it must be used, including the permitted target species)
using or knowingly permitting the use of an approved trap in circumstances for which it is not approved, for example using for the purpose of killing or taking animals.

Trap licensing

The bill creates a requirement to have a wildlife trap licence in order to use certain traps, including traps for the purpose of taking wild birds and sets out provisions relating to the application for and modification, suspension and revocation of such licences.

Cheryl Hogg is a senior solicitor at Gillespie Macandrew

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