By Will Finch
Friday, 24 August 2012
Wildlife laws set for overhaul: The Game Acts could be first to go as Law Commission begins public consultation on revising wildlife legislation.
UK Wildlife Laws.
Legislation in force for almost 200 years could be swept away as part of a radical transformation of the entire legal process related to predator control and wildlife management.
The Law Commission says that the UK’s current laws regulating wildlife, including Game Acts dating from 1828, have created a legal landscape that is “out of date, confused and often contradictory” and should be placed into a single statute.
Announcing a public consultation on the subject, law commissioner, Frances Patterson QC, said: “The law must take into account the competing interests of all parties. With this project, we are seeking to achieve a balance between the needs of those people who want to manage wildlife and those who want to protect it.”
“What we are proposing does not alter the levels of protection currently offered to wildlife, but it will help people understand what their obligations and duties are and what they can and cannot do, and ensure they are properly licensed to do it.”
The Commission believes that much of the older legislation is “out of step” with modern requirements, and that the principal modern Act — the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act — has been amended to such a degree that it is difficult for any non-specialist to use.
The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) said it was investigating the reforms’ potential impacts on gamekeeping and shooting.
An NGO spokesman told Shooting Times magazine : “The suggestions made are far reaching and require careful analysis as to their potential impact but in general we welcome the initiative.”
“Wildlife law is undoubtedly far too complex, inflexible and illogical, and the Commission’s consultation paper appears to ask the right questions, suggesting a new, modern legal framework.”
WILDLIFE LAW - THE PROPOSALS
A single statute, which covers the species-specific law, on the conservation, protection and exploitation of all wildlife.
• A redefinition of poaching which would not focus on a requirement for trespass but on having acted in a manner “beyond that allowed by the landowner”.
• The creation of an offence of “vicarious liability”, where the employer is liable to the same extent as their employee for the commission of wildlife offences.
• A new right of appeal against a decision granting (or not granting) a wildlife management licence.
• The inclusion of all game birds in the single regulatory regime, so deeming game birds as “wild birds”. Other options in relation to the common pheasant (left), such as treating it as livestock, were rejected as they would be “disadvantageous to the shooting industry”.
• The power to make “Species Control Orders”, can require those subject to the order to destroy invasive non-native species, such as Himalayan balsam (above), present on their land.
• Making the full range of civil sanctions, including fines and “stop notices”, available for all wildlife offences, including those concerning badgers and deer.
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