Transparency required on expanded SSPCA powers

Heather in Scotland

BASC has sought confirmation that anti-shooting bias will not play a part in criminal investigations brought about by the SSPCA’s new investigatory powers.

BASC has issued a letter to Police Scotland and the Crown Office, urging them to closely monitor and guard against the potential for bias in any evidence gathered by the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals (SSPCA).

Throughout the passage of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, now an Act, BASC was clear that the SSPCA is a charity and should not be granted statutory powers.

Given the SSPCA’s longstanding and publicly stated opposition towards shooting, BASC has concerns that this could lead to biased investigations, compromising the fundamental rights under Article 8 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). BASC fears that SSPCA’s actions might lead to unsafe convictions due to its ideological stance.

Considering the enhancement of SSPCA powers and the risk of bias, the UK and Scotland’s largest shooting organisation is seeking reassurance that criminal investigations will proceed with independence, integrity and objectivity.

BASC Scotland director Peter Clark said: “BASC opposes granting statutory investigatory powers to the SSPCA and these representations were made throughout the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill discussions.

“An independent SSPCA taskforce, established by the Scottish Government, recommended enhancing partnership work rather than extending investigatory powers to the SSPCA.

“BASC is concerned that giving a charity both investigatory and lobbying powers creates a significant conflict of interest.

“Many of our members are worried that SSPCA’s involvement could undermine the presumption of innocence and the requirement to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, which is crucial for fair trials.

“BASC finds it difficult to reconcile the duty to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry throughout a criminal investigation with the SSPCA’s strongly stated ideological opposition to lawful activities.”

Read more news from BASC Scotland here.