Lord Bonomy, who produced a review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act for the Scottish Government in late November 2016, appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Rural Affairs committee on Tuesday 28th March.
The focus of questioning was on the recommendations made for greater monitoring and regulation, and changes to the legislation which the review recommended should be considered. Lord Bonomy spoke of the frank and open discussions he had with those of opposing views on the issue of hunting. He expressed concern that the anti-hunting lobbyists may oppose any changes due to their opposition to the activity itself, and not simply how it is conducted at present. He also confirmed restricting the number of dogs that can be used was not necessary, and that any such change would have the effect of ending flushing to guns in Scotland. Lord Bonomy noted that a shortage of police involvement was not an issue, and there was no evidence of a lack of resources as far as enforcement was concerned. He accepted that what the hunts were doing was “genuine pest control”. Lord Bonomy indicated that he gave a lot of weight to the evidence submitted by Police Scotland, even though this contradicted the evidence given by the police to the Environment Committee, a matter of months earlier.
Lord Bonomy was keen that the non-legislative recommendations around monitoring, protocol and code of practice were taken forward, noting that having the evidence in order to bring successful prosecutions was vital. He acknowledged that his suggestion to reverse the burden of proof so that it would be for someone accused of illegal hunting to prove their innocence was controversial and his position was in a minority as far as the judiciary was concerned. He also accepted that abandoning the principle of innocent until proven guilty would be more serious if coupled with an extension of the time in which a prosecution could be brought, noting that this would “work against the interest of the accused”. Indeed there are good grounds for believing both these proposals are incompatible with human rights law. The Scottish Government are due to publish a public consultation on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, and the Committee concluded by deciding to await the outcome of that consultation before considering the matter further.
29 March 2017, The Herald – Complete fox hunting ban would not ensure law adhered to, MSPs told
29 March 2017, The Scotsman – Total ban on fox hunting ‘would not ensure adherence to law’