Wild Justice proposes raptor persecution forensic investigation fund and calls for more organisations to contribute

Wild Justice has proposed a new fund to help the police tackle wildlife crime. This fund would help speed up the analysis and assessment of forensic evidence in wildlife crime investigations relating to the illegal killing of birds of prey.

This idea emerged following several conversations with Police Wildlife Crime Officers who have been frustrated at having to persuade senior officers to authorise such costs in a number of recent investigations.  

Many police forces struggle with slashed budgets and reduced resources, and senior officers aren’t always keen to consent to payment because if the cost of analysis is higher than any likely penalty a judge imposes then it’s hard to justify the costs of laboratory work. These discussions can delay the analyses being undertaken and in some cases may affect the condition of the sample to be tested (e.g. through biological deterioration), resulting in a missed opportunity to secure evidence of sufficient quality to proceed with a prosecution.

Other schemes, such as the PAW Forensic Analysis Fund, provide only partial funding support (of up to 50% match funding) for a wide range of national and international wildlife crimes using a variety of forensic techniques. Wild Justice proposes that this new fund be administered via the National Wildlife Crime Unit and be focused specifically on providing full funding to cover the cost of specialist forensic analysis to support police investigations into the illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK. This may include something as simple as an x-ray to establish whether a raptor has been shot to more complex techniques such as DNA testing of illegal traps or the analysis of game bags, knives, containers, vehicles and clothing for evidence of both DNA and banned substances.

Wild Justice will contribute £5,000 to establish the fund and is calling on other organisations to contribute. Case costs could range from a £40 x-ray to several thousand pounds for more specialist analyses. We’re told repeatedly that organisations from the game-shooting world want to see an end to illegal raptor persecution so this is the perfect opportunity for groups such as the Moorland Association, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, National Gamekeepers Organisation, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land & Estates, Countryside Alliance, the Game Fair, Shooting Times etc to put their money where their mouths are.

Police Superintendent Nick Lyall, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) said: “I welcome this initiative from Wild Justice. As in all criminal investigations, evidence gathering needs to be undertaken swiftly and thoroughly to secure any chance of a prosecution and wildlife crime is no exception. Long delays caused by budget deficits can, and have, impacted on raptor persecution investigations. I believe that this targeted fund will help police officers to be in a stronger position to solve these horrendous crimes and I look forward to seeing RPPDG partners support the initiative”.