APGAW Chair Rebecca Pow MP, pointed out the huge importance of the National Wildlife Crime Unit during a Parliamentary Question to the Solicitor General:
Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): In my constituency and in the wider south-west, the wildlife crime unit plays a crucial role, particularly in cracking down on poaching, but also in protecting hares, other precious creatures and birds’ eggs. If the unit were disbanded, there would be no one else to step into its shoes, so I urge the Solicitor General to think carefully before withdrawing what does not amount to very much funding for so much valuable work.
The Solicitor General: I hear what my hon. Friend says, as I am sure do DEFRA Ministers. With about £1.7 million of funding since 2010, the unit has indeed played an important role in the prosecution of these serious offences. As I said, a decision on funding will be made very soon.
Rebecca then wrote on behalf of APGAW to the Home Office & Defra Minister requesting that they acknowledge the hugely importance role that the Unit plays and continue to fund it for the future.
Here is an extract of Rebecca's letter:
"As you know, wildlife crime continues to rise with more than 400 items banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) seized in Britain last year. There is an increasing trade in endangered plants and animals everything from rhino horn to seahorses and live turtles. In my constituency and in the wider south-west, the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) plays a crucial role, particularly in cracking down on poaching, but also in protecting hares, other precious creatures and birds’ eggs.
The NWCU plays a vital role is detecting and dealing with these crimes and the police officers who carry out the work are specialists who understand what to look for and how to ensure successful prosecutions in a very complex area. The Solicitor-General stated that “in the year from July 2014 to June last year, the overall conviction rate was 71%, which compares favourably with other types of crime” and this clearly demonstrates its success and expertise. The NWCU is currently assisting with 24 investigations into endangered animals illegally traded via the internet in Britain. This is all done at a very small cost of £427,000 a year and provides real value for money.
If the unit lost its funding and was subsequently disbanded, there would be no one else to fulfill its role. Its loss would see the loss of skilled police forces and make it harder than ever to detect wildlife crime. The Government needs to show a commitment to protecting wildlife and the environment as promised in our 2015 manifesto and loss of the unit would demonstrate the opposite of this."
I urge you to support funding of the NWCU and to send out a clear message to wildlife criminals both nationally and internationally."
APGAW offices and members will continue to urge Government to fund the unit and to demonstrate their commitment to the illegal wildlife trade.