‘Lincolnshire Police leads the way in fight against wildlife crime’

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World Animal Protection has praised Lincolnshire Police, saying “Lincolnshire Police lead the way in the fight against wildlife crime”.

In 2012, the force launched Operation Galileo aimed at tackling hare coursing, a crime that had been on the rise in Lincolnshire. In the first year it was launched, there were 250 fewer incidents and a rise in prosecutions.

The success of the operation has led to further work on wildlife crimes including poaching.

Lincolnshire is also one of the leading forces in the UK feeding intelligence back to the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), which provides an accurate perspective of wildlife crime intelligence across England and Wales.

Pc Nick Willey, force wildlife rural crime officer said: “I have always had an interest in wildlife issues and care about the countryside and the rural communities. Having policed them for over 25 years I recognise the issues that affect people.

“I know it’s not just poaching and badger persecution that have an impact, but all the other associated crime like thefts of livestock and farm tractors for example.

“Only one person out of the 186 people prosecuted in 2012 through Operation Galileo didn’t have any criminal record with the police. This is a clear indication of the links to other criminality. We must continue to encourage the public to report wildlife crime to enable better enforcement and an accurate picture across the UK.”

The animal protection charity recently released YouGov opinion polling of UK respondents, that demonstrates of those living in the East Midlands, nearly three quarters believe all wildlife crime offences should be made recordable.

The figures follow a UK-wide trend and coincides with the news from the Home Office that since April 2014, some wildlife crime offences have had their own separate classification for police officers when recording these types of crimes.

Previously police forces in England and Wales had not been able to collate wildlife crime offences in one place under Home Office/Ministry of Justice categories. This has led to an inability to compile meaningful data upon which a UK-wide enforcement strategy can be based, despite commitments laid out in the Government’s Commitment to Action on the Illegal Wildlife Trade published in February 2014.

World Animal Protection UK Campaigns Manager Alyx Elliott said: “Lincolnshire is paving the way for tackling wildlife crime in the UK by raising awareness and feeding intelligence reports back to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Their intelligence and prosecutions justify the need for better analysis of wildlife crime- but the types of crimes they are dealing with are currently not featured in the new recorded crime category. We hope evidence of this kind will move the Home Office to broaden their category to include all wildlife crimes.”

World Animal Protection believes that the Government must ensure more offences are included in the wildlife crime category for it to have real impact, for instance all the offences that fall under the Government’s own wildlife crime priorities of badger persecution, bat persecution, poaching, raptor persecution and decline of freshwater pearl mussels.

The new wildlife crime category currently includes 17 offences, and only covers one of the six key priority areas identified by the NWCU’s 2013 Strategic Assessment of wildlife crime, all CITES-related offences. Poaching and coursing would not fall into the new wildlife crime category.

It is anticipated that the first batch of reporting data to include the separate classification will be passed to the Home Office in October 2014.