Posted: Wednesday 27th April 2016
Wildlife crime has long been a concern of mine, and I know that is also true of many residents and visitors who want to keep our moors, hills and valleys as a haven for protected species at risk of persecution. I have reflected those views in my Police and Crime Plan, and also held a summit on these matters in my first year of office. These are important and ongoing issues, which is why I have worked closely with the force to ensure that Derbyshire is able to protect the diversity and wonders of our county’s wild birds and animals for future generations.
A recent sighting of a man with a gun and a plastic model of a hen harrier bird on a Peak District grouse moor is a sharp reminder of the continuing efforts needed to protect our wildlife. It is my personal view that the way to end the persecution of raptors is to end all grouse shooting, but currently this remains a legitimate practice within the law, and the Police service must act within that law.
Although the man was caught on camera by two observers, they were, unfortunately, too far away to obtain film evidence of sufficient quality to enable a prosecution. Having received an enquiry from the RSPB about this incident, I asked Derbyshire Constabulary to look into the facts and the outcome.
I am satisfied that all possible inquiries had been made by Derbyshire Constabulary’s local intelligence and wildlife officers, and that they had consulted with Crown Prosecution Service colleagues who confirmed that there was not enough evidence to pursue a prosecution without the ability to identify the individual in the image. The officers will continue to gather intelligence from groups who act as eyes and ears to protect the birds of prey.
Using decoys is one of a number of ways in which people attempt to persecute our endangered raptor population, not just in Derbyshire but further afield. The Constabulary works with a number of partners with the common aim of keeping these birds – and other wild creatures – safe from criminal activity.
I am aware that this case has caused concern among many people who want to end these crimes as I do, and I assure you that where Derbyshire Constabulary can take action that they will, as they have in many landmark cases in the past.