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Conservationists call for shake up of wildlife policing

National standards needed…

Conservationists are calling for a fundamental review of the way crimes against wildlife are dealt with in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts say the lack of national standards has led to an inconsistent and often poor response to wildlife crime from the police.At present there is:

No national agreement on what counts as a wildlife crime
No minimum standard for investigating wildlife crime
No requirement to send records of wildlife crimes to the Home Office as part of a police forces’ official statistics.

This, together with a chronic shortage of wildlife crime officers, means such crimes are given low priority and the way reports are dealt with often depends on individual officers. As a result, those responsible are able to break the law with little fear of detection.Following public outcry at the poisoning of a golden eagle in 2007, the Scottish Government ordered a thorough review of wildlife crime policing. This recommended minimum national standards for investigating wildlife crimes and the appointment of specialist officers and prosecutors.

RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are now calling for a similar ‘Thematic Review’ in the rest of the UK, to be carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service.They are also asking the thousands of people attending this weekend’s British Birdwatching Fair to add their names to a petition calling for more action to tackle wildlife crime.

Ian West, Head of Investigations at the RSPB, said: “Strong laws to protect our wildlife are a sign of a civilised society, but they are only of value if properly enforced. The importance of wildlife crime was recognised three years ago with the welcome formation of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, to help police tackle the issue. The NWCU has listed priorities for wildlife crime enforcement in the UK, including the killing and persecution of birds of prey. Yet, in parts of the English uplands and on the edges of some towns and cities, bird of prey persecution continues at unacceptably high levels. There are many competing demands on our police, but wildlife crime is all too often pushed to the back of the queue. We need to take a good hard look at how to get it taken seriously by those charged with upholding the law.” Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ head of Living Landscapes, said: “It is important that we achieve much greater clarity and rigour in our approach to wildlife crime. The current uncertainty around what constitutes a wildlife crime is surely unacceptable. This grey area helps those who commit wildlife crimes and puts the enforcement agencies, and wildlife itself, at a disadvantage.”

4th July 2014