Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wildlife legislation review.

Whilst I was in the midst of trying to bring a series of conflicting commitments into some sense of order, a task I never managed and which resulted in my having to cancel arrangements to go to the BirdFair , I was surprised to find a notification had arrived on my PC advising that the consultation documents relating to the Law Commission's review on wildlife legislation were available. Moreover, the consultation period is to run from 14th August to 30th November, 2012. It immediately seemed to me that the likelihood of final recommendations and the like appearing much before the middle of 2013  seems somewhat remote.

Well I have to say that , as might be expected from a review put together by legal eagles and their researchers, it's not the most user friendly array of suggestions I've ever come across. After more than a sufficient time to digest the analysis and accompanying proposals I guess many of us will still need to turn to our requisite advisers within the conservation organisations to determine whether our conclusions are correct and whether they represent  what is required!! I shall look forward to receiving comment too from my eldest daughter who, as a solicitor, will be able to detect any issues that are deliberately being covered in obfuscation. Sadly, I suspect there could be several, even many!

In the introductory announcement, the objective of simplifying the existing complex framework associated with wildlife law and placing same under a single statute appears entirely sensible and laudable. But then I was less convinced on reading that  there was " an intention to try and reduce the dependency on criminal law by allowing an appropriate mix of regulatory measures, such as guidance,advice and a varied and flexible system of civil sanctions.....such as fines and bans". Seems we could add wrist slapping to that as well, but we'll see!!

So, an immediate task it would seem, for the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and other similar organizations, is to unravel the core elements and , in turn , advise their members in straightforward language what they might include in any responses they are willing to submit. It is thirty years since the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 ( as amended ) came into being and, in the meantime , there has been much that has been amended so there is a clear need to update things. This, however, is an opportunity to ensure that what applies over the next thirty years is sensible, workable and adequately protects our natural heritage, be it sites or species.

If you wish to see the whole consultation document, or even a summary, then it can be found here (Review of wildlife law.) Happy reading!

Now, what do we find within this outpouring of wisdom and intention that refers to practical measures that one might anticipate as far as raptor persecution is concerned. Well, in the time I've had available, which was not much and I wasn't in a terribly charitable frame of mind either given my not being able to make the BirdFair (!), I discovered the old chestnut of VICARIOUS LIABILITY gets an airing. On first reading I'd best describe the proposal and the way its being handled as being one close to a cricketer smashing a huge "six" into the Pavilion and it taking some time to retrieve the ball as it trickles down between the rows of seats!! In the meantime everybody gets a breather!   "Kicked into touch",or a "long grass approach" might also be appropriate.  I would hope not, as it means the approach taken on other matters might equally lack definition. Mention of open questions, accompanied by no real firm resolve , time-scale etc and a hint that it depends on what is seen as necessary by the public and what happens in Scotland smack of prevarication and lack of intention in my book. I may be wrong, I may be doing the authors an injustice, but we shall see what a more relaxed reading and the views of others provides.

It does occur to me that if the mood of the country is in need of being tapped we could provide a response to the question even in advance of the Closing Date (30th November )  for the consultation. The ill-fated E-petition may yet have a role to play. The cessation date for this petition is 17 November, 2012, at 1638 hours to be precise ( only the UK could enshrine such detail!! ). This morning the number of signatures stands at 9949. Whilst the wording of the petition leaves something to be desired, the RSPB and others could give an early indication to the Government of its feelings on this subject by putting the might of the conservation membership behind the it. A simple announcement in all literature reaching the membership this autumn would be a start linked to other means ( press releases , Twitter, Blogs etc). It seems to me that this is the one major issue that can bring on a case of the vapours within the fraternity whose actions are aimed at reducing our raptor populations.  As I understand it this aspect of legislation is something the RSPB wishes to see brought forward. Giving the Government an early indication of what will then be argued for and endorsed within , hopefully, the many submissions on these proposals will do no harm and I'll be ensuring the idea wings its way to Sandy without delay!!

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