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Minister calls for wildlife crime reform

"We have asked the Law Commission to consider the scope for reforming wildlife law," says Norman Baker, Minister for Crime Prevention

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Norman Baker, Minister for Crime Prevention, has called for a reform of the way wildlife crime is being recorded and counted after it was revealed that just eight crimes were classed as wildlife crimes in a year.

“The Coalition Government recognises the devastating impact wildlife crime has on both the environment and in funding organised criminality,” said Baker. “We therefore take wildlife crime, both domestically and internationally, very seriously.

“We have changed recording practices to ensure that, for the first time, wildlife crime is reported as a separate item in police recorded crime. However, we recognise that the legislation could be modernised and simplified. That is why we have asked the Law Commission to consider the scope for reforming wildlife law.”

As outlined by Police Oracle, only certain crimes are counted because the rules state that these crimes need to be reported to police and likely to be heard at crown court. This lead to just eight wildlife crimes being counted in the 12-month period to June 2014.

The former head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Nevin Hunter, said the categorisation of crime doesn’t reflect the actual number of wildlife crimes recorded or committed. “It is complete nonsense,” he said. “The majority of what the man on the street would consider to be wildlife crime offences are not on the Home Office list.”

Chief Constable Simon Prince, the national lead for wildlife crime, explained: “The counting rules capture those crimes which are reported to the police and which must or might be heard at Crown Court. Only a small number of the 300 plus wildlife offences fall within the scope of the counting rules.

“There are wildlife offences that may be reported to, or discovered by other bodies with statutory powers to prosecute in respect of those offences and will therefore not feature on police recoded crime figures. Other agencies that do not have statutory powers to prosecute may also instigate private prosecutions, which again will not feature on police recorded crime figures.

“The recording of incident data alone is not the answer in fighting wildlife crime. A wildlife incident reported to the police will be investigated by the police. Key is actionable intelligence being progressed and relevant support being provided to enable this.”