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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 140-ii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Environmental Audit Committee
Wednesday 23 May 2012
Chief Constable Stuart Hyde, Pete Charleston and Nevin Hunter
Mark Fuchter and Grant Miller
Evidence heard in Public Questions 304 - 401
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee
on Wednesday 23 May 2012
Joan Walley (Chair)
Dr Alan Whitehead
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chief Constable Stuart Hyde, Wildlife Crime Lead, Association of Chief Police Officers, Pete Charleston, Staff Officer to Chief Constable Hyde, and Nevin Hunter, Head of National Wildlife Crime Unit, gave evidence.
Q304 Chair: Thank you very much indeed, all three of you, for coming along this afternoon to our wildlife inquiry. I think today’s session has a little bit of déjà vu about it, Chief Constable Hyde, because we of course interviewed your predecessor. It might be appropriate for us to start off by, as well as thanking you all for coming along here today, asking you, on having taken over the brief, what you see the key challenges are at this time.
Chief Constable Hyde: Okay. Thank you for the opportunity to speak and, as you said, particularly after Richard had come to speak to you. On behalf of ACPO, I would just like to recognise his fantastic work in this area in bringing it to life. Before I go into those issues, I think it would be useful to let you know where I come from in terms of things that I think are important.
Several years ago, I wrote the business case for CEOP and helped to bring that to life as a partnership and bring people together to try to tackle child abuse online. More recently I have been engaged in helping to build the concept of Action Fraud through the NFA, which is again, I think, both national and internationally accepted as another partnership between a whole range of agencies that are engaged in this work.
On wildlife crime, I think we are almost now at a bit of a crossroads as to whether we continue with the structure that we have, or reach out and do something perhaps a bit more creative. You will have gathered from the first two examples I gave where I am coming from: I believe that if we want it to succeed, we need to reach out and bring people into the unit and develop it in some way.
Some things are clearly of concern. The first one, I think, is probably whether it should sit in the National Crime Agency. My personal view is that where it sits is not as important as how it delivers and what we can get to go with it. My emphasis would be on trying to ensure that we have more agencies becoming part of the Crime Unit and having really strong relationships, building on the excellent stuff we have going at the moment with UKBA, police forces across the country, Natural England, Scottish National Heritage, Defra and other statutory as well as third sector bodies such as the RSPB and RSPCA. That is what I would see as my mission. If that can be delivered as part of the NCA and we can guarantee that some of the work that has been undertaken by the National Wildlife Crime Unit can continue, particularly at the lower end-the sort of level one end-then yes, it can go in with the NCA, and that will be a good home.
If, by putting it into the NCA, we end up with an organisation that has consistency of funding and consistency of organisation-at the moment, it is funded through various sources. Its staff is managed through North Wales Police, the website is managed through Lincolnshire Police, and it is currently situated in a Scottish police force building, so there is an opportunity for confusion, to say the least. If the NCA could provide a solution to that, then I would be in favour of it.
I think in terms of working with forces, though, specifically from a policing perspective, I would like to see the unit working with forces more to encourage them to take on some of the challenges, but clearly, against a background of reducing budgets and a background of the levels of priorities that this covers, that is a big challenge. There is, as you know, no word in the English language for something that is not a priority, but for a great deal of the work, most forces do not have this as a formal priority. That is something that your Committee may wish to comment on and perhaps raise it across all of the agencies and all Government Departments as a greater emphasis.
I am not sure whether I am allowed to make requests here, but from my perspective, what I have been looking for from you is some direction as to whether you would like to see a greater collaboration between the issues of wildlife crime and rural crime-I represent both for ACPO-and whether you would want us to grow the Crime Unit to bring in people from other agencies. Those are certainly two issues that I would value in the very early days after taking over this responsibility. I hope that helps as an introduction.
Q305 Chair: Thank you. You have covered a lot of ground, and I know that Mark Lazarowicz will be asking shortly about the new arrangements with the National Crime Agency. Given the way you were saying that such-and-such is done in Lincolnshire, part of the brief is done in Scotland, part of it is done in Wales and part of it in England, I think that geographical separation is something that perhaps needs to be addressed. Do you have any comments about your own geographical location in respect of how the whole lot fits together?
Chief Constable Hyde: Speaking on behalf of Cumbria, we made the decision two years ago that wildlife crime is a very important aspect of policing and one that we certainly cannot ignore. We have a full-time wildlife officer, and he is part of the network of wildlife crime officers across the country, but we have linked it very closely in with rural crime as well, and I think that has been quite helpful to us.
Chair: I know that Mr Hunter wants to come in on that-I can tell from his face.
Nevin Hunter: I don’t have anything, sorry.
Chair: No, okay. Then can I just go back to what you were saying about welcoming the views of the Committee?
Chief Constable Hyde: Yes.
Q306 Chair: Mark Lazarowicz will cover some of the specific questions on this, but I think we want to get a sense of what conversations are going on at the moment, whether it is with SOCA, the Home Office, or whoever else, so that the different options for how this might be done are set out for consideration. Obviously whatever the new unit or arrangement is going to look like isn’t going to come out of thin air; it is going to come out of a series of informed discussions about where the new unit should be placed. Do you have any sense of how much priority is currently being given to all of this, when the Home Office is perhaps looking at other priorities-Heathrow Airport or whatever else it might be?
Chief Constable Hyde: I have had a very brief conversation with the Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, and I have written to him to ask for some idea of Government’s views, but also to try to arrange to have a proper discussion about where this should fit. Equally, I will be arranging meetings with Keith Bristow to talk through what options are available. Going back to the point I made about the different locations and the different structures, it does take me back to the child abuse world in about 2003-2004, where we had all sorts of things going on separately and funding streams that were perhaps not as solid and reliable as they could have been. That is why we created CEOP-to fix that. I think the one thing that certainly the unit wants is some certainty in relation to its funding and its location, but I will go back to what I said earlier: I really do believe that we must go out and look for other partners to come in as well.
Q307 Chair: Do you feel that priority is being given from within the other different organisations or within the Government? Is one meeting with Nick Herbert enough?
Chief Constable Hyde: No, that will not be enough.
Q308 Chair: I know that you are in a position to answer this because you have just got your new post-it is not as if you are applying for the post. Where do you think the leadership in all of this should come from?
Chief Constable Hyde: I think the police leadership can deliver some of that, but it does need Government Departments and particularly third sector organisations, NGOs, to work together. I am more than happy to provide the leadership from the police perspective, but I expect that to be reciprocated in other agencies.
Q309 Simon Wright: Chief Constable Hyde, you have already mentioned the budgetary pressures and priorities, and I wonder whether each of you could comment on your view on the sufficiency of police resources currently allocated to tackling wildlife crime. In particular, are sufficient resources allocated to the National Wildlife Crime Unit?
Chief Constable Hyde: I will let Nevin lead on that to start with.
Nevin Hunter: Okay. 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 crime. That is definitely something we would be really keen to get a firm foothold on in terms of finance, so that we have a constant stream and I, as a police investigator, will not have to constantly spend my time worrying about that side of the business. There is a real need for us to make the best use of it, though. We have a very small unit, but I think we punch way above our weight in terms of our interaction with police forces around the UK, but also with key partner agencies and on a global perspective as well. We are small, but you do have very specialised officers working within the team and focused around that. It is not necessarily a mass resource that is needed. It is a targeted resource at the right place.
Pete Charleston: I provide an England and Wales-wide view in saying that of course the resources allocated to wildlife crime are matters for individual chief constables. That said, I think every force now in England and Wales-certainly the vast majority-do have wildlife crime officers, whether full-time or part-time. Very few forces, if any, do not recognise that wildlife crime is something that needs to be considered.
Q310 Simon Wright: Are you working to secure those extra resources, perhaps at force level, where that is required?
Pete Charleston: As I say, these are matters for individual chief constables. Certainly forces do review their approach to wildlife crime on quite a regular basis and there are recent examples of forces creating full-time posts; equally, though, other forces are choosing not to go down that route and have wildlife crime officers who carry other responsibilities. More and more, we are also seeing the link forces are making between wildlife crime and rural crime, and officers are being asked to carry both responsibilities or wider responsibilities.
Chief Constable Hyde: If I can just add to that that in relation to Cumbria-and I think we are fairly typical of large rural forces-we have a full-time officer, and then in each of the command units we have somebody who takes on that responsibility in addition to other duties, and they all receive a reasonable amount of training. As Chief could I afford to put more into it? The short answer is probably no at the moment.
