Gamekeepers seek law change for trap wrecking


Scotland’s gamekeepers have written to Holyrood MSPs seeking support for a new measure to crack down on criminal wrecking of legal traps in Scotland’s countryside.


Traps operated by gamekeepers and farmers to control predators such as corvids, weasels and stoats are Scottish Government approved and meet international standards on humane-ness.


Spring traps are also used in publicly funded conservation programmes such as the Orkney Native Wildlife project, run by NatureScot, RSPB Scotland and Orkney Islands Council (see Police appeal for information on Orkney project trap damage)


Gamekeepers, however, report that traps set in the countryside are often destroyed, removed or rendered inoperable, which has considerable negative impacts on economics, conservation and sector morale.

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Whilst such damage falls under broad offences in Scotland, no specific offence exists and no one has ever been convicted of wrecking, stealing or removing and re-setting a trap in this country.


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) wants this changed and is seeking an amendment to the new Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill which, the body believes, will finally send a proper deterrent message to those intent on criminal damage.


In addition, such a step would help protect those who lawfully set traps, with the new Bill set to tie all traps operated in Scotland to a trained user, through a personalised ID tag placed on each one.


Gamekeepers’ leaders feel this could potentially cause innocent operators to be placed in the frame for offences carried out by others.

Gamekeepers are reporting frequent damage to legal traps


Sensible step


“There are a number of reasons why such a step is both sensible and necessary,” said gamekeeper Les George of the SGA Committee.


“The new Bill places unprecedented attention on the trained trap user because, for the first time, their name will be on each trap. If something happens, immediately they are in the frame, even if the offender is a third party. That is a really stressful situation for anyone, with very high stakes.


“It could potentially lead to a 5 year jail sentence, for example, so the law must also protect the trained user who requires the trap to carry out lawful and legitimate work which is helping the cause of conservation and the preservation of livelihoods.


“Secondly, Scottish Government rightly prides itself on its steps to tackle wildlife crime. However, a trap which is removed and illegally re-set by someone without knowledge or removed and damaged can cause a wildlife crime.


“Finally, the frequency of trap wrecking, with no convictions, shows the deterrent is simply not working in this country at present. 


“This Bill presents a chance to rectify all of that and we hope MSPs would support a well-worded amendment at Stage 2 to fix these issues. It is a priority the SGA has campaigned on for nearly a decade.”


No deterrent


In 2019, the SGA ran a member survey which outlined a significant number of trap offences nationwide, many with Police crime or incident numbers, which led to no legal action.


Last week, they conducted a snapshot poll of SGA Taskforce members which indicated that all respondents had suffered criminal trap damage, with no action taken.


“People think predator traps and they may not be interested. But these are our work tools, the same way computers are work tools in peoples’ offices. No one would like their office tools wrecked all the time, and nothing done about it,” said Borders gamekeeper Andy Buchan of the SGA Committee.


Sections 4 and 5 of the recently laid Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill cover trap use and penalties and an amendment could be penned into the legislation before it becomes law at Holyrood.


***The SGA will shortly publish an easy website member poll where members can tell us if they have been victim to trap wrecking and if they support a law change. Look out for this in the coming days. 

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