The future of the NWCU – comment

Illegal CITES items recovered by the NWCU and Lancashire Police

Illegal CITES items recovered by the NWCU and Lancashire Police

The time has come round again to when the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) personnel do not know whether or not they will be funded beyond the end of the current financial year. Considering this is one of the most hard-working police units and have an incredible amount of experienced in the field of wildlife crime this is a ludicrous situation. I know from experience the amount of time wasted at this time of year trying to justify their existence to the Westminster and Scottish Governments, time that should be going in to assisting police forces to catch the worst of the wildlife criminals.

Through lack of funding the unit has been pared down to now only consist of a detective chief inspector as head of unit, a senior analyst, a single intelligence officer/researcher, an indexer, an admin assistant and four investigative support officers.  There is part-time assistance from a member of TRAFFIC International, making a total of only ten staff, five less than when I worked with the Unit from 2012 to 2015.

I get really annoyed when the Unit is criticised ‘for doing nothing’ by some subscribers to the blog Raptor Persecution Scotland.  It is clear that they have no idea of the role of the Unit – to gather and assimilate intelligence and to advise and assist police forces and UK Border Force. I was pleased therefore to see on the Raptor Politics blog the other day some real support for the NWCU. After describing some of the current wildlife crimes, part of their article reads:

A key role in detecting these crimes is played by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). This small, globally admired team of specialist police officers based in the humble surroundings of the old Livingstone police station in Scotland will cease to exist in April unless the government unveils a last-minute funding package.

The unit gathers and analyses intelligence on wildlife crime, informs local police forces of incidents they should investigate, trains ordinary officers to investigate these complex crimes and helps bring about successful prosecutions. It costs a bargain £427,000 a year to run, mostly funded by the Home Office and Defra, and is perpetually endangered itself.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Unit proves its worth when they assist a police wildlife crime officer with a complex investigation he or she may not have tackled before, and up and down the UK this is a regular occurrence.  The investigative support officer covering Scotland is a serving police officer with years of wildlife crime investigation experience. The three covering the remainder of the UK are retired wildlife crime officers, having nearly 60 years wildlife crime investigation experience amongst them. They really are an invaluable team to the UK police forces, most of which only have part-time wildlife crime officers.

So instead of the Unit having to beg for funding every year why not have an agreement between the current funders that they increase the strength of the Unit and fund it for at least a decade.  For relatively little extra funding two additional intelligence officers, an analyst and a full-time internet researcher could be employed. What a difference that would make.  My lasting regret is that there was never funding available for a police team to convert intelligence built up by NWCU to evidence and jail those behind the litany of raptor persecution that has taken place in Scotland the north of England over the last ten years.

Any private sponsors out there who would like to see wildlife criminals behind bars?

See the NWCU website  at http://www.nwcu.police.uk/

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