Newcastle North MP, and Shadow Attorney General, Catherine McKinnell has joined forces with World Animal Protection to back the work of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), the future of which is currently under threat.
Catherine attended an event in Parliament this week to support the animal welfare charity’s campaign to save the Unit – one of the world’s leading policing departments dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations.
Set up by the last Labour Government in 2006, the NWCU acts as the focal point for all police wildlife crime intelligence-sharing, analysis and investigation in the UK – covering offences including rare bird egg theft, illegal deer poaching, the trade in endangered species, hare coursing, illegal taxidermy and indiscriminate cruelty to wild animals.
More than 400 wildlife items in illegal trade have been seized in the UK since April 2015, in many cases following the provision of intelligence and warrants by the Unit, whilst 70% of all local police investigations into poaching and crimes against wild animals were directly support by the NWCU in the last year.
However, the Unit still has no funding confirmed by the Government beyond March 2016 following last Autumn’s Spending Review, with a decision expected be taken on its future by Ministers by the end of January.
‘Protecting our natural environment must include properly investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime.
‘The NWCU’s work is vital in ensuring that offenders are brought to justice, whilst also sending out a clear message that these types of crimes won’t be tolerated.
‘The Government must act to guarantee the Unit’s future, or seriously risk allowing wildlife criminals to get away with it.’
Head of Public Affairs at World Animal Protection, Josh Kaile, said:
‘The Government has made much of their £13million package to combat the illegal wildlife trade internationally. The National Wildlife Crime Unit only requires a fraction of this budget every year, with Defra and the Home Office currently paying £136,000 each. This continues to be a small amount to pay for such a vital unit, particularly in contract to the millions being spent on global projects.
‘Police forces up and down the UK rely on the specialist knowledge of the NWCU in order to tackle wildlife criminals. It is time for the UK Government to step up and save the National Wildlife Crime Unit.’