Suffolk Police’s Wildlife & Rural Crime Team posted this photograph on Twitter yesterday and said:
‘With support of RSPB Investigations, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Natural England & colleagues, we carried out some searches today. Raptor persecution is something taken seriously in Suffolk and we’ll continue to target this evil criminality. Help us stamp this out for good. #233 1639 1238‘.
That’s a pretty unequivocal statement from the police, isn’t it? And in stark contrast to Dorset Police who don’t appear to be taking raptor persecution seriously at all, having demoted their award-winning wildlife crime officer and closed the investigation into a poisoned white-tailed eagle.
This multi-agency raid in Suffolk is the latest in a surge of multi-agency investigations in response to raptor persecution crimes over the last 15 months, including another raid in Suffolk on 18th January 2021 (here), a raid in January 2021 in Nottinghamshire (here), on 15th March 2021 a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March 2021 a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March 2021 a raid in Devon (see here), on 21st April 2021 a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August 2021 a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August 2021 a raid in Herefordshire (here), on 14th September 2021 a raid in Norfolk (here), a raid in Wales in October 2021 (here) a raid in Humberside on 10th December (here) and a raid in North Wales on 8th February 2022 (here).
So far only two investigations have concluded: the Nottinghamshire case where gamekeeper John Orrey was sentenced in January 2022 for battering to death two buzzards he’d caught inside a trap (here), and the Suffolk case (from January 2021) when gamekeeper Shane Leech was convicted of firearms and pesticides offences in November 2021 after the discovery of a poisoned buzzard found close to pheasant-rearing pens in Lakenheath (here).
However, I was at a wildlife crime meeting this week when it was announced that at least 12 raptor persecution cases are pending court, some of them dating back to 2019. That’s indicative of the hard work of these investigators and they deserve full credit for their efforts. It’s been a long, long time since that number of raptor persecution cases have got anywhere near a court room. Well done all.
7 thoughts on “Police lead another multi-agency raid after more suspected raptor persecution in Suffolk”
Hopefully these efforts will shame recidivist organisations, like Wiltshire, Dorset, North Yorkshire, etc, to get their priorities right and stop playing the game demanded by their Tory MP’s, PCC’s and senior officers.
Well done Suffolk Police.
It is noted that the NWCU was involved here. In his recent response to the question raised in the Lords by Natalie Bennett regarding raptor persecution, Lord Benyon referred to Defra having more than doubled the funding to the NWCU as well as making a longer-term commitment. He stated that
‘The NWCU monitors and gathers intelligence on wildlife crime and aids police forces in their
investigations when required’.
One would imagine that part of this NWCU role would be to ensure some degree of standardisation of investigatory procedures in relation to all wildlife crime – not least as regards the incidence and use of multi-agency operations and also some uniformity in the application of the ‘when required’ element of Lord Benyon’s response. This begs the question as to whether we might have seen a different outcome had the NWCU been involved in the Dorset case, not least as regards the aborted planned multi-agency raid on the estate involved.
The increased commitment by Defra to the funding of the NWCU, whilst being a welcome step in the right direction, falls well short of what is required to fund a national unit with full, independent, investigatory powers and appropriate authority to ensure that the current significant variations in standards of operation and investigation are addressed and brought up to the level demonstrated here by Suffolk Police. Only by providing such a dedicated force can the Government be seen to be taking wildlife persecution seriously.
It will be interesting to see which Police Forces are involved in the 12 cases pending court appearances.
Take note Chief Constable Scott Chilton.
Can the National Wildlife Crime Unit, ask Dorset Police what they are playing at? If not can they take over the investigation or has the evidence been lost?
In the scenario I envisaged above, yes they could. Given the aborted search it’s probably more a case of evidence not found rather than being lost – apart from the dead bird of course.
Lest we forget…
This is the same NWCU that the tory party tried to destroy.
When compared to the events which took place in Dorset, this highlights what appears to be a failure to deliver a national standard of wildlife policing and investigations across England and Wales.
Back in 2018 the National Police Chiefs Council published a Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy.
Within that document there was mention of one of the priorities being to “coordinate a national and international cross border response to wildlife crime”; with one of the strategic aims being to “embed a wildlife focus into policing culture”.
The policing strategy also identified the “need for a coordinated approach nationally with clear governance arrangements to develop, consult, approve, and manage initiatives and overall service delivery”.
With regard raptor persecution, which was identified as one of the key areas of wildlife crime which needed to be tackled, White Tailed Eagles were specifically mentioned as one of the raptor species which deserved special attention, and one of the stated objectives was to- “Raise community trust and awareness to facilitate intelligence and incident reporting, leading to increased prevention and enforcement activity relating to raptor persecution”.
So what has gone wrong?
Why does one constabulary deliver multi agency searches, when another constabulary fails to deliver those searches, even when the raptor species which had been the focus of the suspected crime was a White Tailed eagle? (a species specifically mentioned as being of concern)
These are perhaps areas the NPCC needs to get to grips with? It is all well and good publishing strategies and plans, but those strategies and plans only have meaning if the objectives are delivered, and tangible results can be seen.
If the police are really going to deliver on their role in tackling raptor persecution, then it would seem fair to suggest that there needs to be a national response to wildlife crime, across all police force areas.
I would argue that there needs to be a minimum basic national investigation standard which applies to all suspected raptor crimes. This standard should perhaps be clearly set out by the College of Policing, with a published manual of guidance for officers. (Such manuals already exist for things such as murder or road death.) The investigative standards of any police investigation into a suspected raptor crime could then be judged against this manual, and where standards aren’t being met, Chief Constables and Police Crime Commissioners could then be held to account.
The apparent current situation of a postcode lottery when it comes to investigating raptor crime really isn’t acceptable.
If the police service is going to invest in training specialist wildlife officers to investigate and tackle wildlife crime, then surely within each constabulary, those officers have to have the support of senior management so they are able to get on and do their job, with all the necessary infrastructure and support to deliver what they have been trained to do?
Tacking raptor persecution and wildlife crime has an important part to play in the governments strategy and vision in improving nature and biodiversity in England and Wales.
If the the targets the government have set are to be reached then surely it means the police, the crown prosecution service and the courts all have to step up to the plate and ensure those who are committing the wildlife crimes and depleting the countryside of its birds of prey are brought to justice, to ensure offenders are properly punished for their wrong doing, and also to serve as a deterrent to others.
So whilst it is nice to read about some police force areas publicising their efforts to tackle raptor persecution, it is concerning that other constabularies seem to be a long way behind what should be a normal investigative procedure.