Q311 Simon Wright: With the resources that are available, do you feel it is most efficient to spread those resources across general wildlife crime policing, or is it best to target them at perhaps force-level crime policing, or even just on the National Wildlife Crime Unit?
Chief Constable Hyde: Do you want to start?
Nevin Hunter: Could I? One of the areas that work very well is that we have investigative support officers. The National Wildlife Crime Unit collates and disseminates intelligence, producing analytical packages that goes out to police forces and also to people like the UK Border Agency and other agencies that we work with. The glue that sticks it all together with us is our investigative support officers, who work with the police forces. They physically go out and work with the police forces and wildlife crime officers, providing specialist expertise to support investigations. We don’t take over the investigations; we support them. So the resource that is available in a particular police force will then depend on the level of support that we may need to provide. It may just be advice over the phone, or it may be physically going out and supporting them, and that is hugely important.
There are some very good recent examples over the last year: a well-known egg collector being caught coming off the island of Rum last year; an investigative support officer going out with a police officer from a Scottish police force, searching the gentleman, seizing eggs and then, within a short period of time, warrants being executed down in London and a huge egg collection seized from him and eggs seized from him personally as well, and then coordinated actions across Scotland and England to prosecute him. That shows the glue that we are able to provide using investigative support officers.
Q312 Sheryll Murray: I would like to ask you-it is probably partly wildlife crime and partly animal welfare-what link you have with local authorities, for instance, who have responsibility for policing and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, and the RSPCA. I am particularly looking at areas like keeping primates as pets, because sometimes these find their way into the country, and are then kept in unsuitable circumstances and fed on an inadequate diet. I seem to perceive that there is not the joined-up working relationship and the only things to suffer in the end are the animals. What sort of working relationship does your unit have with local authorities?
Nevin Hunter: It is very much an evolution role that we have been involved with. I explained earlier about the contact we had with police forces. We are increasingly liaising with local authorities at an appropriate level. We were involved the year before last in Operation Ramp, which looked at trading in tortoises and reptiles across the UK. Where it was appropriate and where we identified there was a need, we worked very closely with local authorities. It was felt appropriate that we would look at licensing issues, animal welfare issues as well as endangered species trade issues, and assure them that we took the overall view and dealt with it in an appropriate way, depending on which were the most appropriate areas to be progressed, either through prosecution, warning or taking no further action.
Chief Constable Hyde: Most of the liaison with local authorities will come through forces rather than through the unit. For example, in our force, we do have a number of relationships with the county and district councils that cover some of these issues.
Q313 Sheryll Murray: Do you think that is working adequately at the moment?
Chief Constable Hyde: Adequately? I think it is working. Could it be stronger? Yes. Could we do more in partnership with both local authorities and the third sector? Yes, absolutely. In fact, I am in the process of a number of meetings with different pressure groups both locally to cover things in Cumbria, and clearly in my new role nationally.
Sheryll Murray: Thank you very much.
Q314 Peter Aldous: I am interested in the types of wildlife crime you normally police. You have touched on rural crime; Chief Constable Hyde did not mention what he coordinated to.
Chief Constable Hyde: Yes, do you want to start?
Nevin Hunter: Yes. We have a process of priorities and we currently have six national priorities relating to badgers, bats, poaching, freshwater pearl mussels, endangered species issues and raptor persecution. To take a typical one, poaching is a classic issue of rural criminality often and, depending on where the particular issues are-where I live down in the south-west, deer poaching and fish poaching are big issues; up in Lincolnshire and East Anglia, we have hare coursing, and same is true in parts of Scotland-where we are going to run anti-poaching initiatives, we will then link them almost automatically into rural crime issues as well. So they are often initiatives run at night. We will be looking to deal with rural crime issues at the same time as we work with wildlife crime issues.
Chief Constable Hyde: From a local perspective, we have an excellent working relationship with the NFU-in fact, only last week I was selecting for the NFU Crime Fighter of the Year Awards, which will be coming out in two weeks’ time. That relationship is built on types of crimes such as theft of oil or diesel, theft of plant, particularly trespass and damage and criminal acts such as that.
Q315 Chair: Just one very quick question before I move on. You mentioned that resources were a matter for the chief constable. How is that going to change with the new regime that is coming in terms of police commissioners? How much of a priority is that going to be given?
Chief Constable Hyde: Well, it will depend on the commissioner. My view on this is the manifesto of the commissioner that gets elected is my new policing plan and if somebody is elected on the basis of investing a lot of money into this area then that is what I will have to do.
Chair: But supposing it is not anybody’s priority?
Chief Constable Hyde: Then I am going to have to negotiate.
Q316 Neil Carmichael: The process is a kind of a dialogue between the police, the crime commissioner and chief constable-not a matter of, "I’ll read his or her manifesto and see what happens", but a dialogue?
Chief Constable Hyde: Yes, it is, but I think the starting point would be the content of the manifesto, because that is where the electorate has agreed to select somebody. I think it would be very unusual for a chief constable to turn round and ignore the manifesto-that would be critical in that discussion-but yes, it would be down to me to discuss issues that perhaps a candidate would not have been exposed to, for example, counter-terrorism or high-level risk that we would need to discuss.
Q317 Neil Carmichael: It is quite an important point because, of course, you have statutory responsibilities. In the unlikely situation that a police and crime commissioner turned up and said, "I want to abolish the police force," or something like that and was elected, obviously that would put you into a funny position if you insisted on implementing his manifesto.
Chair: Can we stick to wildlife crime?
Neil Carmichael: I am coming on to that. The real issue about wildlife crime that I have picked up in this evidence session so far is that it is cross-border, cross this and cross that. One of the interesting things about legislation that includes the police and crime commissioner is the requirement for you to co-operate with other chief constables in different fields.
Chief Constable Hyde: Absolutely, absolutely.
Neil Carmichael: I think that is a really important point and the most important point.
Chief Constable Hyde: We do operate pretty well at the moment. I mean, the fact that we are able to identify people to take on these other responsibilities so quickly is a pretty good indication that we do collaborate. I have a whole range of collaborative arrangements with forces within my region over a whole host of different issues.
Neil Carmichael: Excellent, because that is what you should have and is what hopefully will develop even more.
Chief Constable Hyde: Yes, yes.
Q318 Martin Caton: The creation of the National Wildlife Crime Unit seems to be a positive development since this Committee last looked at this subject back in 2004. Why do you think it has been more successful than the National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit that preceded it?
Chief Constable Hyde: Do you want to start that one off?
Nevin Hunter: Yes. We stand alone now, and I think that is perhaps one of the lessons. We were part of the National Criminal Intelligence Service. The Wildlife Crime Unit went into that. We are now standalone. Financing, although a challenge, has led to us being able to apply resourcing at a more appropriate scale, so we have some resilience in terms of some staffing to enable us to be able to deliver and to work with police forces in particular. Do you want to take it on from there?
Chief Constable Hyde: I think we have all progressed. Policing has moved on. The instigation of SOCA has given us a better understanding of how to use intelligence properly and, because of that and because of the intelligence model itself, units such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit have been able to deliver a lot more for probably a lot less, I would guess, than it did before. It is not just about the unit, however; it is about the environment in which the unit operates. We are far more willing to listen where there is intelligence that has been collated, analysed and is ready for some action. So it is not just about the unit; it is about the whole policing model having changed.
Q319 Martin Caton: Our 2004 report found that that predecessor body, the Intelligence Unit, was "expending time and resources on intelligence packages for police forces who had no intention of devoting any real resources to the crimes themselves". Is that still a problem?
Chief Constable Hyde: I have to say, coming back to Richard’s contribution as my predecessor, I think he did a massive job in getting forces to understand that there is something important about wildlife crime and getting them to invest. The decision that we took as a chief officer team about two years ago, I think, was taken because of the efforts that had been put in by the unit and by Richard to encourage us to do it. There has been a sea change. Now, on whether that is enough, I would argue it is probably not. I think we need to be reaching out to our partners more and getting them much more engaged, but, in terms of policing, I think we have come a long way and made some substantial investments.
