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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-10040: Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife)

Scottish Green Party

Date lodged: 28 June 2017

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-09227 by the Lord Advocate on 24 May 2017, if the alleged crime is against (a) an animal or bird and (b) the environment, who can advocate for a review of a prosecutor’s decision.

Answered by: James Wolffe QC 20 July 2017

The Lord Advocate’s Rules: Review of Decision not to Prosecute, made under section 4 of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, give effect to EU Directive 2012/29/EU. This defines a “victim” as follows-

“A victim is defined as someone who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss directly caused by a criminal offence. This includes family members of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence, and who have suffered harm as a result of that person’s death.

Businesses, companies and other organisations which are victims of a crime are also included under this policy.”

Although there is no legal right to review in such cases, the Crown is committed to robust and effective decision making and to ongoing engagement with stakeholders. In the COPFS response to the Justice Committee’s Report on the Role and Purpose of COPFS, the Crown Agent stated the following:

“As I highlighted in my written evidence to the Committee, COPFS’ whole approach to the prosecution of wildlife crime has changed dramatically since 2008. Since the establishment of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit (WECU) in 2011 all reports of wildlife and environmental crime are handled by a team of dedicated specialist prosecutors. WECU staff are equipped with relevant knowledge and expertise to assess properly the applicable law to the facts and circumstances in each case. WECU prosecutors, and indeed more senior colleagues, have over a number of years met with NGOs involved in wildlife crime investigations to discuss specific concluded cases and areas of significant concern to NGOs. Consistent with my previous indication that we would seek to build stronger relationships, the Lord Advocate has recently offered the RSPB an opportunity to meet with senior COPFS officials to discuss wildlife crime cases involving alleged raptor persecution. We will continue with these efforts in order to ensure appropriate learning for all those involved in the detection, investigation and prosecution of wildlife and environmental crime is identified and implemented.”