14/03/2008

'Wildlife' Crime Targeted

Members of the public have been urged to speak up against wildlife criminals by a Northern Ireland partnership formed to reduce wildlife crime.

Members of the (Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime) PAW group in Northern Ireland, which includes a wide range of organisations who work together to combat wildlife crime, are making the call to mark the launch of a new reporting system.

The new structure means wildlife crime will be progressed, with the help of Police Service of Northern Ireland Wildlife Liaison Officer Emma Meredith, and also forwarded to the Lothian-based UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), a police-led, multi-agency unit with a UK-wide remit for wildlife crime.

Groups who are part of the PAW network will continue to report alleged criminal acts against wildlife to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The NWCU, which was officially launched on 18th October 2006, gathers information on national wildlife crime and provides analytical and investigative support focused on the UK wildlife crime priority areas, to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Wildlife Liaison Officer. Police in Northern Ireland have already been supporting this process by providing information about wildlife crime in Northern Ireland.

The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit has had involvement with a vast array of subjects such as the illegal trade in endangered species, illegal taxidermy and auction sales, bat and badger-related offences, marine species, reptile smuggling, wild bird netting, egg collecting, animal health issues and dangerous wild animals.

Information gathered by the Police Service and PAW member groups will help NWCU build a general picture of wildlife crime issues across Northern Ireland. It will also allow the Police Service of Northern Ireland, NWCU and PAW NI to monitor the effectiveness of reporting wildlife crime, and the number/type of suspected incidents.

However, in order for this network to be as effective as possible, incidents must be reported to police.

Emma Meredith, speaking on behalf of PAW, stressed the need for prompt reporting to local police stations of all incidents: "This latest development in the fight against wildlife crime means those who break the law have fewer and fewer places to hide”

"This amounts to a determined focus on the issue of wildlife crime by the members of PAW. With the support of the public I am certain that it can make a real difference - but it is important that all crimes are reported to a local police station as soon as possible. On a number of occasions I have spoken to people who have raised issues with me which haven't been reported to police. This must change if we are to best tackle these issues.

"Wildlife crime is taken seriously by the Police Service, but we need all incidents to be reported to police as soon as possible," she said.

She also advised members of the public that incidents should be reported directly to a police station, as opposed to the Wildlife Liaison Officer's office, as the WLO's primary role is to offer advice to officers investigating alleged offences.

(BMcC/KMcA)






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