Nevin Hunter: I mentioned earlier evolution, not revolution. The National Wildlife Crime Unit now is seen as the contact, certainly for the police service, for wildlife crime issues. We work, in the way that statutory law enforcements do, with the national intelligence model. I also mentioned earlier that glue provided by the investigative support officers. That is why we are able to progress things in a way that perhaps in the past we have not been able to do. When we first started, we did not have investigative support officers. We now have those and they provide absolutely key support, and not only to police forces; they also go out and work with the partner agencies, statutory agencies as well as the non-governmental organisations, and that glue is extremely important to raise the profile but also to support cases.
Q320 Martin Caton: The unit’s website appears to have been a work in progress since you were set up in 2006. Are we going to see it properly up and running any time soon?
Chief Constable Hyde: I will give you a commitment. At the moment, the website is run through Lincolnshire, I think. We have an excellent capability within Cumbria for both website and, probably more important, social media, and I would want to try to move the site up into one of our servers so that we can deliver a proper site that meets people’s needs, but also link in with all the social media contacts that we have. Is that blunt enough?
Martin Caton: It’s very welcome.
Nevin Hunter: The website is important, but also important is that we take internet crime seriously. We are looking to address that. We have had some very good prosecutions as a result of close working, particularly with the UK Border Agency, leading to prosecutions where information and intelligence has come to us and has been acted upon as a result of internet trade with some substantial penalties for people. So the website is important but also the internet as a mechanism for criminality is something that we are looking at and take very seriously.
Q321 Sheryll Murray: Can I ask what happens to the live animals if you have a successful prosecution? If you have, for instance, a case of cross-border trading in exotic animals, what happens to them?
Nevin Hunter: Well, there are two aspects to that, and perhaps when colleagues from the UK Border Agency speak after us they could explain the issues in terms of how they deal with illegal imports and the like. In terms of the internal trade, the legislation requires, when a person is prosecuted, the court to confiscate specimens that are the subject of criminal investigation and we would then work with agencies to find suitable homes for them. They are often zoos and other places, but they will be suitable places, and also places where specimens could not then go on and be traded again in any way. They will go there and normally be housed for the rest of their lives.
Q322 Mark Lazarowicz: Can I be clear on a couple of things about the territorial extent to the financing of the current Wildlife Crime Unit? Mr Hunter referred to various operations in Scotland and also, at an earlier stage, to a UK-wide activity, and Mr Charleston, at some stage, referred to England and Wales. I mean, is this a UK-wide or GB-wide unit?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, it is.
Mark Lazarowicz: What is it, a GB-wide or UK?
Nevin Hunter: Well, we cover all four countries; Northern Ireland as well.
Q323 Mark Lazarowicz: As a matter of interest, where is your headquarters? You said it was in a Scottish police office somewhere.
Nevin Hunter: In Livingstone.
Q324 Mark Lazarowicz: In Livingstone, all right. You said your funding streams come from various sources. What are the main sources of funding currently for the Wildlife Crime Unit?
Nevin Hunter: The Home Office and Defra.
Q325 Mark Lazarowicz: Not any individual police forces?
Nevin Hunter: No. The Association of Chief Police Officers and Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland provide funding as well.
Mark Lazarowicz: What about the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government or Northern Ireland?
Nevin Hunter: The Scottish Government provide funding as well for a particular post within the unit.
Q326 Mark Lazarowicz: Is this funding year by year, or is it on a longer-term basis?
Nevin Hunter: Well, in the past it has been three-yearly and the next round of funding is due for review in April next year.
Q327 Mark Lazarowicz: I get the impression that you spend a lot of time really scrabbling around to get the funds to keep going. Is that fair?
Nevin Hunter: We spend time having to consider those issues. Yes.
Q328 Mark Lazarowicz: If you do get a National Crime Agency-yet it is meant to be certainly GB-wide, isn’t it, and not just England and Wales-then I suppose, on the one hand, there is a possibility that you will get resources on a firmer footing. Isn’t there also a possibility that resources that are being used for your purposes might be subsumed into the general pot and diverted to other areas that might at a particular moment be more headline?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, it could be. Serious and organised wildlife crime may not in itself fit into the "serious and organised crime" general definition, and that can be the challenge that we have for the future, exactly along the lines that you are suggesting.
Q329 Mark Lazarowicz: Is there a view among you which is the best arrangement? Should it be a separate unit, or should it be part of the agency?
Chief Constable Hyde: There are two elements for me. Certainly in relation to CEOP, I saw that putting it under what was then SOCA was an important aspect of providing an umbrella of protection, providing HR advice, providing finance, providing that somebody could look after it. So you could argue it from that point of view. The second element is that wherever it goes-whether it stays as an independent body or goes into NCA-I would not want to lose its connection with frontline level-one crime: that is local wildlife crime as opposed to serious organised importation of exotic species, for example, or anything like that. I think I could imagine a model where it is delivered inside NCA. I could equally imagine a model where it is delivered outside NCA. If it is outside, however, it has to include more partners within it, not least of all to make it of a size that is sustainable, and we would need to ensure that its funding is more consistent and is guaranteed so that it is not going to operate on a sort of an annual basis.
Q330 Mark Lazarowicz: Because there is a real tension there, isn’t there?
Chief Constable Hyde: There is, yes.
Q331 Mark Lazarowicz: Because you can very much see how a National Crime Agency could be almost, not a side-effect, but a kind of parallel to investigating other types of smuggling. Smuggling in various exotic animals might be seen as a part of that investigation and yet, on the other hand, investigating the local animal cruelty issues wouldn’t really be at all a priority, would it, for a National Crime Agency?
Chief Constable Hyde: Yes. With CEOP, I think there was a real strength in being part of SOCA. I am not sure if it is exactly on all fours with the current status of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, but I think it could be delivered as a separate entity only if the finance is sorted out and we grow it with other agencies.
Q332 Peter Aldous: If we come on to the co-ordination with other organisations and bodies, we have taken evidence from such organisations as Natural England, the Environment Agency and later today we obviously have the UK Border Force. How do you feel that you are co-ordinating with those bodies? Is the Partnership of Action against Wildlife Crime an efficient means of co-ordinating everyone’s activities?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, PAW is held up as best practice globally. It is an umbrella organisation that harnesses support from not just statutory organisations but non-governmental organisations as well, and it is pretty much a unique partnership. We have people within the partnership that have totally opposing views, but the commitment is to tackle wildlife crime, and that is the overarching one that we all sign up to.
Q333 Peter Aldous: And it works?
Nevin Hunter: It works, yes.
Q334 Peter Aldous: If we just look at sort of mass membership organisations like the RSPB and the Angling Trust, how do you engage with them and their members?
Nevin Hunter: Directly, PAW has a number of groups that we interact with, and I will give an example. There is a forensics working group on which sit police, the UK Border Agency and a number of non-Government organisations, as well as scientific bodies, and we then harness the strengths of all of those to tackle issues, to identify any developments and work with those. Looking at some of them specifically, the RSPB provide direct support in terms of direct operational support for things like identifying eggs and collections, but also, where we have prosecutions, they produce a publication called Legal Eagle that highlights a number of prosecutions-sort of wildlife crime community news-which is available online for people to look at and raises the whole profile of wildlife crime, as well as using their own magazines and that to highlight the role of wildlife crime officers.
Q335 Peter Aldous: Because a lot of the crimes take place in very isolated areas, the RSPB and Angling Trust may have members out in those areas. Are you happy that they are very much your eyes, so to speak?
Nevin Hunter: Yes. People like the RSPB have their own investigation services; they collate their own information and intelligence and they feed that naturally to the Wildlife Crime Unit. In fairness, the RSPCA, the SSPCA and the majority of the NGOs are looking towards those sorts of processes. So there is a natural feed in to the Wildlife Crime Unit, and if it is something that comes in to us that is perhaps not a policing role but is something for our partners in the UK Border Agency, we will make sure that it is passed on to them.
Q336 Peter Aldous: Just broadening things slightly and looking at the international co-operation, Interpol have told us that the UK haven’t implemented their system for sharing wildlife crime information in terms of Ecomessage. Is there any reason for that? Do you have any plans to do that?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, can I nail that one, because it is a real concern to me. The Ecomessage is a 20-year-old format of messaging. It doesn’t meet international intelligence handling requirements that law enforcement agencies meet. To reassure you, since 2006 we have submitted more than 400 intelligence logs to Interpol and to Europol. In 2011 we submitted 21% of all intelligence received by Interpol in the Environmental Crime Programme, the majority of which was relating to wildlife crime. When I say "we", that is the UK. That would involve the UK Border Agency, Environment Agency and others as well. To put it in perspective, in 2011 we in the UK provided more intelligence than the combined efforts of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China and South Africa-more than all those countries put together. We do submit intelligence, but there are agreed protocols and, unfortunately, Ecomessage doesn’t meet them. However, we don’t have the time and nor do our partners in the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and UKBA, to transmit them into that format.
