Page last updated at 04:02 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 05:02 UK

Wildlife crime effort criticised

Police forces are not taking the issue seriously enough, say charities

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.

Chief Constable Richard Crompton said a review would be useful, but that there were other higher priorities.

Mr Crompton oversees the policing of wildlife crimes across the UK.

The charities want a review by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Crown Prosecution Service.

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."

We just need to all work together, and work better and more efficiently
Mark Thomas
RSPB investigator

Mr West acknowledged the "many competing demands on our police", but 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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