4 Enforcement |
56. During our inquiry, the police, NGOs and
other witnesses consistently pointed out that most of the powers
required to address wildlife crime already exist, but that they
are scattered across various statutes and regulations.
Some statutes, such as the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, the
Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries
Act 1975, relate to individual species, while other legislation,
such as the Night Poaching Act 1828 and the Game Act 1831, is
archaic. In addition, the principal contemporary legislation,
the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, has been amended to such
a degree that it is difficult for non-specialists to use.
The fractured nature of wildlife law hinders enforcement and prosecution,
and it may render compliance problematic for companies and individuals
engaged in legitimate wildlife-related activities.
57. An overwhelming majority of our witnesses
expressed the view that the various statutes covering wildlife
crime should be consolidated. ACPO told us that "conservation
legislation is, in our view, badly in need of consolidation."
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
pointed out that wildlife crime legislation "is a bit of
a mess, it needs tidying up."
Natural England told us that "broadly we do very much favour
The answer is consolidation".
When the Committee put this proposition to the then Home Office
Minister Lord Henley, he thought that consolidation would be "relatively
smooth and easy."
58. Consolidation of the various wildlife statutes
is not the same as reform. Reform would be a major project, which
would require careful consideration in order to preserve the nuances
of the law that protect particular species and to reflect the
impact of devolution in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The Law Commission is currently considering the reform of wildlife
protection legislation, which it plans to complete by mid-2014.
In undertaking that work, it might take account of the evidence
that we have received in our inquiry. The
body of legislation relating to wildlife crime should be consolidated
in order to enhance enforcement and establish a coherent framework
for the execution of Government policy. The Government should
consult the Law Commission, which is currently considering the
reform of wildlife law, on the scope for such a consolidation
to precede any reform proposals.
59. We heard that the CPS was ineffective at
prosecuting wildlife crime in England and Wales, because its prosecutors
lacked specialist knowledge and training on conservation law.
TRAFFIC explained that that lack of specialist skills not only
undermined enforcement but was inefficient, because relays of
CPS prosecutors ended up replicating the same basic learning,
which imposed delays and potentially allowed experienced defence
lawyers to exploit prosecutors' lack of specialist knowledge.
If the CPS were to treat wildlife crime as a specialism, it would
not only back up enforcement in the courts, but provide gamekeepers
and the exotic animal trade with greater certainty in conducting
their activities lawfully.
TRAFFIC believed that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
in Scotland treated the prosecution of wildlife crime as a specialism
and consequently handled such cases with greater efficacy than
the CPS in England and Wales.
should review its performance on prosecuting wildlife crime in
England and Wales with a view to either employing specialist wildlife
crime prosecutors or introducing specialist wildlife crime training
for its generalist prosecutors.
Penalties and sentencing
60. Most wildlife crimes committed in the UK
carry a maximum sentence of £5,000 and/or a six-month custodial
sentence, except where they involve illegally trafficking endangered
species, which carry a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment
under the COTES Regulations.
We heard a range of opinion on whether those maximum penalties
reflect the environmental impact of wildlife offences and whether
they provide a deterrent given the potential rewards for wildlife
criminals. ACPO stated that "the penalties that are available
for some wildlife crimes appear in some cases not to be dissuasive",
whereas the RSPCA commented that the available penalties were
"generally fit for purpose."
effect of the introduction of custodial sentences in 2001 appears
to have dissuaded many people from collecting the eggs of wild
There are some anomalies in the available penalties: trafficking
horn extracted from the last surviving Javan rhinoceros, thus
rendering the species extinct, might attract a seven-year prison
sentence, whereas shooting the last hen harrier in England would
result in a maximum penalty of six months in jail. Similarly,
a conviction for unlawfully killing a peregrine falcon under the
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 would attract a maximum penalty
of six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000,
whereas a conviction for unlawfully trading a peregrine falcon
internationally would result in a maximum penalty under COTES
of five years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
61. It is currently impossible definitively to
answer the question whether the available penalties for wildlife
crime offences are fit for purpose because of inconsistent sentencing
by judges and magistrates, a factor which was repeatedly highlighted
by our witnesses.
