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COPFS

Wildlife and Countryside Act Prosecutions – (R016149) June 2017

Thank you for your e-mail which is being treated as a request for information under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs). You have requested the following information:

"I am seeking information on the numbers of cases reported to COPFS relating to animal crime and The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) in the last ten years, broken down for each year.

The data I seek for each year is this:

1. How many cases involving offences within The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) have been submitted?

2. How many of the cases above have been marked no proceedings?

3. How many were proceeded with?

4. How many went to trial?

5. How many were dealt with by fiscals warning?

6. How many cases were received where the accused was employed as a gamekeeper?

7. How many of these cases were marked no proceedings?"

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 this data relates to the number of charges reported and not individual cases reported. There may be more than one charge involved in one reported case.

The table attached below provides the information you have requested at points 1, 2, 3 and 5 of your request For additional information, in addition to the Fiscal warning there are a number of charges where a non court disposal was deemed appropriate, for example Fiscal Fine, Social Work Diversion, referral to the Reporter to the Children’s Panel.

At point 4 you have asked how many went to trial. I can advise that we are unable to reliably ascertain electronically this information from our system. It would require a member of COPFS staff to manually search each electronic court appearance record attached to a charge to try to ascertain if a trial went ahead. Under Regulation 12(4)(b) of EIR public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if complying with the request would create unreasonable costs or an unreasonable diversion of resources to comply. As you will see from the table of data below prosecutions were raised in relation to 493 charges. In coming to my decision I have used as a guide the upper cost limit currently set in relation to requests made under FOISA which is £600. I consider that the overall costs involved would exceed these cost limits and diversion of resources would not be in the public interest. I am unable to comply with this aspect of your request.

At point 6 you have asked how many cases received by COPFS involved an accused who was employed as a gamekeeper. Our electronic system is not set up to perform multiple data searches to identify the employment of the accused involved in each charge. Similar to the information requested at point 4, it would require a member of COPFS staff to manually search each case report to identify if this information has been recorded. Under Regulation 12(4)(b) of EIR public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if complying with the request would create unreasonable costs or an unreasonable diversion of resources to comply. As you will see from the table of data below there were a total of 1,077 charges reported to COPFS over the period. In coming to my decision I have used as a guide the upper cost limit currently set in relation to requests made under FOISA which is £600. I consider that the overall costs involved would exceed these cost limits and diversion of resources would not be in the public interest. I am unable to comply with this aspect of your request.

With reference to our response to point 6, we are unable to provide the information requested at point 7 as we do not hold this information in terms of Regulation 10(4)(a) of EIR.

You will see the ‘charges reported’ figure is not the same as the ‘total charges’ figure.

The figures do not capture the situation where a charge, initially reported under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, may be converted to a different charge. This may happen where the available, admissible evidence may be more appropriate to a different charge not under the Act.

Further, charges may be combined dependent on the circumstances of each case. For example, a report submitted to COPFS may propose several charges which represent a single incident, or a single incident may be reported as involving several people proposing a separate charge against each. The prosecutor will decide to combine charges, or not, dependent on the circumstances of the case.

You may additionally find it useful to refer to the COPFS contribution to the Scottish Government’s annual Wildlife Crime reports which are accessible on the Scottish Government web-site at

http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/09/2382; http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/10/2293; http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/09/6676 and http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/11/7270

I hope you find this information helpful.

R016149