Chief Constable Hyde: Can I come in? There is an absolute principle to create efficiency, but to comply with this, we would be double-keying. In other words, officers would be having to submit for our intelligence system and then writing exactly the same text in a different system. I am absolutely and totally against any double-keying.
Nevin Hunter: A practical outcome that I could give you is that work has been done on rhino horn that we in the UK have progressed, and it supported hugely the work that Interpol have been doing to tackle both illegal rhino poaching, but also the implications of illegal trading in antique rhino horn. So we put in a substantial amount of intelligence over the last few years, ourselves, UK Border Agency and others, to help address that problem.
Q337 Peter Aldous: Are you happy that Interpol are fully acting on the information that you provide them, because I would imagine, in the relationship with Interpol, that is where we are getting involved with serious organised crime?
Nevin Hunter: Yes we do, and we provide direct support. They have their own intelligence and analytical functions that work in a way that the law enforcement agencies do, but we also provide direct support. I currently have an officer out supporting an operation team in Nepal. We have people out there working with Interpol that lead to co-operations.
Q338 Peter Aldous: You are happy with Interpol and they respond in a proactive and helpful way to what you are doing?
Nevin Hunter: Yes.
Chief Constable Hyde: I have worked in a number of areas with Interpol. If you watch a crime movie, it makes it look as if Interpol is this huge army of people. They are quite small, but they work very effectively at exchanging information and data, and that is something that law enforcement across the globe cannot do collectively. It is a very important part of their business, but they are not an enforcement agency going out and taking out gangs of villains, as it were.
Q339 Zac Goldsmith: Before we move on from this, I would love to hear a little bit more about PAW. Principally, who chairs it? Who convenes it? How often does it meet? Who sets the agenda? I do not know whether I missed that at the beginning, but it is useful to know.
Chief Constable Hyde: I am going to have to defer to one of my experts.
Nevin Hunter: Yes, the PAW structure has a strategic lead. It will be Mr Hyde in the future from an ACPO lead, but also a senior officer from Defra, who jointly chair the partnership. They meet every six months to look at strategic issues and, in addition to dealing with general partnership issues on that day, they will look at the UK strategic task and co-ordinate it. We are looking at a structure that mirrors the way police enforcement works. Part of the role that my unit produces is an assessment that then provides the baseline for future action both identifying key areas of criminality, how we are delivering on the priorities that we have identified and then being accountable to the chief constable and to the Defra lead. They will then be tasking us and our respective partner agencies to take action over a period of time.
Q340 Zac Goldsmith: You effectively run it in partnership with Defra. I think there are 90 members. Is that right? Maybe I made that up. Yes, 90 organisations. Of all the various parties who form the PAW partnership, how many of them are not statutory? How many of them are NGOs and organisations of that sort?
Pete Charleston: I think the vast majority are NGOs and they make contributions of various size according to the size of their own organisation and the resources they have. Some, such as RSPB, are very involved in many of the working groups. Others are unable to contribute to the individual working groups but, nevertheless, their being a member is sending out a very strong message across a broad spectrum that they are interested in tackling wildlife crime.
Q341 Zac Goldsmith: Just the last question on PAW: when was it established? Do you know when PAW was established?
Pete Charleston: I was going to say mid-1990s. Yes, it was.
Q342 Chair: Before we move on, these options that are going to determine what the next phase of the operation looks like: to what extent will Defra and all the other NGOs-everybody else involved in this collaboration-be part of that process of drawing up the options that will determine what the future service looks like? Has thought been given to that?
Chief Constable Hyde: Do you want to answer that and then I will come back?
Pete Charleston: I think it is very difficult for PAW to come up with agreed policies or views on these matters. PAW is a very broad umbrella of interests. We have the RSPB. We have the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. It would be, I think, a very difficult task to come up with views that are agreed by all the partners and, because of that, we tend not to come up with PAW views on these matters, but partners have individual views on them.
Chief Constable Hyde: In relation to the broader question there, yes, I think if we were moving now to a solid option of taking the unit, for example, and changing its structure or moving it into NCA then, yes, I would want some consultation on that with as many people as possible.
Q343 Chair: Would that be a matter for you, or would it be for Government to decide who that is?
Chief Constable Hyde: It is more likely to be a ministerial decision on the basis that the NCA is being set up through the Home Office, but I will be engaged in debate and discussion, as will Nevin.
Q344 Chair: In that one meeting that you referred to with the Minister, Nick Hurd, was there any indication that this kind of discussion, which would presumably need to be with Defra as well-
Chief Constable Hyde: It was not a formal meeting. It was actually a discussion at a funeral. He did make it clear that he is very keen to progress wildlife crime within the agency, but there were no formal agreements.
Q345 Chair: There is no mechanism for that to materialise?
Chief Constable Hyde: Well, I have written to him and I am really looking forward to the response.
Q346 Chair: How long ago did you write to him?
Chief Constable Hyde: Probably 10 days, something like that. It is very recent.
Q347 Peter Aldous: Just for clarification, it is Nick Herbert rather than Nick Hurd, I think.
Chair: I am so sorry.
Chief Constable Hyde: Nick Herbert, yes.
Chair: Yes, thank you for the correction.
Q348 Dr Whitehead: There are a couple of questions on which we have had some rather conflicting evidence given to us, so I guess you are the deciders. The first one relates to the status of the various bits of legislation on wildlife crime and how that stands in terms of how effective your work may be. Do you favour consolidating those various bits of legislation into one new Wildlife Act?
Chief Constable Hyde: From a personal point of view I favour consolidating masses of legislation, not least of all because it is easier to train. I think, in terms of the specifics, I know Nevin is in that view as well, but maybe you want to explain some of the choices.
Nevin Hunter: I think there are really two issues when we look at wildlife crime and one is around domestic issues. Domestic legislation, the Wildlife and Countryside Act or the Poaching Act, Deer Act and the like, is very much about restrictive legislation in terms of "it is an offence if". On the other hand, we then have endangered species trade legislation, where as long as people comply with the rules in terms of endangered species trade, it permits them to do certain things.
As I say, there are two schools of thought there. We have the consolidation of domestic legislation, which will certainly make it much easier for us, for police officers in particular, if you are trying to think of some of the Acts that go back to the early 1800s to do with poaching. Then we have the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the various amendments. There is a mass of stuff. A single consolidated piece of legislation will certainly make it a lot easier for training issues and raising the profile generally across the police service, but when it comes to trade issues, they are separate and, of course, we have the wider implications of the global issues to do with CITES.
Q349 Dr Whitehead: Are you actively promoting that wish to have the legislation consolidated? I am thinking in the context of the Law Commission review of wildlife law that is under way at the moment.
Pete Charleston: We have had contact with the Law Commission. They are aware of the interest of ACPO and we will be responding to consultation when they issue it, yes.
Q350 Dr Whitehead: The second piece of conflicting evidence, shall we say, that we have had relates to the available penalties for wildlife crime. Some of the evidence that has come our way has suggested that the penalties are not commensurate with potential profits for criminals and, therefore, not effective. Other people have suggested that the penalties themselves are sufficient, but the issue is one of sentencing and whether the actual sentencing relates to the range of penalties that are available. How do you see this?
Chief Constable Hyde: I think it is not right for us to comment on specific sentences in a particular case, but do you want-
Nevin Hunter: There is an interesting issue in that, if somebody illegally trades a Hermann’s tortoise, which is the most commonly traded species of tortoise and ranched in huge numbers, they could attract a sentence of five years’ imprisonment. However, if I was to shoot the last hen harrier in the UK, I will get six months’ imprisonment as a maximum.
Q351 Dr Whitehead: I deduce from that that you are concerned about the penalties?
Nevin Hunter: It is a comment, yes.
Chief Constable Hyde: I think society needs to demonstrate what the offences are that cause the most damage and then sentence accordingly.
Q352 Dr Whitehead: Not wishing to encourage you to comment on any particular sentencing outcomes, would it be fair to say that the relationship of, as it were, the practical tariff of penalties is relatively low compared with what there is available as a penalty?
