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The thin green line? The challenges of policing wildlife crime in Scotland Nicholas R. Fyfe Alison D. Reeves University of Dundee & Scottish Institute.

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Presentation on theme: "The thin green line? The challenges of policing wildlife crime in Scotland Nicholas R. Fyfe Alison D. Reeves University of Dundee & Scottish Institute."— Presentation transcript:

1 The thin green line? The challenges of policing wildlife crime in Scotland Nicholas R. Fyfe Alison D. Reeves University of Dundee & Scottish Institute for Policing Research

2 Introduction and Context Scottish Parliament debates wildlife crime (Oct. 07) Appointment of wildlife prosecutors New legislation… Dedicated wildlife crime co-ordinators and officers in every force…..

3 Introduction and Context But…. 2006 worst year ever for recorded wildlife poisonings Increases numbers of offences against birds, of cruelty to animals etc Impacts are not just on wildlife but communities and businesses.. Concerns about policing

4 Bunny-hugging type stuff: the internal challenges of policing wildlife crime Limited resources…. The difficulty in the forces that dont have somebody full-time is they miss a lot of the enquiries because I suppose it doesnt get to them quickly enough and then evidence is lost, or it doesnt come to them at all because people dont know who to contact and how to contact them. So I think that trying to do wildlife crime justice in a part-time role is hopeless (Interview: 4).

5 Limited resources: the internal challenges of policing wildlife crime But what you have to remember a Wildlife Crime Officer like myself, I am a full-time employed police officer, so you know yesterday I was dealing with crime, as in crime that we recognise, not wildlife crime, but last night I was up until one oclock this morning with talks and things to do with wildlife crime. … So if it wasnt for the officers working on their days off and in their own time then it, you know we just couldnt cover the ground (Interview 1)

6 The internal challenges of policing wildlife crime The marginalization of wildlife crime When I sit in on meetings and operations that go through the major incidents over the past twenty four hours, … wildlife crime is not taken so seriously because of stabbings etc and okay I can understand it. But all Im asking for is these guys to be allowed to deal with crime, thats what they are paid to do, just happens to be wildlife crime buts that still not seen as real policing. I had an incident where there was a seal killed and the Inspector on duty said its nothing to do with the police and I had a real battle with him. Its a police matter, No its not, Yes, it is. This is an Inspector. So if an Inspectors saying that, what chances have officers got to go and deal with it (Interivew:2)

7 The marginalization of wildlife crime But theres, I suppose resistance isnt too a strong word, by divisional personnel to actually address wildlife and environmental issues, because again theyre well down the pecking order. If somebodys had their house broken into, or somebodys had their car broken into, or theres a sudden death on the go, or, basically anything at all, then officers will not be allowed to pursue particular [wildlife] enquiries as quickly and as thoroughly as they might want to. (Interview: 7)

8 Countering the marginalization of wildlife crime: raising the profile Before, through no fault of the operator who was taking the call, [wildlife crime] would just disappear into the fog. If somebodys phoned in and said, Well I have seen a trap, I think its illegal, or Ive seen an animal in a snare, or Ive seen somebody going into a wood somewhere with spades and terriers, [the operator would say] Well, hang on you need to inform the SSPCA and give them a ring. But weve raised the profile, weve raised the awareness, so if somebody was to phone in, say weve seen two guys going into a wood that would automatically be an incident created. … (Interview: 6).

9 Countering marginalization: wildlife crime and other forms of criminality Locally, hare coursing, has a significant impact. Usually committed by people who are on the fringes of organised crime in that field anyway, I dont like stereotyping, were not supposed to do that but its a fact. Its very rarely, committed by somebody who doesnt have a record (Interview: 1) Weve got a Level 3 target here who we cant get near for what he actually does but we get near him for wildlife crime. … Its whats called a Bamber, a Bamber Gascoigne, a starter for ten. (Interview: 5) One of the [members of one of the big drug families in Glasgow.. they laundered their money through petrol and things but he was done for dog-fighting. That was one of the few things he was actually charged with, was dog-fighting (Interview: 2)

