Big increases in the maximum penalties for certain wildlife crimes have been announced by Environment Minister Aileen McLeod.

Dr MacLeod has accepted recommendations from the wildlife crime penalties review group, which reported last November (click here for news item) that penalties should rise to match those in other areas of environmental law such as pollution control.

This would affect offences such as habitat destruction, and persecution of particular species, such as raptors.

Subject to the necessary legislative steps, fines of up to £40,000 and prison terms of up to 12 months could be imposed.

The Government will also take forward a number of other recommendations, including greater use of alternative penalties such as forfeiture of equipment used to carry out offences; greater use of impact statements in court; and exploring the creation of new sentencing guidelines.

Dr McLeod commented: “It is important we have appropriate penalties that deter criminality but also reflect the impact these crimes can have on our environment and Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination. Work will now begin on bringing together a list of relevant offences this change would apply to."