The Wildlife Crime Project (WCP) works in partnership to reduce the level of bat-related crime in the UK. The WCP aims to ensure that bat and other wildlife crimes are reported and recorded. Where appropriate, the project provides specialist support on the identification, police investigation and prosecution of offences. We want to ensure that effective and proportionate outcomes are achieved.
Wildlife Crime Project work includes:
- Reviewing evidence, planning applications and ecological surveys.
- Creating investigative action plans for securing and preserving evidence
- Providing courts with Conservation Impact Statements.
Conservation Impact Statements
Conservation Impact Statements detail the level of conservation impact relating to the species and roosts involved in the case. As ever, BCT regrets that prosecutions are needed to protect habitat and species and uphold the legislation but acknowledges that this is necessary to hold offenders to account for their illegal actions. In many cases, prosecution can be avoided and an alternative solution applied, such as restorative justice.
Restorative justice (RJ) is a process through which parties with a stake in a specific offence collectively resolve the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future without it being heard in a court of law. RJ can take the form of offender mediation either through direct contact or indirect communication involving third parties. It can also involve restitution or reparation where this is agreed between offenders, their victims and the police. Criminal courts cannot issue conservation gains on guilty verdicts, whereas an RJ can in appropriate circumstances. Where appropriate out of court disposals can better benefit bat conservation.
Types of bat crime
Offences against bats and their subsequent investigations are often complex in nature. Ten years of analysis indicates that 68% of offences relate to damage and/or destruction of bat breeding sites or resting places. And a large proportion of these offences are a result of development.
Loss of natural roosts, such as trees and underground sites, has increased the importance of man-made structures for roosting bats. Bats roost in barns, houses, other buildings, tunnels and bridges and, as a result, can come into contact with humans. In many cases, bats and humans live side by side without conflict but sometimes conflict does arise. In addition, bats roosting in built structures can be particularly vulnerable to maintenance or development works if they are carried out without the input of a bat ecologist.
Offences can be committed during maintenance work or during development activities such as renovation, change of use, demolition, habitat clearance and the introduction of artificial lighting. Crimes against bats are likely to occur if ecologists are not brought on board or their advice is not followed. Also, if developers fail to adhere to planning requirements or conditions issued by the Local Planning Authority, or European Protected Species licence conditions issued by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies. Such failures have implications for the conservation status of our bat populations.
The Bat Conservation Trust, the police, ecologists, bat workers and others are on the front line trying to prevent wildlife crimes and protect bat roosts and bat populations.