10 Countering marginalization: wildlife crime and the National Intelligence Model If wildlife crime doesnt feature in the NIM, its never going to feature in the Forces priorities… So somebody like me thats sitting here as X can see what an operational PC probably cant, in that if you get wildlife crime to feature on the NIM radar its going to get resourced. … So Ive been starting to try and introduce NIM terminology into the management of wildlife crime and its having an impact …(Interview: 5) Through the national intelligence model we have a control strategy which basically sets out your priorities for the year. And Im afraid wildlife crime is way down the list, you know, which is a problem. But its a problem which we have to overcome and I see us doing that by increasing intelligence. I see it as not trying to combat wildlife crime on its own. … I know there is a case in X at the moment, a guy who is actively, quite regularly, hes coursing with dogs. And hes taking down, or the dogs are taking down roe deer. He then goes and he slits their throat. Now thats a bad crime. However, people would laugh at me if I went to try to get a team together to combat that. But the guys a druggie. And hes also ran about with a firearm. So if you put the three things together, and theres a lot of information coming in regarding the drugs. Theres a chance I might get something done about that. But the point Im making is, to go on the wildlife angle alone, which Ive learned very quickly, youre wasting your time. Youve got to have it combined with something else. (Interview: 7)

11 Were not lone rangers: the external challenges of policing wildlife crime The social construction and definition of wildlife crime Where its in the communities, its what always been done… I was actually speaking at a school in X and this was a secondary school telling them about offences against badgers and this fourteen year old girl said, my Dad and my Granddad were out catching badgers last night. Theyre breaking the law. No, theyre not. My Dad says its okay to do that… Its just what they do. (Interview: 2).

12 The social construction and definition of wildlife crime that created problems for many traditional crofting communities who felt that the fabled horror stories about eagles lifting babies out of prams,.. lifting lambs and things like that … so they were going to do their utmost to eradicate them. … I have had two poisoned in my locality in the last two years. Now, thats an incredible dent to the programme. They dont lift lambs … they tend to live on carrion, dead or almost dead carcasses so the crofter or the farmers fears are really unfounded and modern scientific research has proved that. But how can you convince a traditional crofting community that have worked the land for hundreds of years and has handed down through generations that their grandfather has told them that these horrible creatures should be destroyed, how can you take that mans word away because he thinks his grandfather is the most wonderful person and rightly so, how can you educate that person now to say Well, actually they were wrong?. (Interview: 1).

13 The social construction and definition of wildlife crime It is unacceptable that those entrusted with the enforcement of our current legislation do not have a clear and agreed definition of the crime they are to police. Without an agreed definition of wildlife crime, which is shared and acted upon by all those who work in the wildlife arena, we believe it is impossible for any real headway to be made in the fight to reduce the number of such crimes (House of Commons, 2004, para.8).

14 The need for partnership working within individuals and organisations I need to know where the red squirrels are likely to be, I need to know where the badger sets are, and this is where getting involved with the other groups was extremely hard. I have to say, they did not trust me to start with and I can fully appreciate and understand why. Who is this policeman coming along here? What does he do on his day off? Were trying to protect the worlds global population of badgers and here he is wanting to know where the sets are, can we trust them?. Thats, thats a healthy thing, even, towards distrust of myself, but as the years have gone on and Ive broken down the barriers, we have a really good working relationship (Interview: 1)

15 The need for partnership working within individuals and organisations Now the so-called enemy, being stereotypical and blinkered, you could say well it must be the crofters and the farmers and the gamekeepers and we said, No, it cant be. These people are the eyes and ears of the country, these are the people who are looking after the countryside and they dont always get it right, the sea eagle persecution is one small example but in the main they do get it right. … They look after the local environment, they do look after it, they kind of nurture it, and they understand the life cycle of things, so it works well together so why dont we get in touch with these people?

16 Perceptions of wildlife crime within the criminal justice system Penalties are not efficient, if I went out and I was stealing peregrine eggs and I was getting three hundred thousand pounds a year and Ive been doing it for ten years and never been caught and I get caught driving down the road with an egg in my pocket and I get six months in prison, maximum perhaps. (Interview: 1) You spend hours, days, maybe hundreds of man hours, getting a conviction, going for a case to submit to the Crown Prosecution Service or to the Procurator Fiscal, depending on what side of the border youre on, and it can all fall flat and the person can get off with it because maybe the judicial system isnt really quite clued up on wildlife crime and maybe the judge or the magistrate really doesnt think that its very significant to lock this person up because he had a couple of eggs in his pocket. …So we have to convince them and it can be extremely frustrating when a case is thrown out and not in the public interest to prosecute because maybe its the first offence and its the only time that this criminal had ever been caught dealing with a wildlife crime. (Interview: 8)


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