So the National Wildlife Crime Unit has yet again had a last-minute reprieve from closure. In a statement made today (1st March), Rory Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs said:
‘FUTURE FUNDING OF THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE CRIME UNIT
The National Wildlife Crime Unit is a specialist unit dedicated to tackling wildlife crime, playing an important role in wildlife law enforcement both at home and internationally. It provides intelligence and direct assistance to individual police forces and other UK law enforcement agencies, including providing specialist support that allows warranted Officers to investigate wildlife crime. The Unit also acts as the UK policing focal point for EUROPOL and INTERPOL activity on all wildlife crime related matters, and works in partnership with non-governmental agencies across the UK committed to tackling wildlife crime.
Following the Spending Review 2015, Defra and Home Office Ministers have been considering the level of government funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit beyond March 2016.
In recognition of the important contribution the Unit makes to tackling wildlife crime, both at home and abroad, I can confirm that Defra and Home Office Ministers have agreed that their respective departments will each provide the Unit with funding of £136,000 a year for the next four financial years. This will give the Unit significant financial stability and enable their vital work to continue until at least 2020. Those contributions will be in addition to the funding central Government provides to police forces in England and Wales to tackle all types of crime (including wildlife crime).
In addition, Defra will provide the Unit with up to £29,000 a year over the next four years for specific work to tackle wildlife crime conducted online, as a developing area of global criminal activity.
Government funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit jointly provided by Defra and the Home Office up to March 2020, including additional support from Defra to tackle online wildlife crime, will total £ 1.204 million’.
This is tremendous news but, considering the value Rory Stewart puts on the Unit in his statement why is there always such a fight for funding? For the part I have put in bold I assume this will allow an increase in staffing for the Unit, which would allow a huge added value to police forces (as I suggested in a blog on 18 January). Chief Inspector Martin Sims, head of the Unit, stated, “Online wildlife crime is huge, and it was a question of having the resources to deal with it. The extra funding is a step in the right direction.”
Thankfully most folks have more knowledge of the good work of the Unit than a Mr Brian Pepper, who commented recently on the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog that:
‘NWCU. Have been hostile and refuse to joint work with SSPCA and other NGOs.
This has had a negative effect on advancing wildlife crime investigation nationally
Why would I want to support them,
What have they done in the UK
WASTE OF MONEY’
I found in my time dealing with the Unit as wildlife crime officer of the former Tayside Police and more recently employed as an intelligence officer with the Unit that they work extremely well with NGOs. Valuable intelligence was regularly submitted to the Unit from most NGOs, particularly RSPCA, RSPB and the League against Cruel Sports. Not once did I see intelligence submitted by SSPCA, a rather separatist attitude for an NGO that wants increased powers to become more involved in the investigation of wildlife crime and, as Mr Pepper said, ‘ a negative effect on advancing wildlife crime investigation nationally’.