Wildlife minister Therese Coffey stifles wildlife crime reporting

Back in November 2017, Labour MP Kerry McCarthy tabled the following parliamentary question on wildlife crime reporting:

A perfectly reasonable question, and probably an attempt by Kerry to drag the Westminster Government up to the standard of the Scottish Government, which, since the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, has had a statutory obligation to publish an anual wildlife crime report.

Now in its 5th year of reporting, the Scottish Government reports are still a long way from being perfect, largely due to issues with Police Scotland withholding data (and we’ll be blogging more on this shortly), but at least the Scottish reports are heading in the right direction as they focus specifically on the six national wildlife crime priorities (badger persecution, bat persecution, CITES issues, freshwater pearl mussels, poaching, and raptor persecution).

However, Wildlife Minister Dr Therese Coffey seems to have other ideas about wildlife crime reporting. Here is her response to Kerry’s question:

So according to the Wildlife Minister, there’s no need for any additional reporting on annual wildlife crime statistics because the Office for National Statistics and the Ministry of Justice already has this covered.

What the Wildlife Minister failed to acknowledge is that these ‘official statistics’ are not detailed enough to identify wildlife crime at the national wildlife crime priority level. Nowhere near.

The only ‘officially’ recorded wildlife crime at present is an obscure set of offences (apart from the important COTES regs) such as some relating to fisheries, sharks, whales, hedgerows and limestone pavements (sourced from the Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime’, under the sub-heading ‘Miscellaneous Crimes Against Society’):

That’s it. So if you see someone shoot a golden eagle on a grouse moor in northern England and you report that to the police, it will be logged in the police control room and given a reference number, but because it isn’t a ‘notifiable’ crime, no report will be sent to the Home Office, so there’ll be no record of it in the ‘official’ statistics.

In November 2017, a consortium of environmental organisations operating under the umbrella group Wildlife & Countryside LINK published a damning report on how wildlife crime is currently recorded in England & Wales and is urging policy makers to address this issue. The report was spot on. To effectively tackle wildlife crime we need to know the scale of the crime being committed. Without properly recorded stats, this is impossible.

Either Therese Coffey doesn’t know about the limitations of the current wildlife crime recording policy (in which case she needs to employ better advisors), or if she does know about these limitations, her answer reveals a distinct lack of interest in monitoring the crime statistics relating to the six national wildlife crime priorities (with the exception of the COTES regs which cover CITES issues).

Either way, it’s yet another example of how little interest the Westminster Government has in tackling illegal raptor persecution and all the other wildlife crime that is allowed to flourish under this Government’s reign.

4 thoughts on “Wildlife minister Therese Coffey stifles wildlife crime reporting”

  1. Clearly they do not wish to have a set of readily available and referenced figures all in one place. This way they can avoid revealing the true picture. This really comes as no surprise after watching her performance at the Westminster ‘debate’ on the petition to ban DGS. Having figures in the suggested format would no doubt be an embarrassment.

  2. Crime recording is a minefield. Incident reporting is likewise. The Government is reluctant to add any more bureaucracy to the police as to do so is always immediately frowned upon as putting pen to paper prevents boots on the streets. The National Standard for Incident Recording (NSIR) may allow incidents to be recorded and measured, and some of the incidents will then have a crime attached if it meets the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). NSIR and NCRS allow Forces to be compared on a level playing field (or as near as damn it). Believe you me, this area of policing is VERY complicated and may be the reason the Minister responded as she did. Many cops don’t fully understand it let alone those who advise Ministers and prepare their responses

  3. I had really hoped that this poor excuse for a wildlife minister would have been moved in terrible Theresa’s shuffle yesterday but no such luck and this is a prime example of why that should have happened.

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