Nevin Hunter: One of the things we try to do, which has evolved over the last few years, is use impact statements. We take statements from key scientists and put those on the prosecution files, both to inform the prosecutors but also to try to support judges and magistrates and the like to ensure that they are fully aware of the actual impact of the behaviour in front of them, particularly from a conservation point of view. We understand that, particularly in magistrates’ courts, they will not see a wildlife crime case every day. Anything that we can do to assist that is really important. Impact statements are hugely important for us, and wherever we can we will make sure that those go on to files, both to inform the prosecutor but also then to try to assist the court to come to the best decision available.
Q353 Chair: On legislation and on international legislation as well, can I ask you to comment on the specific point about people who try to circumnavigate some of the CITES legislation? Apparently it is the case that, where a member state implements stricter measures with regards to a listed species, these can be circumvented by simply applying for a management authority certificate from a member state that has not implemented stricter measures. Is that something that should be looked at in terms of where the legislation is going and the way that that has bearings on the international negotiations as well?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, if I could deal with that perhaps from the perspective of rhino horn. Two years ago we identified an issue. The National Wildlife Crime Unit, working with UKBA and with Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, the CITES management authority, flagged up the issue that rhino horn trade was a particular concern from the UK and it could be impacting on levels of poaching of rhinos. The UK took a stricter measure and, as soon as we did that, we then raised it at a European level with our colleagues through the European Enforcement Working Group to highlight that issue. We were supported straightaway by a number of other countries. We obviously can’t have an impact on what individual member states will do, but what is noticeable is that Germany, Italy, France all supported the steps that we took. We warned other member states, "If you don’t address this through a stricter measure as well, you may now have the problem of illegal rhino horn trade."
Q354 Chair: When you said "we", who is "we"? The UK Government?
Nevin Hunter: Through the UK Government, yes.
Q355 Chair: Do you think that there is scope here for a recommendation that could put greater priority on influencing international agreements and EU agreements?
Nevin Hunter: I think all we can do is to try to influence by setting our own house in order first.
Q356 Martin Caton: Mr Hunter, you just put forward the prospect of shooting the last hen harrier in the United Kingdom. Sadly, that is not a million miles away from being a possibility now, because the population is tiny and declining, isn’t it? That is in marked contrast to other raptors-the red kite and buzzard populations are a marvellous story. It is another case where we have had conflicting evidence. To what extent do you think persecution of hen harriers plays a large part in their decline?
Nevin Hunter: I do not think that we are in a position to comment from a police service point of view. We are not scientists and we don’t have that sort of background. Academic research has suggested it is the case. We have been called upon in recent years to investigate a number of cases, but we do not have the expertise to enable us to express a view as to whether decline can be attributed just to persecution. We have a role from a policing point of view to investigate.
Q357 Martin Caton: The ACPO written evidence pointed us towards the introduction of vicarious liability for offences involving raptor persecution in Scotland and suggested it might be usefully applied in England. In practical terms, how would this help to overcome the difficulty of securing evidence of raptor persecution?
Chief Constable Hyde: I think the document actually suggested that this might be encouraging learning for us and that we should see what happens, study how it pans out in Scotland and then, if it does create the benefits that it could deliver, look at whether we could bring the legislation south of the border. I know we have done that on a number of occasions in different areas of criminal justice. I think our position would be let’s wait and see how it develops. I don’t think we should draw conclusions until it has been tried.
Q358 Martin Caton: We took evidence from a representative of the Gamekeepers Association who was very much opposed to this. Would law-abiding gamekeepers and landowners have anything to fear from the introduction of vicarious liability into English law?
Chief Constable Hyde: I think in just about every area of this there are probably two sides and no ends. This is probably a good example of it. I would hope that lawabiding landowners would have nothing to fear with this-clearly, principles of English law would protect them-but I come back to what I said just now about seeing with an open mind how it progresses in Scotland, and if it is something that works and is of value then we can make suggestions to bring it in. If it doesn’t work or adds to or creates some of the fears that the gamekeepers have expressed to you, then clearly we would not suggest that we bring it in.
Martin Caton: Fair enough; thank you.
Q359 Chair: I just wondered if your position is the same as your predecessor’s or if there has been a slight change of direction.
Chief Constable Hyde: I think I just want to see how it operates. That is the position at the moment.
Q360 Peter Aldous: In the 2004 report there was a recommendation that the National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit, as they were then, should maintain a centrally managed national database recording wildlife crime. On the face of it, that seems fairly uncontroversial. We had a discussion a minute ago about getting too much red tape and bureaucracy, but I just wondered why that has not been done.
Chief Constable Hyde: Do you want to do that and then I will come in?
Nevin Hunter: Yes. I think the picture we have of wildlife crime and wildlife crime incidences is incomplete. Over the last few years we have tried to gather incident data, but we are very much reliant upon the 50-plus police forces around the UK to feed that incident data to us. Of course, an incident could be men walking in woods with terriers but, at the same time, somebody may report a similar incident saying men with dogs are attacking badgers. We gather incident data and we have done that. We are dependent upon all the police forces feeding to us. What is clear, though, is that the majority of wildlife crime offences are summary-only offences, so they fit into that category for the Home Office of non-recordable offences. In terms of how we can gather records, that is difficult.
Q361 Peter Aldous: The majority of offences would be, let us say, the local character shooting a pheasant for the pot rather than organised crime-going around the country badger-baiting?
Nevin Hunter: Yes, but you have to deal with both and everything in between. Therefore, undoubtedly, incident data would then give a huge extra responsibility for police forces to collate.
Q362 Peter Aldous: You are happy that there is sufficient co-ordination-that, say, the organised criminals badger-baiting are not going to slip through the net somewhere?
Nevin Hunter: Well, the key is not so much just incident data but intelligence and, because of the way in which we work, dealing across the board, we will be able, working with police forces, to access intelligence about other criminality that people may be involved in. If they are badger-baiters and poachers and are involved in illegal use of firearms, because we work in the same way as the police and we are a police unit, we will liaise with the local police force and deal with things in an appropriate way.
Q363 Peter Aldous: You get appropriate feedback and co-operation from all forces?
Nevin Hunter: I said earlier on it is an incomplete picture. Some forces are better than others, but it does depend on the resources available to be able to provide incident data. What is key is that, because there is a national intelligence structure for the police service, intelligence does get fed to us but, again, the picture is variable. What is not doubted is that we have increased the amount of intelligence we receive and act upon. We are getting better at it but what-
Q364 Peter Aldous: That picture is variable mainly because of a lack of resources rather than any reluctance to engage with you?
Nevin Hunter: Resource is one issue, and also understanding about what it is we need, which is why the priorities are so important. We want police forces to know that we need to know about those six priority areas.
Chief Constable Hyde: Just by way of a sort of analogy, in the area of fraud a few years ago we went through a number of reviews that said there was a complete mismatch in the quality and quantity of recording across the country. Working through the concept of Action Fraud and the National Fraud Authority, now all fraud can be reported directly, either on the telephone or on the web, along with cybercrime as well, which is mostly fraud related. What we have done is had one system: if you make a phone call, it goes through a call centre in Manchester and then that is all aggregated into the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. It is a much more co-ordinated approach-in fact, it is probably world-class in terms of recording of fraud. Now, that was an approach that worked for fraud. Whether that approach would work for here to guarantee consistency I don’t know, but it is certainly something that we could look at.
Nevin Hunter: Could I just flag up that a single consolidated piece of wildlife crime legislation covering the UK may make it easier, because it will all go under that umbrella in terms of recording?
Q365 Peter Aldous: You don’t get any feedback from forces along the lines that they were doing things perfectly properly before you came along and they can get on quite happily and do it on their own?
Nevin Hunter: I am not quite sure I understand the context.
Q366 Peter Aldous: They are happy to co-operate with you, all forces?
Nevin Hunter: The vast majority of forces we get very good data, both incident data but also intelligence, provided to us through the processes that I mentioned.
Chair: Well, there we must leave it. Can I thank all three of you? It has been very helpful. We very much hope that our report, when it is published, might help to establish some kind of basis for the next five years’ provision. Anyway, thank you very much indeed for coming along this afternoon.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mark Fuchter, Deputy Director, Operational Policy, UK Border Force, and Grant Miller, CITES Team Manager, UK Border Force, gave evidence.
