UK wildlife crime legislation & enforcement to be assessed (again)

Press release from DEFRA (2nd March 2021)

Assessment launches to appraise UK wildlife and forest crime legislation and enforcement

New toolkit launched to assess the way we tackle wildlife crime in the UK

A UN backed assessment of UK wildlife and forest crime legislation and enforcement has launched today, using the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) toolkit.

The toolkit will review wildlife crime policing structures, including the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and UK Border Force and efficacy of prosecutions. The toolkit consists of five parts: legislation; enforcement; judiciary and prosecution; drivers and prevention. To date, the toolkit has been implemented in 15 countries. The UK will be the first G20 country to have invited this assessment.

This assessment will comprise a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of our preventive and criminal justice responses, which are crucial to curtailing wildlife and forest crime nationally and internationally.

[51 hen harriers have been confirmed illegally killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, mostly on or close to driven grouse moors, since 2018. There hasn’t been a single prosecution for any of them]

Originally developed in 2012, the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit was created by the UNODC, in partnership with the UK and other members of ICCWC. The assessments in the UK will run until August this year.

Speaking at the launch today, Environment Minister, Minister Pow, said:

We have made tremendous progress tackling wildlife crime in this country, but we know there is more to do.

We requested this assessment to help build on our progress and will look closely at the recommendations, working with key stakeholder groups to inform a cross-government response.

Together we can reduce these horrific crimes for the benefit of our biodiversity, our precious habitats and our rural communities for generations to come“.

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said:

I have been immersed in Policing wildlife crime for the entirety of my Police service and I am delighted to see the ICCWC Tool kit coming to Policing UK. This will shine a much needed spotlight on Wildlife Crime and raise the importance of it in the wider Policing picture, as Wildlife Crime often feeds into more serious and organised crime types.

It will be a pleasure for the NWCU to work with colleagues to ensure the success of the tool kit. It’s vitally important that we continue to celebrate our success and highlight the importance of fighting Wildlife Crime. But I welcome the opportunity to reflect on our practices and look to become better and more efficient“.

Since 2016, Defra and the Home Office have jointly committed £300,000 a year to funding the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). The unit plays a valuable role in detecting and preventing wildlife crime by monitoring and gathering intelligence on illegal activities, undertaking analysis and directly assisting law enforcers with their investigations.

The past few years have seen successful launches of police operations such as Operation Galileo, an anti-hare coursing campaign led by Lincolnshire police force and Operation Owl, led by North Yorkshire Police, which aims to raise awareness of raptor persecution amongst the wider public and police officers.

The NWCU is one part of the UK’s network fighting wildlife crime, Police customs officers and other enforcers carry also out vital work on the ground.

In addition, the UK Border Force continues to make successful seizures and work with international partners to ensure illegal wildlife trade products do not enter the market.

Last year, as part of operation Thunder 2020, UK Border Force worked with fellow enforcement agencies across 105 countries to tackle the global illegal wildlife trade. With other targeted operations also taking place throughout the year including checks on exports to South East Asia for movements of illegal ivory, Border Force made 490 seizures of illegally trafficked live specimens or derivative products at numerous UK Border control areas from Grangemouth in Scotland to Southampton port.

There are now over 770 wildlife crime officers in England and Wales and 133 covering Scotland. These officers are specially trained to conduct and support investigations into wildlife crimes.

The UK’s participation in this will help inform recommendations on improving the prevention and enforcement of domestic and international wildlife crime in the UK and will reaffirm our global leadership role in tackling wildlife crime.


So Environment Minister Rebecca Pow thinks, ‘We have made tremendous progress tackling wildlife crime in this country….’? Not on tackling raptor persecution, we haven’t. It’s still rampant and the criminals are still escaping justice. What’s tremendous and progressive about that?

Some might argue that this is a good reason for a review of legislation and enforcement, and to some extent that’s fair comment. However, reviews on this topic have been undertaken before, conclusions are drawn, everyone agrees we must improve but then nothing happens and we end up having another review several years later to make everyone think the Government cares about tackling wildlife crime.

