Recording wildlife crimes in partnership with the Bat Conservation Trust

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) have recently launched the “Bearing Witness for Wildlife” project which will build on the work of their investigations project to include other native species where crime is considered to be a factor affecting their conservation. BCT will be working with a number of conservation charities, including Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), in order to extend the scope and depth of the project.

Since 2001, BCT have been assisting the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the courts, seeking to ensure that reports of bat crime are being effectively investigated and prosecuted with appropriate sentencing from the courts. Much work remains to be done, but there have undoubtedly been successes. Not least the application of Proceeds of Crime legislation to wildlife crime. In a recent ground breaking case a developer in Derbyshire who illegally destroyed a bat roost had to pay £6,000 in addition to £5,000 in fines and costs.   The £6,000 represented the profit made as a consequence of not following the legal process.

Long eared bat (c) Hugh Clark/www.bats.org.uk In the UK, the Police do not routinely record wildlife crimes and as such, the extent of criminal behaviour cannot be judged from official statistics. BCT have for some years been recording levels of bat crime and refer between 120 and 150 cases to the Police annually. But, Police wildlife crime officers suggest that they actually deal with more allegations relating to great crested newts than they do, allegations of bat crime. But these allegations are not recorded as crimes and the extent of crime against great crested newts and other amphibians and reptiles is simply not known. Equally the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions cannot, at present be assessed.

Bearing Witness for Wildlife have agreed to allow the resource and expertise of BCT’s investigation project to be used in relation to the interests of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and the species that we seek to protect. By the end of the project, in three year’s time, we hope that the extent of wildlife crime against amphibians and reptiles will be better understood. We will always encourage the Police to take steps to prevent crime but will also seek to ensure that allegations of crime are properly addressed. We will also look to bring best practice identified whilst investigating bat crime to investigations involving other species.

BCT would like to hear from you if you have reported to the Police allegations of crime involving European Protected Species or other species listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Contact on such matters should be via BCT’s Investigations Officer, Pete Charleston: [email protected].