Q367 Chair: A very warm welcome to your contribution to this afternoon’s inquiry. I think you have sat through the previous session, so you are aware of the general concerns that we have, and can I thank both of you very much for coming along and helping with this afternoon.
I will start off. Your written evidence to us states that you agree enforcement priorities with the Home Office Ministers and with other key external partners. It would be helpful to have an indication of how you go about doing that, what the regularity of meetings with the Home Office is, how it actually happens, and who the other external parties are that you are conferring with.
Mark Fuchter: Thank you, by the way, for the invitation to come back here again. In simple terms, to put it in context, we are now Border Force and we are a director-generalship of the Home Office. That statement in our submission was partly in the sense of line management, but our key stakeholders in terms of strategic priorities in this area are, of course, Defra and ACPO. I am conscious that we are probably going to go over similar ground that you have just been over, but we look to take our strategic priorities in terms of CITES very much as a lead from Defra, but also with an eye on the direction that the European Commission may be taking, because it is their regulation that we are enforcing.
Q368 Chair: In terms of the relationship that you have with the Home Office and with Defra, how do you see that working out in a cross-cutting way?
Mark Fuchter: I think it works very well actually. We deal with Defra in their policy leadership role and ourselves as an operational directorate charged with putting into place and enforcing the policies for which they lead within Government. To be honest, it is business as usual. Many of our border control responsibilities are led at policy level by Defra; others are led by BIS and others are led by other parts of the Home Office. It is quite usual for us to have that sort of partnership working relationship, and the test for us is to make sure that we are meeting their overall priorities, balanced against our other priorities internally for which we follow the process that you have been hearing about-the national intelligence model tasking and co-ordination process. At the top level, we have for CITES and wildlife crime, I should say, the tasking and co-ordination process chaired now by the incoming chief constable that you have heard about. We have similar processes within the organisation that take CITES alongside firearms, alongside counterterrorism, alongside drugs, and allow us to prioritise those operationally.
Q369 Chair: In terms of the debate about what the future shape of the organisation will look like, do you have any recommendations on whether it should sit as part of the National Crime Agency or separately?
Mark Fuchter: I think we are neutral on whether it sits in the NCA or whether it sits in the way Chief Constable Hyde described. All we would like to see is that it continue in its form and perhaps get ever better. I have been associated with this area since the early days of the NWCIU, and I think it is fair to say we have watched it grow and mature; we have helped each other to the extent that we feel we can go to a unit like that. We have similar units that we can go to in terms of firearms crime and drugs, as well. It works well.
Q370 Chair: What would you say your current enforcement priorities are?
Grant Miller: I chair the CITES Priority Delivery Group on behalf of the chief constable. It is made up of representatives of the police-from the Metropolitan Police currently-the head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, ourselves as Border Force, and Defra. Also, when required, we bring in expert speakers to talk about particular issues. All the priorities are based in line with the national intelligence model in that, first and foremost, we must have intelligence to suggest that there is a problem before it comes on to the table. The current priorities we have at the moment is we have four operational CITES priorities, those being the illicit trade in ivory; reptiles, with a particular focus on tortoises; the illegal trade in raptors; and all forms of traditional medicines, including the use of rhino horn.
With regard to each of those operational priorities, we have a plan for taking them forward. That is based on enforcement action, on education and then compliance to see if the work that we have put in place has taken place. Currently, the trade in ivory is a new priority that we have started to look at again. We have had an ivory threat assessment been completed and we have moved into the first phase of enforcement action, which is tackling the trade in ivory on the internet. In the last eight months we have successfully referred nine cases to both Border Force investigation and police forces, and three of those cases have been referred to international customs authorities, two to Belgium and one to Italy. Two have come through or have been completed with the result of formal cautions being issued. The remainder have still to come to trial. On all of the jobs that we have done significant quantities of ivory have been returned, but we are in its infancy of enforcing this as a key priority.
Trade in reptiles is now coming towards its close. It concluded with Operation Ramp, which was a compliance exercise going out looking at the trade in reptiles. I am very pleased to say that after a period of enforcement and education by our partners in Defra, we found the trade in reptiles in the UK to be largely compliant. I think that is a great success story for our method of working-of trying to move the priorities forward, improve and educate the trade.
The illegal trade in raptors is new-it came on at the last TCG planning meeting. It centres on the issue of semi-complete article 10 certificates within the world trade. We have intelligence now to suggest that these documents are being misused and we are moving into the first phase of bringing them back in and recovering them, so that we can take more reliable enforcement action.
On traditional medicines, we are seeing quite a considerable move. We have traditionally looked at the Chinese area, which has been animal-derived medicines predominantly from China, but we are seeing more and more of these products involving CITES-listed plants, ayurvedic medicines from India and other continents. So we are developing our skills in those areas and moving forward.
Chair: That is a very comprehensive list.
Q371 Zac Goldsmith: The emphasis you put on ivory as a new avenue of activity is interesting. It cannot be new. You mean renewed?
Grant Miller: We look at all the CITES products in relation to their being traded. What we have is intelligence to suggest that ivory from the UK was being smuggled to China and Vietnam and that was a growing threat. Therefore, it became a particular focus of our enforcement activity. In effect, we have said we need to shine the light on that.
Q372 Zac Goldsmith: If we have time, can I ask why would ivory be traded from the UK? Is it brought here, laundered and sent on?
Grant Miller: I think some is almost certainly brought in here, but within the UK we hold a large quantity of old ivory from snooker and billiard balls from yesteryear. Those have a value as the elephant populations are under threat, and former ivory is now being trafficked. It does require licences, permits, to be moved, and we are finding that people using the internet are trafficking and are not complying.
Q373 Zac Goldsmith: Do you mind if we pursue that? How easy is it to get? How strict is the licensing regime, and how easy is it to launder fresh ivory and dress it up as old ivory?
Grant Miller: I think there are techniques as to how to do it. They try to age, for instance, new ivory using tea, burying it so it takes on the patination. Yes, it can be done. We have built up expertise within the team to recognise, for instance, the carving techniques of a particular period in history when ivory was more popular. We learn things like that and those are mistakes that the smuggler makes. They may try to conceal it, but they may well carve things that, quite frankly, were not in fashion during those periods.
Q374 Zac Goldsmith: If you had an old piece of ivory in your house from 100 years before and you wanted to sell it, you would not have a licence now. You would have to go and get a licence. How would that process work?
Grant Miller: You would make an application to Defra, to Animal Health, for a licence and the licence would come. We are looking at the exportation and those goods are being shipped out to China, predominantly.
Q375 Zac Goldsmith: Would someone actually come and examine it, every piece, or would it be-
Grant Miller: No, no, absolutely not. It is about the licence. When you are exporting over the border then we would-
Q376 Zac Goldsmith: Yes, but if you want to export your ivory that you have and you want to get a licence from Defra, how proactive are they in ensuring that that ivory is legit?
Grant Miller: That would be for Defra to comment on. If you have an ivory item, they would issue a licence. What we would do on the border is we would check that licence, and, if we felt there was a requirement, we would conduct an examination.
Q377 Chair: On that point, would you agree that there is quite a lot of awareness-raising that needs to be done on this whole issue?
Grant Miller: Absolutely, and the next stage when the priority group meets will be to discuss how we go about educating. Mistakes have been made by NGOs in the past, with the best of intention, around the ivory trade. For instance, one of the online auction houses was contacted and told, "You are allowing ivory to be traded on your website." The online auction site then responsibly said, "Well, we are not going to allow ivory to be traded." What we found overnight was that the ivory was still there but it was then described as ox bone, as white wood or as other commodities. From an enforcement point of view, that then creates another problem for us because we, first of all, have to prove the guilty knowledge-that the individual who is selling that item knew it was ivory. From a very well-intentioned step it became a problem for us.
Zac Goldsmith: Chair, do you mind if I ask some more on this?
Chair: Please do.
Q378 Zac Goldsmith: There is the ongoing question of whether or not there should be any trade at all in ivory-that when you have a legitimate angle you are simply facilitating this process you have just described of laundering the illegitimate ivory. Is it your view that there should be no trade at all in ivory?
Grant Miller: I am not a scientist. I will leave that to the conservationists to inform that. I am a customs officer.
Q379 Zac Goldsmith: Can I ask you then not whether you should or should not, but whether it would make the job of people in your position easier if it was a black-and-white position that all ivory trade was banned?