It was argued that this inconsistency is due to the lack of any
sentencing guidelines for the judiciary and of specific training
It is impossible to assess whether sentences are fit for purpose
until they are imposed consistently in line with appropriate sentencing
guidelines. We recommend
Government reviews whether the available penalties provide sufficient
deterrent effect and work with the Sentencing Council and the
Magistrates' Association to introduce sentencing guidelines for
the judiciary and training for magistrates in relation to wildlife
Policing wildlife crime
62. Richard Crompton, the former ACPO lead on
wildlife crime, highlighted that in practice effective wildlife
crime policing required a degree of specialisation:
Wildlife crime legislation is a labyrinth of fairly
old legislation and very complex legislation
cop out there has a rudimentary understanding of that at best,
probably based upon a half an hour or an hour's lecture that was
given many years ago in a classroom somewhere during their initial
I think it would be probably unrealisticwell,
undoubtedly unrealisticto expect every police officer in
the country to have the sort of knowledge of wildlife crime procedure,
legislation and so on that the specialists have.
What specialisation in wildlife crime enforcement
means in practice is, as the then Home Office Minister Lord Henley
pointed out, a matter for individual police forces depending on
their local priorities.
Most police forces deploy specialist wildlife crime officers,
who handle cases involving wildlife crime and advise other officers.
In some forces, the wildlife crime officer role has evolved to
encompass environmental crime, such as fly-tipping, which appears
to make operational sense in rural areas.
Another example of tailoring wildlife crime policing to local
circumstances is provided by the Metropolitan Police Service,
which operates the only force-level wildlife crime unit in the
UK in order to address the unique issues raised by London's role
as a capital city, transport hub, commercial centre and home to
a diverse population.
63. We discussed the impact of the new elected
police and crime commissioners with both the former and the current
ACPO leads on wildlife crime, who pointed to the public's obvious
concern about wildlife crime, which might lead to greater prioritisation,
but also to the risk for funding for wildlife crime posed by future
tough decisions on local police resources.
The consequences for wildlife crime enforcement of police and
crime commissioners are currently unclear, and we recommend that
these are carefully monitored by the Government. We
hope that this Report highlights this important area for elected
police commissioners and their electorates.
National Wildlife Crime Unit
64. The NWCU is a strategic police unit that
sits above force-level wildlife crime enforcement. Its functions
are to co-ordinate enforcement activity in relation to cross-border
and organised crime both nationally and internationally, to collate
intelligence and to produce analytical assessments.
Its specialist work was praised by a range of our witnesses, and
it is a clear improvement on its predecessor organisation, the
National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit (NWCIU).
Our predecessor Committee's 2004 Report on wildlife crime criticised
the former NWCIU for "expending time and resources on developing
intelligence packages for police forces who have no intention
of devoting any real resources to the crimes themselves".
This criticism could not be levelled at the NWCU, which has forged
effective working relationships with UK police forces and other
national and international enforcement bodies. Recent successful
enforcement actions in which it played a key role included Operation
Meles, which addressed badger persecution, and Operation Ramp,
which was an international operation involving 51 countries against
the illegal trade in reptiles, in addition to multi-police force
operations to tackle poaching and many other operations.
On the value of the NWCU, ACPO concluded, "The development
of the National Wildlife Crime Unit has led to better co-ordination
of enforcement activity in particular where it involves cross-border
and organised crime".
65. The NWCU is currently funded by a combination
of Defra, the Home Office, ACPO, ACPO Scotland, the Scottish Government
and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The sums provided to run the NWCU are relatively smallDefra
and the Home Office each contributed £144,000 in 2011-12
and £136,000 in 2012-13and are currently agreed no
more than two years ahead.
The current head of the NWCU told us:
The National Wildlife Crime Unit is funded from a
number of different agencies, and a lot of the challenge that
I have is to constantly look at securing the future funding, which
takes me away from that day-to-day role of trying to address wildlife
The NWCU's hand-to-mouth financing is reflected in
its fractured administrative arrangements, where its staff are
managed by North Wales Police, its website is maintained by Lincolnshire
Police and its headquarters is a building owned by a Scottish
66. The lack of certainty about its longer-term
funding makes it difficult for the NWCU to recruit, retain and
develop specialist staff and has hampered its capacity to monitor
the illegal trade in wildlife on the internet by investing in
staff and equipment.
Our predecessor Committee's 2004 Report identified wildlife crime
involving the internet as an emerging threat, which has crystallised
into an active hazard to biodiversity in the past eight years.
The internet is a "crime enabler" allowing
unlawful trading, much of which can be considered to deliver high
levels of profit with little or no risk of prosecution. If such
illegal trading is to be addressed then dedicated resources are
required. In 2010 the NWCU received funding to appoint a wildlife
crime internet researcher for a period of 12 months. Unfortunately
the period of funding is such that it has, to date, been found
to be impossible to recruit anybody to the role. A very recent
recruitment process led to the post being offered to a well-qualified
individual who declined to accept it having been offered a position
elsewhere providing greater job security.
