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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 13:11 GMT
Wildlife offenders could be caged

golden eagle
Tougher measures would protect endangered wildlife

Scottish courts may be given tougher powers to deal with the increasing amount of crime involving wildlife.

Environment Minister Sarah Boyack has told a conference of police wildlife liaison officers that the Scottish Executive is concerned about the number of offences.

She also said consideration was being given to a UK-wide Wildlife Crime Unit to target criminals, not only in Britain, but abroad.

The executive says there is evidence that offenders are turning from burglary, car crime and drugs to wildlife crime, because the chances of being caught are less, and the penalties are weaker.

Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack: Crackdown pledge
Now it is actively considering increasing courts' sanctions for offences such as the theft of eggs from endangered species, badger baiting and the poisoning of birds of prey.

Ms Boyack told the conference at Tulliallan: "The executive is committed to working in partnership with the police and other agencies to safeguard and improve Scotland's environment.

"Many of our most precious animals and plants are under threat from the selfish and unthinking actions of a minority.

"Whether it involves the shooting and poisoning of birds of prey, cruelty to wild animals such as badgers, the theft of eggs or the destruction of wild flowers, the clear message which I want to give is that crimes against wildlife will not be tolerated.

Raising awareness

"Police wildlife liaison officers are doing a tremendous job, not only in mounting major enforcement operations against hardened criminals, but also in raising awareness about wildlife crime amongst the general public.

"The partnerships which police officers have developed with groups ranging from local schoolchildren to responsible landowners are a clear demonstration that we can tackle wildlife crime if we work together."

Badgers Badgers are among the victims
More than 70 liaison officers currently work across the eight Scottish police forces and the Ministry of Defence police.

Plans for a national wildlife crime co-ordination unit will build on the network and are to be discussed with government departments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The unit is also likely to involve experts from Customs and Excise, who target the smuggling of endangered species, as well as investigators from RSPB, SSPCA and RSPCA.

It would operate as an intelligence-sharing and enforcement co-ordination resource which will assist police and other agencies across the UK and internationally.

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See also:
28 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Three Scottish species on risk list
21 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Scottish national parks near reality
20 Sep 99 |  UK
Wild birds threatened by crime
20 Sep 99 |  UK
Bird crimes on the increase
17 Aug 99 |  Scotland
Golden eagles found poisoned

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