Grant Miller: Yes.
Q380 Chair: Just before I move on, in terms of shipments that are coming in, I wanted to try to get some idea of how many consignments are coming in that just are not detected by yourselves and how that proportion compares with illegal drugs, for example, or firearms?
Mark Fuchter: We do not have any estimates of the extent of deliberate smuggling. People do not report that they have got away with it.
Chair: No, but do you have any sense of-
Mark Fuchter: The sense I have is that anything that is getting through-that is, if you like, beating our controls-is very small. Part of the reason for saying that is our confidence in the relationships we have with the NWCU and the intelligence framework. I think this works very well. I am also responsible for our operational policy on drugs. If you look at class A drugs over the years, SOCA have been able to publish estimates of the amounts that are targeted either on the European Union or on the UK, and they have tended to be very high. We have had to look at ourselves and ask ourselves quite challenging questions about the proportion of drugs that we seize against those proportions. Nothing like that exists in this area.
I should add that we are also policing and regulating all of the lawful trade in endangered species that is going on. Compared to drugs and illegal firearms, what we are dealing with here is both the illegal smuggling probably of annex A species, and that is certainly a priority for us, in among all the regulatory trade. Our first duty is to ensure that the permits for the regulatory trade are checked. That is a whole load of stuff going on every day, day in, day out. I think even in terms of ivory, the quantities that we are talking about are small, but I have to say that is my assertion looking at responsibilities in this area compared to drugs when, for example, in terms of all the new synthetic drugs coming out of the far east, that is a challenge to deal with-just the sheer volumes targeted at the UK. I do not get the same impression here.
Grant Miller: To add to that, it is certainly not the intelligence that we are missing vast loads. With regards to all animal shipments into the UK, they must travel through a border inspection post from third countries, which is at Heathrow and at Manchester. At both locations we are linked in very much with the local council, and particularly the City of London, who run the animal reception centre at Heathrow. There are no animal shipments that are not examined either by ourselves or by Animal Health for health reasons. It is about being joined up and educating each other. They know what we are looking for; similarly, we know the things that they are interested in. It is a partnership between us that has proved very successful.
Q381 Chair: Can I check you do not have the same resource issues that the Border Agency has had in respect of people coming through?
Mark Fuchter: We are the same organisation. Very much the Border Force-
Chair: I mean in respect of the provision of this part of the service that you provide.
Mark Fuchter: No, not at all.
Q382 Mark Lazarowicz: To what extent are your efforts in CITES control undermined by less effective border control regions elsewhere within the EU? Getting into one part of the EU and up on the French side of the Channel, how effective is it?
Mark Fuchter: We are very conscious that the levels of control across the European Community vary. Are we undermined? We would be undermined on any case where a sophisticated organisation decides to penetrate the EU external border elsewhere. To that extent, the UK could be undermined. As you know and I think we made clear in our memorandum, we can’t mount controls within the European Community. We are enforcing an EU border regulation.
Yes, to some extent there is some truth in what you say. What do we do about it? We do a number of things. While we are protecting the external border, again we come back to our relationship with the police enforcing the COTES regulation. That is the whole point about working in partnership with them, because we are dealing with people who can effortlessly move goods across international borders if they wish to. We also work with the Animal Health Agency in terms of their compliance activity.
Specifically, in terms of the external border, we do a number of things. Grant’s team, and you can explain more, have done, over the years, a number of specific things to help build capacity in other member states, particularly those States that over the last eight years joined the Community. I think it is eight years ago now. We have provided standard training packages to certain member states and it is fair to say-I think Grant will be able to explain-some member states have got up to speed very, very quickly and are very competent. We have provided training to some of those.
We have also provided training to some of those member states on the border of the European Community, which I think is also very important. Specifically, we have provided resources to come up with a training programme for both police and customs officials or border guards across the Community going into the details of CITES as we enforce it. On top of that, there is an exchange network called EUTWIX that Grant’s officers use to share good practice and information with other European partners. Have I missed anything?
Grant Miller: No.
Q383 Mark Lazarowicz: There are powers under the COTES regulations to be able to seize goods in the UK that were previously illegally imported into another EU member state. How frequently have you made use of those powers?
Mark Fuchter: This is Article 5 of COTES?
Mark Lazarowicz: Yes.
Mark Fuchter: We have only used it three times in the last, I think, four years and we have not been asked to use that power at all for two years, but if I could hand over to Grant, because you are the authority in Border Force who makes those decisions.
Grant Miller: The Article 5 decision about reverse burden of proof is clearly a very powerful power tool within our toolbox. We cannot use it for every item that arrives from Europe because, quite clearly, there are large numbers of CITES specimens that are held and bred within captivity within the European Union that are held lawfully and are moved down to the UK. For instance, with a request for a rock python, which we know are held in large numbers within the Community, there would no proportionality; there would be no fairness in requesting someone to show the original parentage of that item legally imported into the UK. As for the police, with regard to the power, we deliver sessions in all the police wildlife courses and, indeed, we invite them on to a full CITES course to deliver them, so they are very aware that this power exists, but I think it is down to the number of times when they can effectively use it. It does not come up often.
Q384 Chair: I did not hear how many times you have used it.
Grant Miller: We have used it three times in the last four years.
Q385 Dr Whitehead: You have submitted written evidence to us saying that you thought that the powers and the penalties available to you are fit for purpose. Could I construe from that that you don’t think the consolidation of existing wildlife legislation into a single Act would be worthwhile or appropriate?
Mark Fuchter: I think there are two things there. Consolidation as a general principle I would agree is useful because it makes our lives easier and it is clearer what our powers might be, but also the trading public. We have to remember business is easier for them. But in this case I think we are talking about something slightly different. We are enforcing the EU CITES regulation. So, in a sense, if UK wildlife crime legislation were consolidated, there would have to be an understanding of the relationship with that EU regulation and whether there were any powers or responsibilities given to us in that context.
Can I just explain very briefly why we said we think we do have powers and legislation that is fit for purpose? It is a very, very simple construct, and forgive me if you have heard this before. In very simple terms, think in terms of the Customs function. We have Customs legislation. Most of the enforcement powers, the coercive powers we use, are within the 1979 Act, the Customs and Excise Management Act. That contains all our powers of seizure, forfeiture, questioning, requiring declarations and things like that.
All we look for in any of the things that we control, like the border, is a simple piece of legislation elsewhere that says, "Goods X are prohibited", or, "The importation of goods X is prohibited". Now, that can either be in UK legislation or, more materially nowadays, in an EU directly binding regulation. For example, we apply some of our other responsibilities around cat and dog fur, seal traded goods, plastic kitchenware-all the various regulatory regimes that are coming out of Brussels, if you like-at the UK border by virtue of our Customs powers. All we need is that simple construction in the originating legislation and it activates all those powers in CEMA, in simple terms.
Q386 Dr Whitehead: I think you would accept that that is seen through a particular prism?
Mark Fuchter: Yes, very much. This is through the prism of Customs controls at the external border.
Q387 Dr Whitehead: Yes. Do you think the police should also have the power that you have to seize items that are specified as imported illegally and, therefore, to require the owner to show they are lawfully imported or you enact that? At the moment they don’t.
Mark Fuchter: Do you mean the COTES 5 power, which is a question that arises when goods are discovered inland? If you mean that, I would say never say never, but at the moment we have a framework in place-an agreement with the police that they can contact us 24/7 every day of the year to ask for our authority to use that power. I would say there is not a demand operationally for them to have that power. We would probably have to take legal advice. The law as it is written does not preclude it being a policeman and, of course, we are in the process of a transition to a National Crime Agency and the Border Police Command, and so all of these things, if you like, are on the agenda. It could well happen, but the point to emphasise is that the standard of tests that Grant outlined earlier would have to be applied, whoever does it.
Q388 Chair: Your view there is at variance with that of the Metropolitan Police.
Mark Fuchter: Okay. Well, I am prepared to accept that. I am happy to elaborate if-
Q389 Dr Whitehead: We have been talking about penalties and their appropriateness. As far as penalties relating to CITES-listed endangered species are concerned, they are pretty tough. Do you think that has a deterrent effect and does that, therefore, extend out to logic on other penalties?