67. In addition to the general trade in illegal
wildlife, the internet has enabled two specific facets of wildlife
crime since our predecessors last scrutinised the subject in 2004.
First, online plant sales are facilitating the entry of invasive
non-native species into the UK (paragraph 51), which imposes high
financial and environmental costs. Secondly, a spike in demand
for rhino horn and elephant ivory in Asia has driven illegal online
trading in antiques such as carved libation cups and billiard
balls, which are exported to Asia (paragraph 13).
68. As ACPO pointed out, the NWCU punches well
above the weight of its funding both nationally and internationally,
and its strategic, intelligence-led approach is an efficient means
of targeting limited funding for wildlife crime enforcement.
We recommend that
the Government reinforces
the success of the National Wildlife Crime Unit by implementing
long-term funding arrangements to allow it to plan for being even
more effective in the future, including enhanced long-term funding
to enable it effectively to monitor wildlife crime on the internet.
69. The Metropolitan Police Service Wildlife
Crime Unit has developed an innovative partnership funding arrangement
with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The
Metropolitan Police Service told us:
In 2011, WSPA provided £100,000 to increase
the strength of the unit by one police officer and one member
of police staff. This should not be seen as taking away the responsibility
of funding from Government but as enhancing policing in the short
to medium term, particularly at a time of financial constraint.
We hope to negotiate further funding to allow this increase in
staff to be maintained.
None of our witnesses identified conflicts of interest
created by such arrangements, provided that adequate governance
arrangements were in place.
between the police and NGOs can effectively increase funding for
wildlife crime enforcement, and the Home Office should encourage
all police forces to consider implementing them. This model might
usefully be extended to fund other facets of wildlife crime enforcement,
such as the NWCU.
Recording wildlife crime
70. The Committee's 2004 Report on Wildlife Crime
a centrally managed, national database which records
all incidents of wildlife crime, as well as the details of all
successful and unsuccessful prosecutions mounted, be established
as a matter of priority.
This practical recommendation has not been implemented,
although the NWCU currently holds a partial record of some offences.
A comprehensive wildlife crime database would allow the NWCU to
identify emerging trends and efficiently target resources with
greater accuracy. Additionally, a record of prosecutionsboth
successful and unsuccessfuldrawn from the courts could
be used to inform the introduction of sentencing guidelines (paragraph
62), the reform of available penalties (paragraph 61) and the
ongoing development of wildlife law.
71. If finances for the NWCU database are tight,
one possible source of funding might be the unused £375,000
from the abortive Defra research project on buzzards (paragraph
43). Such a reallocation
would send an important signal about Defra's priorities. The
NWCU should be directed and funded to develop a wildlife crime
database to encompass all available information on incidents reported
to the police and on prosecutions in the courts in the UK.
72. We took evidence from the current and former
ACPO wildlife crime leads, the Metropolitan Police Service Wildlife
Crime Unit, the NWCU and NGOs on how police forces record and
report wildlife crime. Several NGOs suggested that more wildlife
crimes should be made "notifiable" for Home Office purposes
in order to obtain a more accurate picture of its nature and extent.
Notifiable offences are serious offences that the police must
report to the Home Office for statistical purposes. Defra told
us that "With the exception of certain offences set out in
the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations
1997 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981"the
most serious offences relating to trafficking endangered species"most
wildlife offences are not required to be notified to the Home
73. In response to the proposition that more
data should be collected, the police stressed the importance of
not increasing bureaucracy in a quest to obtain more data, because
this would compromise operational efficiency, and highlighted
the police National Standard for Incident Reporting, which has
improved data richness.
The former ACPO wildlife crime lead told us:
When the NWCU came into existence in 2006
the National Standard for Incident Recording, NSIR, was introduced,
and that is the standard that we have used since
the database, basically. That has taken us much further forward
than we were a few years ago
For every additional crime
that is made recordable, there is an additional level of bureaucracy
that goes with it, and strategically across the wider environment,
there has been an effort to reduce the number of recordable categories
of crime as opposed to increase it.
74. We heard about other, less bureaucratic ways
to improve data management. First, a consolidation of existing
wildlife crime legislation (paragraph 59) could simplify the data
collection process, because offences that were recorded against
a range of statutes would fall into a single category. Secondly,
while most police forces submit data on wildlife crime to the
NWCU, a minority fail to do so, which means that the NWCU statistics
Given that most police forces manage to submit such data, the
bureaucratic cost of making such submissions does not seem to
be excessive. The
Home Office should instruct all police forces to submit the data
on wildlife crime required by the NWCU.
