POLL: Should the National Wildlife Crime Unit be properly funded by the British Government?

POLL: Should the National Wildlife Crime Unit be properly funded by the British Government?

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There is a crime wave cascading through Britain that the government doesn’t appear much to care about. In Lincolnshire alone, police have arrested or reported for summons 152 people for hare coursing since September 2015, compared with just 65 for the entire “season” last year. Across the country, the Badger Trust logged 441 incidents of badger baiting last year, up on 2014, with hundreds of additional incidents reported to the police.

The illegal of is rife, deer is an increasing problem in many rural areas, and rare bats continue to be illegally cleared from roosts by developers and homeowners. The common denominator in these crimes is, of course, that wildlife is at the sharp end of human greed or cruelty. It is particularly pronounced online, with a booming in plants and animals – everything from rhino horn and ivory to seahorses and live turtles.

‘In Lincolnshire alone, police have arrested or reported for summons 152 people for hare coursing since September 2015, compared to just 65 for the entire “season” last year.’ Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

More than 400 items banned under the Convention on International Trade in (Cites) were last year seized in Britain: a typical example is the Sheffield jeweller Catherine Emberton, who pleaded guilty to selling online 129 pieces of jewellery made from tiger teeth and claws.

A key role in detecting these crimes is played by the National Unit (NWCU). This small, globally admired team of specialist police officers based in the humble surroundings of the old Livingstone police station in Scotland will cease to exist in April unless the government unveils a last-minute funding package.

The unit gathers and analyses intelligence on wildlife crime, informs local police forces of incidents they should investigate, trains ordinary officers to investigate these complex crimes and helps bring about successful prosecutions. It costs a bargain £427,000 a year to run, mostly funded by the Home Office and Defra, and is perpetually endangered itself.

In 2014, the government announced it would give it only two years of money, allowing it to limp on in a way that hardly inspires police officers to join it or develop their expertise in detecting wildlife crime. Now the unit fears it will fold with the government still not revealing whether there’s any funding for it beyond March.

I know sometimes a long list of celebrities appealing to save something can make us want to do the opposite, but in the campaign to save the NWCU most of those who have spoken out – from Jane Goodall to Chris Packham, Steve Backshall and Charlotte Uhlenbroek – do know what they are talking about.

Wildlife crime is simply crime, and should be treated as such. It is also complicated, easily overlooked and difficult to prosecute, which is why it can’t be left to overstretched and poorly resourced wildlife crime officers within local constabularies.

There are 35,000 rare plants and animals protected by Cites legislation, which gives a clue as to why we might need a few national specialists to tackle these crimes – the NWCU is currently assisting with 24 investigations into endangered animals illegally traded via the internet in Britain.

Rather than having to repeatedly bid for another year or two of funding, the NWCU needs to be placed on a secure financial footing by the government so it can continue its long-term investigations with staff who are secure enough to stick around and develop their expertise.

Its loss would deskill police forces across the country and make it harder than ever to detect wildlife crime. It would be awful PR for the government, adding to the impression given by its backdoor attempt to lift the ban on foxhunting, its extension of a poorly monitored that invites illegal , and its casual attitude towards the disappearance of raptors from moorland estates, that this is an administration recklessly indifferent to the fate of rare animals and plants.

But most importantly, it would tend a terrible signal to all the weird people who bait badgers, steal peregrine chicks, torture hares or taxidermy tiger cubs. Wildlife criminals would realise there was less risk than ever of being caught and held accountable for their crimes.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 08 Jan 2016.


We invite you to share your opinion whether the National Wildlife Crime Unit should be properly funded by the British Government? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page:

Should the National Wildlife Crime Unit be properly funded by the British Government?

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Supertrooper

Founder and Executive Editor

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Amy Tatton

I think the reason people might have voted no is because there its easy to see why the UK government dont care and actually it could be more dangerous for animals left in the hands of a tory government who enjoy ripping animals to shreds so I'm not sure they are going to do a great job at tracking down who is responsible for poisoning hares, so I think its a lack of faith in the government and a bit of a catch 22 situation. If you care about animals, don't vote tory – its that simple, vote green even… Read more »

Paris Navarro

IT IS BARBARIC AND ABSOLUTLY REPREHENSIBLE , WHAT THE WORLD IS DOING TO IT'S WILDLIFE TODAY. I ALWAYS WANTED TO VISIT BRITIAN, HOWEVER THESE PRACTICES DETER ME FROM EVER DOING SO. I AM BOYCOTTING ALL COUNTRIES AND STATES THAT REFUSE TO RECOGNISE THAT OUR WORLD, BELONGS TO ALL IT'S LIFE, NOT JUST THE BARBARIANS. HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY SHOW WE HAVE EVOLVED OUT OF THE CAVES, WHEN WE CONTINUE TO SHOW THAT WE DO NOT BELONG ANYWHERE ELSE.

Rob Hooley

Yes

Rob Hooley

Yes

Robert Braban

It should be funded to the same extent as all other specialist crime investigation units. It is too convenient for the CPS and those having influence over resources to stop prosecutions by withdrawing those resources. That frees them from being socially embarrassed by having to prosecute others of influence. There is a word that fits the situation. I think it's spelt c o r r u p t i o n.

Tony Meercat Webber

Perhaps the tooth fairy will pay?

Graham Shepherd

The 5 who voted no are probably the Tory cabinet.

Tierra Chapman

Yes! It's the 21st century, FFS!!! Wildlife abuse is a crime against Nature which, in essence, is a crime against humans as well. If individuals cannot protect wildlife,and wildlands in a way that disables and disarms these vile perpetrators, then the government needs to fund a unit with some 'teeth' as it were, lest individuals take matters into their own hands in order to defend animals as well as themselves.

Sue Foster-Collins

It should definitely be properly funded with so many people determined to kill our wildlife!

Karen Crawford

Yes, you 2% who voted NO, explain your reason .

Leigh Lofgren

I agree Alan and makes no sense

Marcos Vandenkerckhove

La liebre, especie exótica, ha desplazado a la “Liebre” patagónica en muchas provincias. Como consecuencia ha pasado a ser víctima de cazadores y alimento de los zorros.

Alan Petrie

Why would anyone vote NO. Please explain your reason whoever you are.