Perhaps this review will be different. It’s using a novel approach (a United Nations toolkit). But do we really need it? I’d argue no. We already know full well who is committing the majority of raptor persecution crimes, we know where they’re committing those crimes and we know why they’re committing those crimes.

We don’t need another review, we just need effective enforcement instead of the regulatory authority accepting money with gagging orders attached, from the very industry responsible for these crimes.

14 thoughts on “UK wildlife crime legislation & enforcement to be assessed (again)”

  1. “We don’t need another review, we just need effective enforcement instead of the regulatory authority accepting money with gagging orders attached, from the very industry responsible for these crimes.”

    Exactly !

    “Toolkit” ….. 💩 Another buzzword for a load of tosh that will go round in ever decreasing circles whilst achieving the aim of perpetuating the current situation.

  2. I congratulate the Scottish government on the work it has done so far on protecting our iconic wildlife and standing up to those vested interests who oppose progressive legislation, such as year round protection for mountain hares. A licencing scheme for grouse moor enterprises is promised this summer, so I beg the SNP and the Green Party, DO NOT bottle it and introduce the measures in time for the inglorious 12th August.

    1. Pete Rowberry, While I agree with you totally on the need for utmost speed in legislating, I have to remind you, that the SNP (in cooperation with The Greens) require to be re-elected in the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary Election (May this year). Thereafter, what is called Primary Legislation is required to be passed, so unfortunately it cannot be done instantly, as (even though we know they are liars to their back teeth) Game interests MUST be consulted, as well as Conservation and Wildlife Agencies to ensure that it is properly drafted legislation. When this goes to consultation, please do not sit back and assume others will contribute, but instead, encourage your friends to add their views, so all the loopholes are blocked and we get the legislation we have waited for over these past years.

  3. At the moment there is huge gulf between those suspected of committing wildlife crimes, and actually providing sufficient evidence to satisfy a court of law that these suspects have actually committed a crime.
    It’s no good having laws which make it illegal to kill a bird of prey, but then to deny the authorities robust investigative powers to bring offenders to justice.
    Hopefully this review will help identify the shortfalls in these investigative powers, and then the government will have the courage to make the necessary legal amendments.
    Should this government chooses to do nothing, then at least parliament will have the information to challenge them; and should there be any future change in government, any recommendations can always be acted upon at a later date.

  4. My prefered ‘toolkit’ would just be one clued-up and passionate roving Police Officer (plain clothes, given freedom to work across regions on own initiative), with a ‘paparazzi’ camera and authority to install covert cameras without need for a warrant. Oh, and a Court that had the will to apply the full powers of our measly laws when the evidence was fairly presented.

  5. Well said Mr Sphagnum..youve just described the work of RSPB Investigations up to the mid 1990s, when a coterie of landowners/senior police officers/lawyers/gamekeepers reps and others a.spotted that we were getting it right and many of their pals were being prosecuted and b.we were causing jealousy and shining a spotlight on some murky corners of the justice system…..and it all came to a halt..and that was when the endless”reviews” started….if you havent already read; for an approximation of what got us to this pass.

    1. Hi Dave, like many kids when I was young & stupid I used to admire the ‘wise’ old Headkeepers I met and knew well from being a regular beater on a good number of Estates. What with their wily ye olde ways of outwitting Foxes, Buzzards, birdwatchers, RSPB & Police, etc & running a few little pocket-money schemes on the side. What bollox! They would drop like flies if the RSPB Investigators & Police could operate without the pro-shooting Establishment tying their hands behind their backs. Hats off to you & everyone who does that job, past and present. I can imagine how frustrating that work is! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  6. More prevarication? When will the politicians finally realise that they need to actually deliver actions not just talk about the issues whilst wringing their hands pondering how best to play both sides?

  7. As soon as any organisation starts to use waffly terms such as ‘toolkit’ – whether they are the United Nations or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – you know it just a talking shop aimed at deferring action.

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