75. CITES offences are one of the few notifiable
wildlife crimes and are therefore reported to the Home Office
for statistical purposes. However, the Home Office has not allocated
such offences a specific code, and they are recorded under the
general Home Office code "999/99 Other crime or record only
entry not catered for elsewhere", which is almost meaningless
in terms of data management.
The Home Office should immediately
allocate notifiable CITES offences a specific wildlife crime code,
which would provide useful statistics on the trafficking of endangered
National Crime Agency
76. In June 2010, the Home Secretary announced
the creation of the National Crime Agency (NCA), which will become
operational in 2013. The NCA is intended to spearhead the UK's
fight against serious and organised crime, strengthen policing
at the border and ensure that local policing effectively links
to the work of national agencies and action overseas.
The Home Office has not decided whether or how the NCA will be
involved in wildlife crime enforcement, which might entail the
NCA subsuming some or all of the functions of the NWCU. When the
Committee explored this issue with the then Home Officer Minister
Lord Henley, he stated:
There will be a power to take things like wildlife
crime into the NCA in the future. I have to say I do not think
that is likely in the immediate future because the NCA will need
to settle down
I think wildlife crime is something that
will possibly come in later on.
77. Serious and organised criminals are clearly
involved in wildlife crime, to which they are attracted by the
large potential profits, so the NCA will, at the very least, have
an interest in wildlife crime.
Some witnesses raised the possibility that incorporating the NWCU
within the NCA would enhance wildlife crime enforcement, because
the NCA would provide a guaranteed funding stream and administrative
several witnesses pointed out the danger that if the NCA were
to take responsibility for wildlife crime, the NWCU's focus on
important but niche environmental subjects, such as freshwater
pearl mussels or bat roosts, and its ability to tackle lower-level
crimes, which incur significant environmental costs and raise
public concern, might be diluted or even lost.
The former ACPO wildlife crime lead told us:
Although [the NWCU] is very small and at some levels
quite poorly resourced, [it] has nonetheless been able to become
the focal point, absolutely focusing upon wildlife crime as opposed
to perhaps a very small unit in a much bigger organisation that
perhaps was not able to give that same degree of focus and attention.
In its written evidence, ACPO commented on how the
NWCU might work operationally with the NCA:
The National Wildlife Crime Unit should remain as
a standalone unit with the ability to feed serious and organised
wildlife crime threats into any National Crime Agency.
78. The ongoing uncertainty around the relationship
between the NWCU and NCA may have a negative effect on long-term
planning for wildlife crime enforcement, but any such uncertainty
would be dissipated by the implementation of the Committee's earlier
recommendation on setting out guaranteed funding for the NWCU
(paragraph 69), which would make it clear that the NWCU has a
long-term future outside the NCA. The
NWCU's specialist skills are a cost-effective asset that should
be protected and developed.
79. Natural England, the Environment Agency and
the United Kingdom Border Force have statutory wildlife crime
regulation and enforcement responsibilities, which they discharge
by exercising civil powers. In order to ensure that an overall
view of wildlife crime is retained and that enforcement is consistent,
ACPO pointed out the desirability of all enforcement agencies
working in close partnership with each other and with the police.
We found significant differences in the way in which those three
agencies implemented their wildlife crime enforcement responsibilities
and exercised their powers.
80. UK Border Force provided evidence of its
robust attitude to enforcement by submitting comprehensive statistics
on the hundreds of seizures that it made between 2008 and 2011
and on the nine prosecutions that the CPS conducted as a consequence
of its work over that period.
Similarly, the Environment Agency told us:
Over the eight years since the Committee last looked
at this area
we have had a steady increase in overall fisheries
One, we are catching more people; two, potentially
there is more wildlife crime going on in this area; three, awareness
is significantly higher.
It added, "We try and maximise the deterrent
effect of fines
We are able to spread that effect by publicising,
for instance, the prosecutions that we achieve".
81. Natural England adopts a notably different
approach to enforcement from the Environment Agency and UK Border
Force. For example, it is responsible for addressing offences
committed on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), which
comprise a representative sample of England's most important flora,
fauna and geology. The offences that it detected were capable
of being tried in both magistrates courts, where penalties were
restricted to £20,000, and Crown courts, where financial
penalties were unlimited.
In 2010-11, Natural England recorded 100 offences committed on
SSSIs. Of those 100 cases, 92 were sanctioned through warning
letters and the remaining eight resulted in cautions, meaning
that there were no prosecutions relating to SSSIs in 2010-11.
Overall, 10 prosecutions relating to offences committed on SSSIs
have been conducted since 2006.
