Wildlife Crime - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

International Wildlife Crime

1.  The current focus of UK CITES enforcement on trafficking related to traditional medicine may be misplaced, because our findings on the nature of demand in south-east Asia and China for illegal wildlife products suggest that wildlife crime driven by investment and conspicuous consumption is more significant. (Paragraph 13)

2.  It is a matter of grave concern that increased poaching, driven by demand for illegal wildlife products, threatens the rhino, tiger and elephant with extinction. The Government must take a leading role in exerting robust diplomatic pressure in favour of the development and enforcement of wildlife law at the next CITES Conference of the Parties in March 2013. In particular, the Government should focus attention on the damaging effect of 'one-off' sales of impounded ivory, which undermine the international CITES regime and fuel demand for ivory products, and seek an unequivocal international ban on all forms of ivory trade. Such commitments are essential but may not be sufficient to protect those species that are most endangered because of the persistent demand for products derived from them. Ultimately, rhinos, tigers and elephants will only survive as wild species if attitudes change. In the run-up to the 2013 CITES Conference, the Government should seek international support for an exploration of new ideas to challenge demand for such illegal wildlife products. (Paragraph 22)

3.  In order to ensure the efficient operation of the CITES regime in the UK, Defra must amend the COTES Regulations, focusing on the effectiveness of Regulations 5, 9(3) and 9(4) and their scope for consistent application by the various wildlife crime enforcement agencies. (Paragraph 24)

Domestic Wildlife Crime

4.  To discharge its obligations under the EC Birds Directive, to demonstrate its commitment to addressing raptor persecution and to send a clear signal that it regards poisoning birds of prey as wholly unacceptable, we recommend that the Government immediately introduces an Order under Section 43 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 proscribing possession of carbofuran and other similar substances in England and Wales. (Paragraph 36)

5.  Given the scale of ongoing persecution of birds of prey, the current law appears to carry insufficient deterrent weight. We recommend that the Government evaluates the effect of the introduction of an offence of vicarious liability in relation to raptor persecution in Scotland and considers introducing a similar offence in England and Wales in that light. We expect the Government to report to us, or otherwise publish, the results of that review within the next 12 months. (Paragraph 43 and 44)

6.  Defra should examine with the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government how their commitment to joint strategic action on invasive non-native species in Britain could be refocused, with an emphasis on bolstering a strategy of prevention and setting clear milestones for implementation. In its 2013 review of The Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain, Defra should study (a) the impact of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011; (b) the impact of third-country imports via other EU countries; (c) the scope for promoting sustainable domestic production of plants and vegetables in the UK to minimise the risk of importing invasive non-native species. We intend to further examine invasive species in the future. (Paragraph 55)


7.  The body of legislation relating to wildlife crime should be consolidated in order to enhance enforcement and establish a coherent framework for the execution of Government policy. The Government should consult the Law Commission, which is currently considering the reform of wildlife law, on the scope for such a consolidation to precede any reform proposals. (Paragraph 58)

8.  The CPS should review its performance on prosecuting wildlife crime in England and Wales with a view to either employing specialist wildlife crime prosecutors or introducing specialist wildlife crime training for its generalist prosecutors. (Paragraph 59)

9.  We recommend that the Government reviews whether the available penalties provide sufficient deterrent effect and work with the Sentencing Council and the Magistrates' Association to introduce sentencing guidelines for the judiciary and training for magistrates in relation to wildlife crime offences. (Paragraph 61)

10.  We hope that this Report highlights this important area [wildlife crime enforcement] for elected police commissioners and their electorates. (Paragraph 63)

11.  We recommend that the Government reinforces the success of the National Wildlife Crime Unit by implementing long-term funding arrangements to allow it to plan for being even more effective in the future, including enhanced long-term funding to enable it effectively to monitor wildlife crime on the internet. (Paragraph 68)

12.  Partnerships between the police and NGOs can effectively increase funding for wildlife crime enforcement, and the Home Office should encourage all police forces to consider implementing them. This model might usefully be extended to fund other facets of wildlife crime enforcement, such as the NWCU. (Paragraph 69)

13.  The NWCU should be directed and funded to develop a wildlife crime database to encompass all available information on incidents reported to the police and on prosecutions in the courts in the UK. (Paragraph 71)

14.  The Home Office should instruct all police forces to submit the data on wildlife crime required by the NWCU. (Paragraph 74)

15.  The Home Office should immediately allocate notifiable CITES offences a specific wildlife crime code, which would provide useful statistics on the trafficking of endangered species. (Paragraph 75)

16.  The NWCU's specialist skills are a cost-effective asset that should be protected and developed. (Paragraph 78)

17.  The Government should research the impact of how Natural England exercised its civil powers and consider the different approaches to enforcement adopted by Natural England and the Environment Agency in its ongoing review of those two agencies. (Paragraph 82)

18.  PAW's position and influence could be more fully exploited by active ministerial involvement and visible strategic political direction. The PAW Scotland Executive Group is currently chaired by the Scottish Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, an arrangement which appears to have worked well in practice, and a similar arrangement would send an important signal about the UK Government's commitment to tackling wildlife crime. We recommend that a Defra Minister takes the Chair of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Steering Group to signal the Government's commitment to addressing wildlife crime and to provide strategic direction and political leadership in order to harness the extensive skills, experience and resources represented in this forum. In our view, such ministerial involvement need not be an excessive burden, if the police and Defra maintain their current level of involvement. (Paragraph 84)


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Prepared 18 October 2012