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.

How we work with the police

Whilst the Wildlife Crime Project works in conjunction with many partners, including the police, our role is not to enforce laws or decide what cases go to court. As a charity, there are various things we cannot do. And because of limitations of time and money, we also must prioritise work to make the most impact.

It is the police officer, police gatekeeper or supervisor who make the final decision on case progression. They decide if the case will go to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Or they opt for local police finalisation options (out of court disposals) such as No further Action or Community Resolutions with restorative justice sanctions.

What the Wildlife Crime Project does not do:

  • Investigate incidents – e.g. make site visits, speak to witnesses/defendants.
  • Tell police officers how to secure and preserve evidence.
  • Attend police interviews.
  • Decide if cases go to the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • Prosecute cases.
  • Set penalties.
  • Make laws.

What the Wildlife Crime Project does do:

  • Review evidence, planning applications and ecological surveys.
  • Create investigative action plans.
  • Provide courts with Conservation Impact Statements.
  • Advise police - when asked - if an offence has been established or not.
  • Give our opinion on case progression and/or disposal options.
  • Provide training to police officers about wildlife crime.
  • Seek to influence better outcomes for UK wildlife in relation to the law.

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.

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.

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.