North Yorkshire Police urged to start recording ‘high priority’ wildlife crime

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North Yorkshire Police have been urged to start recording acts which breach legislation governing the protection of wild animals and plants.

Wildlife crimes, including badger baiting and hare coursing, emerged as among the five leading concerns of North Yorkshire residents following a public consultation over the statutory police and crime plan to 2025.

A meeting of North Yorkshire and York’s police, fire and crime panel heard despite repeated requests by the watchdog for figures to illustrate how wildlife offenders were being tackled, such details had not been made available.

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In response to the public identifying wildlife crime as a priority, the panel, which holds the commissioner to account for her oversight of the force, announced last July that it would be examining progress on tackling such offences in the county, and during several subsequent meetings called for evidence to show police action.

North Yorkshire Police are being urged to start recording ‘high priority’ wildlife crime to protect animals and plantsNorth Yorkshire Police are being urged to start recording ‘high priority’ wildlife crime to protect animals and plants
North Yorkshire Police are being urged to start recording ‘high priority’ wildlife crime to protect animals and plants

North Yorkshire has repeatedly been identified by national organisations as having among the worst records for bird of prey persecution.

Nature charity RSPB says much of the persecution is linked directly to driven grouse shooting and has called for the industry to be regulated and in 2020 found North Yorkshire had topped the UK raptor persecution table for the seventh year in a row.

The panel meeting at County Hall in Northallerton heard raptor persecution had been linked to rogue shooting estates and gamekeepers and concerns have previously been expressed by the panel that due to the difficulty of investigating and successfully prosecuting wildlife crimes “very few” offenders were being brought to justice.

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The panel’s deputy chairman, Councillor Peter Wilkinson said: “We are still getting bad publicity nationally, where we might not be the worst geographical area, but we’re pretty high up there.”

When asked if she was happy with progress made over tackling wildlife crime and the number of people being taken to court, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe stopped short of either criticising or praising police action.

She said: “I would like to see more progress, but I think we have made significant progress going forward, but obviously we would want those prosecutions to increase.”

Mrs Metcalfe did not indicate what she had based her assessment of police performance on, but the meeting heard as there were “no specific wildlife crime offences”, police would face an onerous task of analysing crime reports to find “indicators” of offences against wild animals or plants.

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The commissioner told the panel she would keep “a watching brief” over wildlife crime.

Councillor Tim Grogan, a former police officer, said while he did not expect the force to use vast amounts of resources trawling back through its records to identify wildlife offences, it should be simple for officers to start recording wildlife crimes from April 1.

He said: “I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of man to record wildlife crime.

"If that’s too difficult I’m sad because it’s what my residents asked for.”