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Wildlife crime effort criticised

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18 August 2009 - BBC News

A review of investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime has been called for by conservation charities. More than 100 organisations, led by the RSPB, say a lack of specialist police and the low priority given to the crime mean prosecutions are unlikely. Just 51 convictions resulted from more than 3,500 reported UK incidents of wildlife crime last year.

A lack of agreed standards across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have led to an inconsistent approach to tackling the crime, they argue.

Ian West, head of investigations at the RSPB, said: "Because it is a low priority area of crime it doesn't get the resources or funding and there isn't necessarily the understanding in middle or senior police management of how much resource is needed to be put in to make sure it's successful". Mr West complained that "wildlife crime is all too often pushed to the back of the queue. We need to take a good hard look at how to get it taken seriously by those charged with upholding the law," he said.

The RSPB fears a continuation of crimes like badger baiting, and other "enormously cruel practices which shouldn't be allowed to continue in the 21st Century. I think we're in serious danger of losing the tag of a civilised society if we don't tackle these issues," said the RSPB's John Clare.

There has already been a review of wildlife crime policing in Scotland which recommended the appointment of a full-time wildlife coordinator within each police force area and minimum standards of investigation.

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