HE was Scotland’s senior investigation officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for than two decades, spending much of his time probing crimes against wildlife in the Scottish Borders.
But in a new book, Dave Dick claims those charged to enforce and dispense the laws against the perpetrators of these offences – including the poisoning of raptors by to protect the interests of estates – are paying little more than lip service to their statutory responsibilities.
“If a gamekeeper finally appears in court, he would normally have the services of a QC which lengthens the odds of a successful conviction,” Mr Dick told TheSouthern.
“A small-time egg thief, however, acting as an individual, is highly unlikely to get such high-powered legal representation.
“I fought hard to create a level playing field for the treatment of all such crimes, but it was losing battle and I have to admit that when I left the RSPB I was cynical, even bitter and twisted, about how unsuccessful I had been.”
Such candour underpins Mr Dick’s book, Wildlife Crime: The Making of an Investigations Officer, published earlier this month.
Running to 208 pages with a 16-page colour photograph section, it gives an inside account of the author’s career and his battle to deal with wildlife crime and its perpetrators.
“As far as I know, this is the first book that faces up to realities of how efforts to halt these crimes are, at the very least, frustrated by the justice system,” said Mr Dick, who lives in Moffat.
He admitted: “I would never have written this book while employed by the RSPB, from 1980 to 2006, not because I would have been stopped by the charity, but because things have got no better since I left and there is so much I feel need to get off my chest. I want to prick the collective public consciousness of offences which often turn into joke items at the end of the news.
“I had high hopes for the Scottish Parliament that enforcing legislation would become a priority, but I fear that will never happen while the power and influence of estate owners and establishment interests, allied to an underfunded and unmotivated police force, reigns supreme.”
In his book, Mr Dick gives unflinching accounts of what he considers the “shocking” level of killing, by gunshot, trapping or poison, and the “cruel and callous” attitude of the killers.
“The case studies cover the whole of Scotland, but include several in the Borders where, I believe, there is inordinate pressure for incidents of wildlife crime not to come to court,” he said. “It is an astonishing statistic that, during my whole investigative career, not a single gamekeeper was sent to jail.
“The legislation is not there to protect an estate owner’s game, it is there to protect the environment and the widlife within it. David Attenborough’s television documentaries about wildlife are hugely popular and their viewers would, I am sure, be utterly shocked at some of the inhumanity to nature which is being perpetrated on their own doorstep and how justice is so rarely delivered.”
Mr Dick’s book is more than a catalogue of cruelty and he admits there are many moments of black comedy. The author waxes lyrical, too, about the thrill and joy of watching some of our most beaustiful birds and animals in their equally beautiful habitats.
The book has received high-profile endorsement from the eminent conservationist Sir John Lister-Kay, who runs in the Aigas field studies centre in the Highlands.
“This is an important book by an expert who probably knows more about wildlife crime in Scotland than anyone else,” said Sir John. “It is important because so little is known and understood about a widespread and deeply disturbing illegal practice.”
Mr Dick told us: “I want to make people angry about what is happening in some corners of our countryside. By lifting the lid on the pressures faced by some our more iconic wildlife species, I hope to trigger a more reasoned debate on the topic.”
z Wildlife Crime: The Making of an Investigations Officer is published by Whittles Publishing (01593 731333) at £18.99.