HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc338-9
39. Sir Hector Monro

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many prosecutions took place in 1984 for armed trespass.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Trespassing with firearms is an offence under section 20 of the Firearms Act 1968, and 51 prosecutions for contraventions of that section took place in 1984.

Sir Hector Monro

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that that is a very high number? Can he break down that figure into urban and rural offences? Can he assure me that sufficient effort is made to prosecute those who are poaching both fish and wildfowl?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I cannot give a breakdown into urban and rural offences, but I should think that most of the offences took place in a rural context. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, if those offences are pursued in the courts, that can sometimes involve very complex questions of civil law, which the courts have said are not always suitable for determination in criminal trials. However, I understand my hon. Friend's great concern about poaching.

Mr. Eadie

Based on the figures that the Solicitor-General for Scotland has given for prosecutions relating to armed trespass, what has the hon. and learned Gentleman to say about the alleged easy availability of weapons in Scotland? Will he investigate that matter and provide the House with information?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I shall be glad to provide the hon. Gentleman with what information I can. Under the Firearms Act 1968 and other statutory and common law offences, significant penalties can be imposed on those in possession of firearms or who use them when they do not have a justifiable excuse for carrying them. The courts in Scotland have imposed heavy penalties when such offences have come before them.