The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is today launching a new inquiry into wildlife crime, following up its Report from 2004. In that Report, the EAC examined wildlife crime in terms of protection for wild animals (badgers, birds, pond life, etc) and wild plants; and trade in wildlife and wildlife products in the UK. As in that earlier inquiry, the committee will not be examining hunting with dogs.
The new inquiry will examine the scale of wildlife crime in the UK, including damage and destruction to species and habitats. It will also examine the scale of, and risks posed by, the illicit trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The inquiry will consider the role of the Government and other bodies in England and Wales in preventing, detecting and prosecuting these types of crime, as well as what action the Government can take internationally to tackle the problems of illegal trade.
The inquiry will specifically examine:
- The scale of wildlife crime and its impacts, and how this has changed since our 2004 report
- The extent to which UK legislation and regulations on wildlife crime are 'fit for purpose' and the penalties for offences are adequate
- How policing of wildlife crime is coordinated in the UK (between bodies and geographically) and whether enforcement bodies have sufficient resources and powers, and how the proposed National Crime Agency might affect policing of this type crime
- How well Government and responsible enforcement bodies are responding to newer threats and challenges, including use of the internet for wildlife trade
- How fully wildlife crimes are recorded, and how rigorously available penalties are applied
- How effectively behaviour-change and attitude-change is being promoted
- The UK's role in influencing the EU and International agreement on illegal wildlife trade
The committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence, setting out their views on these issues. More wide ranging responses are also welcome. Submissions should ideally be sent to the Committee by Friday 24 February 2012, although later submissions may be accepted. Guidance on preparing submissions is set out below.
Tackling wildlife crime
Tackling wildlife crime is a cross-cutting issue involving the Police, UK Border Agency, Home Office and Defra. The Environmental Audit Committee’s report in 2004 found it was a low priority with underdeveloped systems and procedures to tackle it.
A new National Crime Agency is expected to be legislated for in 2012, but there have been concerns about how the existing National Wildlife Crime Unit will integrate with the Agency and about its future funding beyond 2012-13.
The European Commission is currently undertaking a review of European law relating to wildlife trade. A review of the UK's Control of Trade in Endangered Species regulations (COTES) may be required as a result.
The committee had a private and informal briefing and discussion on 11 January, with two bodies, about wildlife crime and the trade in wildlife and wildlife products in the UK, focussing on following up the committee's 2004 report. The issue of organised hunting with dogs was not raised or discussed.
This inquiry in no longer taking written evidence.