An organisation which represents landowners and rural business is calling for tougher sentencing for “reckless” wildlife criminals.
People convicted of wildlife crimes such as deer poaching, hare coursing and bird of prey persecution should receive bigger fines and longer prison sentences than are currently available, according to Scottish Land and Estates (SLE).
It comes after the Scottish Government’s consultation on wildlife crime penalties and SLE said those who undertake illegal acts should face “strong penalties” proportionate to the crime, with sanctions applied “consistently and clearly to act as a real deterrent”.
In a document submitted in response to the consultation, the report said: “SLE considers wildlife crime of any kind as absolutely unacceptable and we believe that those who undertake such reckless acts with deliberate intent should feel the full force of the law.
“We are pleased that this important area is being considered by the Scottish Government and would be pleased to be involved in any future consideration.”
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We need to send out a clear message that wildlife crime of any kind is absolutely unacceptable, and these reckless acts will not be tolerated.
“That is why we are calling for longer prison sentences and bigger maximum fines for the most serious wildlife crimes, to act as a deterrent.
“By providing clear guidelines to the courts on sentencing and by enabling courts to issue bigger penalties than are currently available, we are confident that wildlife crime in Scotland will continue to decrease as it has over the past five years.”
SLE bosses also stressed the importance of education of what wildlife crime is and its impact, allied to awareness of the possible maximum penalties along with more training and support for police officers to assist with detection.
Mr Johnstone added: “Scotland’s wildlife continues to rely on the public, our members and the police to act as eyes and ears to ensure these heinous crimes are stamped out.”
The organisation also supports more imaginative and targeted sanctions including community payback orders when appropriate for less serious wildlife crimes that have less of an impact on a species and the environment.