A police officer was seconded to work with Natural England for
12 months, but the arrangement lapsed at the conclusion of that
England commented that its "focus is on helping our customers
to comply, so it is often more important to stop offending and
repair the damage than impose a penalty".
"Customers" seems an unusual choice of language to describe
those who perpetrate environmental offences. Natural England commits
about £5.6 million of spending and about 120 staff to fulfilling
its range of responsibilities in relation to wildlife crime, so
it seems unlikely that resources are the defining factor in its
82. Effective enforcement entails striking a
balance between persuasion and prosecution in order to alter behaviour.
It may be that Natural England's collaborative approach is particularly
suited to the nature of its enforcement responsibilitieswe
did not receive compelling evidence one way or the other on that
pointbut it is clearly inconsistent with the approach taken
by the police, the Environment Agency and UK Border Force. ACPO
pointed out that the further devolution of civil enforcement powers
away from the police was one option in the ongoing development
of wildlife crime enforcement, which made the way in which Natural
England exercised its powers of civil enforcement an important
test case. The
Government should research the impact of how Natural England exercised
its civil powers and consider the different approaches to enforcement
adopted by Natural England and the Environment Agency in its ongoing
review of those two agencies.
Partnership for Action against
83. PAW is a multi-agency representative body
through which statutory and non-governmental organisations involved
in wildlife law enforcement in the UK can work together to combat
wildlife crime. Its current membership of 140 organisations includes
all significant UK sporting, conservation and trade bodies with
an interest in combating wildlife crime. PAW-affiliated bodies
include some of the largest membership organisations in the UK,
such as the RSPB, which has more than 1 million members and is
the largest conservation body in Europe, and the Angling Trust.
PAW also includes wildlife organisations with international links,
such as WWF-UK, and bodies focused on specific species or leisure
Minister Richard Benyon MP acknowledged PAW's value and potential:
It is a fantastic drawing together
that exists within that partnership gives an enormous benefit
in terms of increased value, and it is a partnership that we value
and want to see enhanced.
84. PAW is currently co-chaired by a Defra official
and the ACPO wildlife crime lead. We received no evidence criticising
its performance, but it does not have a high public profile. PAW's
position and influence could be more fully exploited by active
ministerial involvement and visible strategic political direction.
The PAW Scotland Executive Group is currently chaired by the Scottish
Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, an arrangement
which appears to have worked well in practice, and a similar arrangement
would send an important signal about the UK Government's commitment
to tackling wildlife crime.
asked the Minister whether he was attracted to the notion of taking
the Chair of the PAW Steering Group, he replied:
To be perfectly honest, not at present
because we believe that the current arrangementswhere Defra
and the police co-chair PAW and have shared responsibilitywork
well. That kind of hands-on chairmanship is better than a Minister,
who, through the demands on our day, could not give it the absolute
commitment that they can.
We recommend that a Defra Minister
takes the Chair of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife
Crime Steering Group to signal the Government's commitment to
addressing wildlife crime and to provide strategic direction and
political leadership in order to harness the extensive skills,
experience and resources represented in this forum. In our view,
such ministerial involvement need not be an excessive burden,
if the police and Defra maintain their current level of involvement.
130 Qq 3, 143, 154; Ev 95 Back
Law Commission, Press Release, 17 August 2012. Back
Qq 184, 348; Ev 95 Back
Ev 92 Back
Q 3 Back
Q 263 Back
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Q 105 Back
Ev w75 Back
Q 108 Back
Ev 92 Back
Ev 93 Back
Q 5 Back
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Ev 154 Back
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Q 100 Back
Q 184 Back
Q 403 Back
Qq 185, 310 Back
Ev 155 Back
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Ev 96 Back
Qq 141, 158, 318 Back
Environmental Audit Committee, Twelfth Report of Session 2003-04,
Environmental Crime: Wildlife Crime, HC 605, recommendation
Ev 97 Back
Ev 96 Back
Qq 322-327; Ev 97 Back
Ev 119 Back
Q 309 Back
Q 304 Back
Ev 97-98 Back
Environmental Audit Committee, Environmental Crime:
Wildlife Crime, recommendation 8. Back
Ev 97 Back
Qq 189, 318 Back
Ev 153 Back
Qq 282, 283 Back
Environmental Audit Committee, Environmental Crime: Wildlife
Crime, recommendation 6. Back
Q 426 Back
Ev w15, w8 Back
Ev 116 Back
Q 194 Back
Qq 194, 360 Back
Ev 154 Back
Home Office, The National Crime Agency: A plan for the creation
of a national crime-fighting capability, June 2010. Back
Q 432 Back
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Q 191 Back
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Q 189 Back
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Ev 96 Back
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