Avid readers of the blog will have noticed our post earlier this month discussing a number of questions asked by MSPs on the subject of wildlife crime. The responses from Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, are now in, but have the questions been answered?

Vicarious liability and wildlife crime - is it working?

Liam McArthur MSP asked the Scottish Government "what assessment it [had] made of the impact of the vicarious liability provisions in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011".

Given the burden the vicarious liability offence places on estate owners and managers, many in the rural community would be interested to hear if the provisions are achieving their aims. Unfortunately, however, Ms Cunningham's response sheds little light on the issue:

"The Scottish Government has not made any formal assessment of the impact of the vicarious liability provisions in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. There has been two successful prosecutions under these provisions so far. It is likely that the provisions will have had a positive effect as landowners and their agents have put in place arrangements to ensure that their staff and contractors have appropriate training, and understand and comply with the law in this area".

With no formal assessment undertaken by the Government, there is little information available to demonstrate the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the vicarious liability offence in reducing levels of wildlife crime. We will watch with interest to see if questions from MSPs prompt a more detailed consideration by the Government in due course.

Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group

It was announced in the Scottish Government's 2016/17 Programme for government that the recommendations of the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group will be implemented in line with the Scottish Government's response to the recommendations in February 2016.

Ms Cunningham's response to Liam McArthur MSP's question explained that "some of these recommendations will require primary legislation". The Scottish Government is in the process of "identifying a legislative vehicle" and is also engaging in "relevant discussions" with third parties.

If you have any thoughts on the above issues or other matters relating to wildlife or agricultural crime, please get in touch with Alex Buchan, Odell Milne, Clive Phillips or your usual Brodies contact.