Mark Fuchter: I think there is a deterrent effect. There is a seven-year maximum. The challenge I have is in putting before you today cases that amply demonstrate that, but I think there is a combination of factors. Those sentences can be applied on conviction, on indictment, but I think also we in the UK have a good reputation, largely through my colleague’s team, such that people will avoid flying their goods into the UK because they know that, compared to other member states, we have quite high levels of examination. As you mentioned earlier, all live specimens, for example, will get an examination.
Grant Miller: I think what we can evidence is that, where traders have transgressed in the past, by education and by working with them we have brought them into a position of compliance. Indeed, many we would now call trusted partners solely by education. Again, I can think of individuals within the marine environment who have had difficulties and came to cross swords with us. Only this week a shipper of agarwood into the UK, who has come to our attention on two separate occasions, submitted his first proper Customs entry with appropriate licences all spot on because he has listened to the message and he has realised that doing business within the legal framework is going to profit him and his business.
Q390 Dr Whitehead: I am a bit curious about that. I saw a little while ago a piece of film on the identification of a previously unknown species that was identified as a result of it being on sale in a particular marketplace in a particular country. CITES consists of a list of known species that are not importable. Does that imply that species that are not known can be legally imported on an unlimited basis?
Mark Fuchter: I think that would ultimately be a question for Defra or perhaps the JNCC, but we could not use our CITES powers if the goods were properly imported, properly declared, but were not caught by the CITES regulation and they were not on any of the annexes. We could not use our CITES powers. We might be able to if the goods were not properly imported and we had other suspicions. We could perhaps question the import using our general Customs powers and contact Defra about it if we suspected something.
Q391 Dr Whitehead: A defence could be, "This is a species or subspecies not known to science and, therefore, you can’t get me"?
Mark Fuchter: Right, but, in a sense, isn’t the principle of CITES that it is about known identified species that have been identified by experts as being at some risk? I guess the first question would be, "Is this species at risk?" We would have to be very careful about how we act upon those goods if we detect them.
Q392 Dr Whitehead: I was going to say if it was unknown to science previously I guess it probably would be at risk on the grounds that it had not been seen running across the landscape in large numbers.
Grant Miller: CITES is about the control of known species that are in trade, not about species that we have not previously identified. It is when they come into trade and are being traded, that is why we have these regulations to control and then, through that, conserve.
Q393 Martin Caton: Can we move on to data recording? You have submitted comprehensive statistics on seizures to us. Do you have such a detailed data set simply because you are dealing with notifiable offences that must be reported to the Home Office?
Mark Fuchter: No at a number of levels. Firstly, we have to record statistics. In fact, it is even at a lower level of detail. Because we are executing a power that is based on the actual species listed in the CITES annexes-species A is controlled; species B is not-we have to identify on our internal records species A. So it operates at that level. It is all collated and we chose to structure it in the way that we have structured it in the annex to our submission because it made logical sense in terms of reporting and this goes back to the time when we were HM Revenue and Customs and before. We report statistics in those ways that you have seen there. We also provide data at species level for-it used to be Defra but I think it is now the Animal Health Agency, and that data is in turn relayed to the European Commission as it is their regulation that we are enforcing.
Q394 Martin Caton: Is it a costly process?
Mark Fuchter: It is not particularly costly because the same systems that record these seizures and these data record drug seizures and everything else that we intervene on.
Grant Miller: It takes up about 20% of my intelligence officer’s time. Clearly, her having an understanding of all the statistics and where we have come from allows her to profile and then use that knowledge to better inform our business.
Q395 Martin Caton: Do you report your statistics to the National Wildlife Crime Unit or other enforcement agencies?
Mark Fuchter: Yes, we do. The underlying principle of any ACPO unit that we work with is to share everything we can. I think, Grant, your team sends them a spreadsheet every quarter and, in the meantime, you send them other materials?
Grant Miller: Absolutely, a quarterly Excel spreadsheet with all seizure information and, again, if any significant seizures are made or we issue any alerts, they are issued in real time to the NWCU.
Q396 Mark Lazarowicz: In your written evidence you refer to a training scheme that you helped to run in China, I think on your concept of using wildlife detection dogs that can sniff out various items. How far did that prove of interest to the Customs administration in China?
Grant Miller: Very interesting, yes. In November 2011 we deployed one of our dog unit trainers based at Heathrow to a workshop in China that had been sponsored by the WWF. This followed on from a visit to China of our former Customs manager, the previous incumbent in this post, a representative of the Metropolitan Police and the head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The aim of the exchange was to exchange working practices with the general administration of China Customs and to give advice as to how China may choose to develop its detector programme. Our trainer was accompanied by representatives of both Germany and Russian Customs enforcement.
The visit included a visit to the Beijing training centre, where a review was conducted of both kennelling and training facilities. The UK trainer provided advice on the type of training samples that we use in the UK, along with their storage and handling procedures. Also, we demonstrated techniques for the dog to employ search patterns as well as making recommendations as to the speed that these searches should be conducted at. We conducted video demonstrations as well as practical sessions with our Chinese colleagues on target scent recognition training and different types of reward methods for the dog.
Q397 Mark Lazarowicz: Do you know if the Chinese have taken up this idea yet to any extent?
Grant Miller: They certainly have and, now that we have come back, we have continued to build on that relationship by providing China with a copy of the Border Force dog handlers’ training manual, which WWF very kindly translated into Chinese for us, along with our kennel build review and guidance to both the Chinese and now the Indian Customs authorities. More widely, in April this year Border Force at Heathrow entertained a visit from senior Customs officials from China along with the head of the anti-smuggling division in Beijing. The visit covered the full range of anti-smuggling duties as well as, specifically, CITES enforcement.
Q398 Mark Lazarowicz: Could I interrupt? You mentioned India before that. Are you working with other Customs border agencies in Asia as well?
Grant Miller: Absolutely. Certainly, within Europe; we work with all the European agencies.
Q399 Mark Lazarowicz: I meant in terms of sharing best practice. I am thinking particularly of some of the Asian ones because of the particular problems we are aware of in terms of importation.
Grant Miller: At the moment those are the two countries that we are working with. However, we have done capacity building throughout the world. With my previous incumbent, it would probably be easier to tell you the countries that he had not visited than the ones that he had. The UK, and certainly Customs enforcement, has delivered a huge amount of capacity-building worldwide, and I think the team is recognised for that internationally.
Q400 Peter Aldous: If we can just look at the legal exotic pet trade, there have been some complaints within that trade that they are being punished for what could be regarded as paperwork offences relating to the sale of CITESprotected species. Is this a feeling you have come along with? Do you have any sympathy of what they are saying?
Grant Miller: The convention is about paperwork. It is about applying for permits. It is about licensing. Each of the requirements in the documentation is about closing a loophole and stopping people laundering wildtaken specimens through that. Only this month we got involved with a trader up in Manchester and made a significant seizure of 600 hard corals and over 70 clams that were being brought from Vietnam, disguised using paperwork that declared them as being something completely-soft corals and fish were how they were described. We subsequently recovered over 200 specimens from his premises.
The paperwork is a natural requirement of being involved in CITES. Defra and ourselves provide education to the trade on how it does it on a very clearly and accessible website; we do trade shows and make ourselves available through PAW to educate and help them do that; but it is a requirement, if you are involved in this trade, that you comply with the rules and regulations. If we were to take a step back and say, "It is okay, we will let you away," we would be failing in our international obligation to police this trade properly.
Q401 Peter Aldous: From what you are saying, the majority of offences are deliberate criminal trafficking, rather than someone just technically not ticking the right box?
Grant Miller: I would not say "deliberately criminal". Clearly, some of the paperwork is not completed correctly, but the CITES convention has these measures in place to ensure that wild-taken cannot be laundered. A lot of them could be seen as being technical breaches, but we do get involved in organisations where clearly huge amounts of animals are being laundered using the system and trying to abuse the system. That is where our control comes in and says, "Actually, the rule book says it has to be done like this". If it is not done like that an infringement has taken place and we would be failing in our duty if we did not take seizure action.
Where we show a certain amount of understanding with individuals, where quite clearly it perhaps is a clerical error, is if an individual asks for these goods to be restored. If we believe that it has been an error then we would look to restore the goods on favourable terms. With the actual buyers, we would still seize the goods, but then potentially the individual could get them back if it was felt proportionate.
Chair: Well, I think that brings us to our full-time. It has been a very interesting session, and we appreciate that you do a lot of hard work as well, particularly Mr Miller and your team on the ground. So can I thank both of you very much indeed for coming along this afternoon.