11th September 2013
Bat Conservation Trust is currently investigating just what went wrong when a developer was convicted for roost destruction, but was fined a shockingly small sum.
The case was heard in Bridlington magistrates court at the end of August. The developer pleaded guilty and was convicted of six charges of destruction of bat roosts after demolishing six buildings, knowingly destroying brown long-eared bat, whiskered bat and pipistrelle roost sites. The successful conviction was marred by the risible penalty: on each charge he was fined £35 per roost destroyed (a total of £210) with a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £85.
BCT's Investigations Officer Peter Charleston (who will be at the Bat Workers Forum on Friday 13th September ) is working with Julia Hanmer, CEO to investigate just why and how this shockingly low penalty was judged appropriate. BCT is contacting the Director Public Prosecutions as head of the Crown Prosecution Service seeking further information and we will then look for ways to ensure this is not repeated in upcoming trials.
The BCT team is also contacting other NGOs to jointly push for a more consistent and, importantly, commensurate punishment for wildlife crime cases.
BCT's Investigations Project works to investigate and provide expert witness services advice and assistance to Police Wildlife Crime Officers and those engaged with preventing and holding to account wildlife crime. Successful conviction for a similar offence last year resulted in a more just fine of £7500 and £100 costs after BCT submitted impact statements to the courts.
BCT's bat crime figures for the year Jan 2012- Jan 2013 recorded a rise of 10 % in the number of incidents reported to BCT, a total of 372. Of those 138 incidents were referred to law enforcement agencies. From anecdotal evidence reported to BCT these reports are just the tip of the iceberg.
We know this is disheartening; sentences like this one undermining both the British legal system and the valuable hard work conservationists are undertaking getting cases prosecuted. We all need to keep working together to secure convictions and appropriate penalties for wildlife crime.
We will be updating on this issue as we learn more and welcome your thoughts and comments - we know that the sentencing council consider issues raised by a 'significant number of interested individuals' so will be asking for support at some stage in the near future.
Comments and contributions to Amcloughlin@bats.org.uk