Landowners Face More Stringent Penalties For Wildlife Offences

Publication Date31 March 2021
SubjectEnvironment, Real Estate and Construction, Environmental Law, Landlord & Tenant - Leases
Law FirmShepherd and Wedderburn LLP
AuthorMr Stephanie Hepburn

It has long been a criminal offence to unlawfully kill, trap or injure wild birds in Scotland. This was established under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and restated in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.

Perhaps more significantly, the 2011 act introduced the concept of vicarious criminal liability, meaning that, in certain circumstances, landowners can be held responsible for the actions of employees, agents, contractors or tenants who commit a relevant offence. Relevant offences include killing, injuring or taking any wild bird; damaging or destroying nests; taking or destroying a wild bird's egg; and setting traps or poison to kill wild birds.

A number of convictions have taken place. However, a defence is open to landowners who can show that they did not know that the offence was being committed and that they took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to prevent the offence.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 came into force on 21 July 2020. It increased the...

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