- An environmental survey of a property purchased for conversion, found a roost of brown long-eared bats.
- The owner was advised a licence was needed to carry out work.
- Work proceeded without a licence and the roost was destroyed.
- MD and the company were convicted of destroying a bat roost.
- The case was referred to Crown Court to be sentenced and to be heard under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
- The conviction has been appealed and has recently been determined
- Derbyshire Police media report
- Bats Organisation media release
- National Wildlife Crime Unit Media Release
Identifying the problem
- A commercial property was purchased by a company with the intention of converting it to accommodation.
- An ecological survey found a roost of brown long-eared bats occupying the loft space.
- Work was only permitted to take place with the provision of a licence from Natural England.
- No licence was applied for and the work was carried out anyway to replace the roof and convert the loft into a room.
- This resulted in the illegal destruction of the bat roost.
Legislation changes - Existing
- All bats are a European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habits and Species Regulations 2010.
- The species is also protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.
- This makes it an offence to deliberately kill or injure a bat, to destroy their roosts or block entry to their roosts.
Legislation changes - New
- This type of offence, like most other forms of Wildlife Crime, is currently a non-recordable offence.
- Making these types of offences a recordable crime would be beneficial in assisting to generate a better understanding of the scale of the problem. It may also deter people from committing these types of offences.
- Police visited the site and investigated the allegation. The two suspects were then invited to a voluntary interview.
- One suspect was then used as a witness and the MD of the company was reported for summons.
- The National Wildlife Crime Unit assisted in the investigation.
- Natural England was involved to verify that a licence had not been applied for.
- The Bat Conservation Trust provided advice.
- CPS involved from an early stage and involved in referring the case to be heard under POCA.
- The liaison with the Police, National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Bat Conservation trust worked really well.
- All parties were in regular contact with each other throughout the investigation and continued to liaise afterwards.
- All organisations communicated regularly pending the appeal hearing at Crown court in March 2016
What didn't work
The liaison with the force solicitor in relation to asking them to look over the case before a charging decision was made.
- Once the case was referred under POCA, the defendant realised that they stood to lose a substantial amount of money and appealed the conviction.
- Depending on the outcome of this case, prosecuting under POCA can be considered for other incidents of wildlife crime where appropriate.
- Using POCA to stop offenders profiting from wildlife crime, may deter people from committing wildlife offences of this kind.
- A confiscation order was made against the company for £5737, Fine of £3000 and costs of £2000.
- This is a Landmark first POCA confiscation order made for this type of offence and has set precedence for the future of wildlife crime offences.
- To not involve the force solicitor but to rely on CPS being involved from the outset of the investigation now that there is a dedicated Wildlife CPS lawyer in place.
- What needs looking into next time would be if the room that was made, by removing the roost would have to be made either smaller of not used, then gathering evidence around the difference in value without the 4th bedroom in this case, to the property and then applying for the difference between the value of a 3 bed to a 4 bed property then applying for that under POCA
- Involve the Financial investigation unit at an earlier stage.