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Wildlife and Environmental Crime cases (R012298)

Wildlife and Environmental Crime cases (R012298)

Thank you for your e-mail of 4 February 2016 in which you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):


“1) Can you tell me how many reports of wildlife and environmental crime the PF were passed in 2015?

2) Out of this total can you detail who the reporting authority was?

3) Out of this total can you detail how many on further investigation were marked as “no crime” by the PF?

4) Out of the “no crimes” can you detail what the reports related to?

5) Out of the ones marked for prosecution can you tell me how many resulted in a conviction?

6) Out of these successful prosecutions can you outline the sentences/penalties decided?

7) For my previous questions 1-6 can you please answer them for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well?

8) Can you please outline who currently works full-time on wildlife and environmental crime in the Crown?”


I regret the delay in responding to your request. There is a significant amount of data involved in your request. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12 it was therefore necessary to establish what was already accessible in the public domain in order to keep your request within our upper cost limit.

Firstly, I should explain that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s case management database is a live, operating database.  It is designed to meet our business needs in relation to the processing of cases and the information within it is structured accordingly.  We do not have a separate statistical database, and hold only operational data needed for business purposes. Where we are able to provide data we do so by charges and not by the number of cases reported.

Crimes against wildlife or the environment are treated as a high priority by COPFS. A unit of dedicated specialist prosecutors – the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit (WECU) - has been in operation since 15 August 2011. WECU investigates and manages the prosecution of cases involving crimes against wildlife and the environment. It also considers all cases of animal cruelty and investigates and prosecutes more complex cases of this type. In common with the rest of the Service, staffing in the unit is regularly reviewed and can be subject to change in response to case load and resources available.

In relation to the wildlife data you have requested this is already accessible in Wildlife annual reports published by the Scottish Government. I attach links to the reports which are presently accessible:  

Wildlife crime:

 
Provision of the data for 2014-15 is exempted in terms of Section 27(1) of FOISA, as it is in the process of being ingathered and will be published this year. 

Unfortunately there is no annual report for 2011. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12. It would be a significant exercise to replicate the level of data in the report for the period 2011.

Where you have indicated “no crime” I have interpreted this as charges which were specifically marked as “not a crime” as opposed to another no action marking.

Charges under Environmental Protection legislation are reported to COPFS by SEPA, local authorities and the police. Other environmental crime is reported by Scottish Water.

I attach a table which combines Environmental Protection and Scottish Water charges reported, those convicted and those marked not a crime over the period of your request.

Calendar  year

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Charges reported

2,923

2,617

2,080

2,049

713

Charges convicted

 80

50

60

27

9

Charges marked “Not a Crime”

8

9

1

17

3


It will be apparent that the number of charges for which there has been a conviction is significantly less than the number of charges reported. The Scottish Government Wildlife Annual Reports to which I have provided a link out set out for each year how the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPPFS has dealt with cases reported to it but it is also important to note that even for cases prosecuted, the number of charges may be less than the number reported by the police or other agency. This is because it is a normal part of the prosecutor’s role to ensure that charges are appropriately drafted to focus on the alleged criminal conduct in question and it is routine for charges to be amalgamated or removed as repetitive or superfluous.

Statistical information regarding sentencing and penalties imposed can  be  extracted more  easily  from  the  Scottish  Government  Justice  Department’s  Court Proceedings Database which is designed to provide statistical information.  It contains information about cases prosecuted and convictions obtained in all courts and you can contact them by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by telephone on 0131 244 2927.

You may additionally be interested to know that SEPA produce Annual Enforcement Reports and there are currently reports accessible on their web-site for the following periods:

Enforcement Report 2012-13

Enforcement Report 2013/14

Enforcement Report 2014/15

SEPA advise on their web-site that they publish a report every year so earlier reports will be available direct from them.  I can confirm that the reports cover the data you have requested in some detail.