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Aberdeenshire MSP's concern over ‘Disappointing’ excuses for low livestock worrying conviction rates

By David Porter

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Scotland saw only seven convictions for livestock worrying at a time when 159 offences were logged by Police Scotland – with Ministers suggesting court backlogs and social distancing measures were to blame.

Parliamentary answers obtained by the Scottish Conservatives have shown there were 414 cases under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act over the past two and a half years.

But only seven of these resulted in convictions out of 159 cases in 2021/22, the latest conviction data available.

Responding to Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett, junior justice minister Angela Constance said the data was “affected by the pandemic, subsequent court closures, reduced court capacity due to physical distancing measures and delays to cases where key participants were forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.”

All offences were recorded under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 so the number of incidents may be higher.

Scottish Conservative Mr Burnett supported NFU Scotland’s “Take a Lead” campaign which called for legislative changes, leading to a strengthening of powers in March 2021.

Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said: “These statistics underscore the persistent issue of livestock worrying, and I suspect that the true numbers are far higher.

“There will be instances which no doubt go unreported.

“It is disappointing to see court backlogs and the pandemic used as an excuse for the lack of convictions for this crime, and I will be watching for a large spike in these when the data for 2023 is published.

“Meanwhile, more sheep and cattle continue to be killed, livelihoods are being jeopardised, and potentially crimes are going without punishment.

“The consequences of thoughtlessness are heart-wrenching, affecting both the owner and the farmer.”

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