Rural crime ignored by police, claim Rotherham wildlife trust

By Adele Forrest | 23/08/2019

Rural crime ignored by police, claim Rotherham wildlife trust
Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

ANIMAL protection groups criticised South Yorkshire Police after its call-handlers allegedly told people that wildlife crime was not a police matter.

Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said the force was “not interested” because conflict of interest between officers and their personal involvement in the shooting industry.

She made the claim at a meeting with top cops, which had been called by Ms Ballard and Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge.

They met with Chief Constable Stephen Watson, Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley and Chief Insp Mark James last month.

Also attending were RSPB head of investigations Mark Thomas and Supt Nick Lyall, chairman of the Raptor Persecution Group for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Ms Ballard said: “I cited some examples such as 101 responders not knowing who the wildlife crime officer was, or saying a wildlife crime was nothing to do with the police.

“Mark Thomas also raised the lack of progress in relation to several reported local wildlife crime incidents on the moors, even when evidence had been presented to them.”

She cited one example of the RSPB discovering that a poisoned raven on Sheffield moorlands had been killed by banned substance aldicarb — which can be harmful to humans. Police did not follow up the matter, Ms Ballard said.

Officers agreed to review their approach and look into the specific cases raised.

Ms Ballard added: “Mark and I raised the issue of public perception, as well as the perception from other police forces, that SYP are not interested or active in tackling wildlife crime as there is a conflict of interest between the officers leading on wildlife crime and their personal involvement in the shooting industry.”

The chief executive said she was told it was helpful for the police to have good community links with the shooting industry for them to tackle wildlife crime better.

Ms Ballard said the top cops believed they were “delivering strongly on wildlife crime” but agreed they could improve their public communication and reporting systems.

Chief Insp James said the force was addressing actions points from the meeting and its “reinvestment in community policing” would be a key factor in taking them forward.

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