A CROWN OFFICE and Procurator Fiscal decision to drop a case relating to the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier in Moray has prompted questions by Moray’s MSP.
Richard Lochhead used First Minister’s Questions to bring up the case relating to the killing of the hen harrier in the Cabrach in 2013.
The MSP outlined the shock expressed by those who had contacted him about the issue, that the Crown Office have taken the view that video footage supplied by RSPB Scotland was inadmissible despite such evidence being accepted in the past.
Acknowledging the progress made in recent years to tackle wildlife crime, Mr Lochhead asked the First Minister to recognise that this case represented a serious crime against a threatened species.
He also asked that she acknowledge that the Crown Office must take into account how difficult it can be to detect wildlife crime given that it most often takes place in remote areas. He further asked the First Minister to investigate the case with a view to ensuring the justice system doesn’t miss opportunities to hold to account those who illegally kill endangered species.
Following First Minister’s Questions Mr Lochhead said: “The public in Moray and throughout Scotland want to see endangered species like our local hen harrier populations protected and anyone who intentionally kills such wildlife brought to justice.
“Many people have been in touch with me in recent days to express their shock and disappointment at the decision to drop this case. It is particularly disappointing that the RSPB’s video footage of the alleged illegal killing of the hen harrier in The Cabrach was considered to be inadmissible despite similar evidence being used in the past.
“When so much progress has been made in recent years to tackle wildlife crime and to ensure it is taken seriously, I can understand why people are upset that the footage has not been used in this case.
“Ultimately, wildlife crime tends to occur in remote areas, in this case the alleged crime took place in The Cabrach, making it incredibly difficult to detect. That is why I, and many others, believe that the Crown Office must take evidence such as the film provided by the RSPB into account when dealing with these cases.
“It is absolutely vital that the justice system does all it can to hold to account those who illegally kill our endangered species.
“I welcome the comments made by the First Minister in response to my question today and I look forward to meeting with the Environment Secretary to discuss in greater detail how we can do more to catch the culprits of wildlife crime and to protect our endangered species.”