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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Wildlife criminals 'to be jailed'
Osprey
Osprey eggs were stolen from two Perthshire nests
New powers to jail criminals who damage Scotland's wildlife have been announced by the Scottish Executive.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace pledged to bring forward amendments to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill to give police and courts stronger powers to deal with wildlife criminals.

Mr Wallace announced the tougher action during a debate on the executive's legislative plans for the next 12 months.

The commitment follows a spate of incidents in recent months, including the theft of rare osprey eggs from nests in Perthshire.

Osprey chick
The osprey is a rare breeding bird

Although the osprey population has been growing in Scotland in recent years, they only number about 120 pairs and have often been targeted by criminals.

The executive has been criticised over its delay in introducing measures to deal with the problem, such as the availability of prison sentences, already in place south of the border.

Police had warned that some illgeal egg collectors may be seeing Scotland as a "soft option" because they could not be jailed north of the border.

Mr Wallace told MSPs: "Many have been appalled by the recent spate of wildlife crime incidents and I can assure the chamber that we intend to act immediately.

Powers of arrest

"We will bring forward amendments to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill to provide the police with stronger powers of arrest in wildlife crime cases, and to give Scotland's courts the option to send offenders to prison.

"This is perhaps one case where alternatives to custody are not particularly working. The message to wildlife criminals is clear - we won't tolerate the destruction of Scotland's magnificent cultural heritage."

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland director Stuart Housden said: "It is excellent news that action to combat wildlife crime will be in the legislative programme.

"Scotland has seen an upsurge in the persecution of protected raptors such as hen harriers, and has suffered the barbarities of egg collectors."

See also:

19 May 02 | Scotland
13 May 02 | Scotland
04 Apr 02 | England
29 Mar 02 | Scotland
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