Prosecutor gives verdict on wildlife justice

A PROSECUTOR who has been at the forefront of bringing those who commit crimes against wildlife to justice for more than a decade has given his verdict on how the court system is becoming increasingly successful in helping to protect nature.

A PROSECUTOR who has been at the forefront of bringing those who commit crimes against wildlife to justice for more than a decade has given his verdict on how the court system is becoming increasingly successful in helping to protect nature.

As a contributor to a new book, The Thin Green Line, which provides a wide-ranging survey of the scale of wildlife crime in the UK, Nicholas Crampton gives an analysis of the progress which has been made in prosecution of wildlife crime and details cases which have helped strengthen wildlife law.

He said: “Norfolk CPS has had a string of very successful cases over the last 15 years, some of which have had a positive impact on the level of wildlife crime enforcement elsewhere in the country.

“Some of the cases were ground breaking, especially in showing how the court could be assisted to evaluate the seriousness of an offence.


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“That has resulted in the courts imposing substantially heavier penalties than in the past.”

Prosecuting wildlife crime is an unusual specialism but Norfolk is lucky enough to have two prosecutors with expertise in the field and Mr Crampton shares the county's wildlife cases, when they occur, with his colleague Kevin Eastwick with whom he works with closely.

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Mr Crampton, who lives in West Norfolk, said that throughout the 1990s Norfolk prosecutors dealt with a succession of stolen birds eggs and bulb digging cases.

It was those cases which gave him the opportunity to see whether the courts could be persuaded to impose more serious penalties and in one case the CPS achieved a higher penalty for a bulb digging case at Thetford by using the Theft Act.

In 2002 new wildlife legislation was brought in which meant prison sentences of up to six moths could be imposed.

Since then a case where birds were being illegally imported from Thailand has sent he largest sentence ever imposed for a wildlife crime handed out and the principle of employer liability in bird poisoning cases has been firmly established thanks to a prosecution in Norfolk.

Mr Crampton said that both increased focus on how to deal with crime and the increased penalties resulting from the 2002 act had had an impact.

He said: “There is greater awareness and I think it is true to say that the number of egg thieves has declined and we know the number of hare coursing incidents crashed in 2004 and 2005.”

“It is important to prosecute wildlife crime because each country has an international obligation to protect the diversity of its wildlife.

“If we do not, why should we expect other countries to protect their wildlife - say tigers?

“Bio-diversity does not have boundaries. You cannot have swallows protected in the UK and then shot for target practice in Malta.”

The Thin Green Line is available from www.argyllpublishing.com and from bookshops.

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