Crime in Derbyshire is not just carried out against people or businesses – wild animals are often targeted by criminals, too.
Poaching, badger baiting, shooting or poisoning birds of prey, disturbing bats and their roosts, taking wild bird eggs, fishing without a license and uprooting protected plants - all of these offences fall under the banner of wildlife crime, and each one can have a devastating effect on the Derbyshire countryside.
Anyone caught committing any of these offences could face fines of up to £5,000 and six months in prison.
Every year, police receive hundreds of calls from members of the public relating to wildlife offences. These incidents included swans being butchered for their meat, wild bird eggs being stolen from nests and the snaring of birds of prey in the Peak District.
Derbyshire Constabulary is committed to tackling the threat of wildlife crime and has a dedicated team of officers who are trained in identifying and dealing with these offences. The team works with partners such as the RSPCA, RSPB and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to protect wild animals across the county and to bring to justice those responsible for wildlife crime.
The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Charles, has pledged to make snaring wildlife crime a focus for the force. He said: “Thanks to its richly diverse countryside Derbyshire is victim to a variety of wildlife and rural crime. Some of these criminal acts are unspeakably cruel. Others cause a range of problems to farmers and rural communities, including theft and damage.
“I was clear before my election that I intended to tackle wildlife crime and cruelty towards animals and I was delighted that, as a result of my rural crime summit held last September, the Constabulary agreed to put more formal structures in place to deal with these problems.
“However, to be truly effective we need to see different groups, partner agencies and members of the public working together to both raise awareness and protect our county’s remarkable heritage.
“While some rural crimes are due to opportunistic criminals, we also know that this type of criminality is often linked with serious and organised crime. So, in order to address the problem, which often takes place in the most remote areas, I strongly urge anyone who suspects criminal activity to report it to the police - in just the same way that you would if you witnessed an assault.
“I’m pleased that in Derbyshire we are acting robustly to protect our rare species of wildlife and outstanding natural landscape. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but they make a valuable contribution to the local economy thanks to the tourists who flock to our county every year.”
The range of offences that wildlife crime can refer to is huge. Some of the more common offences are detailed below:
Poaching: This can involve people or groups travelling onto land to shoot animals including rabbits, hares, deer, pheasants, grouse and other game animals. Poachers often use 4x4 vehicles, a number of dogs and firearms when poaching and people should consider their own safety if they suspect a group or individual of committing this offence. It is also illegal to sell game without a license.
Fish poaching: Fishing without a license in private fisheries or rivers is an offence. Offenders take fish from these private waters to eat or, more commonly, to sell on for profit. Have you ever been offered cheap salmon, trout or other fish by someone? They may be poachers. If you suspect it – report it.
Badger persecution: Badger baiting, snaring, shooting and the blocking or destroying setts are all criminal offences. Badger baiters commit this offence for pleasure, using dogs to hunt, attack and kill badgers, and disturbing setts found in woodland areas. Badgers are protected animals and anyone spotted hunting for setts and attacking them should be reported immediately.
Bird of prey persecution: Species such as peregrines, goshawks and buzzards have historically nested in Derbyshire but numbers are in decline due to persecution. This can be in a variety of ways, including trapping, shooting and lacing animal carcasses with poison, which will kill any birds or other animals that feed on them. It is illegal to disturb birds of prey during nesting season, typically in late winter and early spring. Nest disruption can be simply walking or working in a known nesting area; heather burning; repeated use of machinery such as quad bikes and use of forestry equipment. Offenders also target the nests after they have been made, pulling them out of trees and smashing eggs. All of these are criminal offences.
Wild bird egg or protected plant theft: Removing protected wild bird eggs – or even wild birds – from nests for collection is an offence. It is also an offence to pick, uproot or destroy wild plant life such as mosses, lichens, fungi and algae. These are protected under CITES – the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora.
If you suspect it – report it! Whether you think you have just witnessed a crime in action, or if you have information on someone involved in wildlife offences, police need to know.
Detailed descriptions of suspects or vehicles, registration plates, accurate locations and prompt reporting are crucial in helping officers bring these criminals to justice.
You can report it to Derbyshire police on 101, or completely anonymously to Crimestoppers, the independent charity, on 0800 555 111. In an emergency, you should always call 999.
Derbyshire Constabulary’s specialist wildlife officers cover the entire county. The team has recently undertaken the national training course for wildlife crime officers. This provided the team with the expertise required to investigate offences as diverse as the illegal trade in endangered species, the persecution of birds of prey and offences relating to other protected species such as bats, badgers and plants.
Sgt Belfield leads the team, with Liz Hadfield as Wildlife Co-ordinator. To contact either of them directly, call 101, or email darren or Liz with any concerns.
The list below details which officers are responsible for divisions across Derbyshire. They can all be reached on the non-emergency number, 101.
Scientific Support Unit
SSO 9280 Julie Morledge, Derby Scientific Support Unit
SSO 9753 Mulliner, Contact Buxton Scientific Support Department
PC 1686 Ged Grace, Derby
B Division (High Peak & Derbyshire Dales)
PC 1921 Karl Webster, Matlock
PC 3066 Daniel Hunt, Glossop
PC 2581 Emerson Buckingham - CITES trained officer
PC 1288 John Bointon, South Section, Ashbourne
PC 14215 Paul Flint, Central Section, Buxton
PC 14047 Damien Stanton, North Section, Glossop
C Division (Chesterfield, NE Derbyshire, Amber Valley & Bolsover)
PC 2315 Adam Galley, Bolsover
PC 2283 Richard Siddall, Chesterfield
PC 2722 Sally Rohde, Dronfield
PC 2493 Steve Clarke, Chesterfield
PC 2049 Miriam Roche, Ripley
PC 886 Dave Chambers
PC 2975 Steve O'Callaghan, Chesterfield
PC 14001 Craig Dawes, Bolsover
PC 2605 Garry Statham, Shirebrook
PCSO 4412 Mike Coates, Clay Cross
D Division (Derby, Derby South & Erewash)
PC 2136 Russ Crooks, Ilkeston
PC 3032 Simon O'Connor, Derby
PC 2291 Neil Watson, Ripley
PC 264 Simon Bulmer, Ripley
PC 3431 Dave Mason, Ripley
PC 3180 Michael Hellewell, Ripley