For years, the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and dedicated wildlife crime officers within individual police forces, have struggled tirelessly to combat wildlife crime in the UK, with the help and support of non-government organisations, but often without high-level recognition of the importance of their work, and in the absence of a strategic framework within which to operate.
The Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy, and its endorsement by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, indicates a clear recognition of the importance of tackling wildlife crime in order to protect biodiversity, conserve wild species, and improve animal welfare, for the sake of both wildlife and people. It also sets out clear priorities which should enhance the ability of the police, working alongside other agencies and stakeholders, to deal with wildlife crime.
The strategy reaffirms six operational wildlife conservation and enforcement priorities: badger, raptor and bat persecution; poaching; illegal wildlife trade; and criminality associated with freshwater pearl mussels. Action on each of these priorities is coordinated by Priority Delivery Groups.
It also identifies some essential steps that will enhance wildlife crime policing, which include: improving the information, intelligence and training available to police officers and other key staff; widening central recording of wildlife crimes; securing future funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit; and working with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to improve conviction rates and ensure convicted criminals receive appropriate sentences.
Link members have worked hard to increase recognition among government departments and officials, the police and other enforcement agencies, prosecutorial and judicial authorities, and the wider public, that wildlife crime in the UK needs to be taken seriously. We have also lobbied for long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and for wildlife crimes to be centrally recorded so the scale and breadth of these criminal activities can be better understood and prioritised accordingly.
The publication of the Strategy represents a big step forward in the UK’s approach to tackling wildlife crime, and a recognition of many of the issues Link members have been promoting. The next step is to ensure its successful implementation, and Link members will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to make this a reality.
Mark Jones, Associate Director, Multilateral Environmental Agreements & UK Wildlife, Born Free Foundation
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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